Chocolate Cake Ransom

I have this bowl at work that I eat my lunch out of frequently.  I hate heating things up in plastic in the microwave so I bring things to work, dump them in my bowl, heat, and eat.  Our section  at work is about 20 people, small enough for people to know my eating habits and usual food vessel apparently.  One morning I was in my boss’s office for about a minute and when I returned to my office (which is about 10 steps from hers) there was a note on my desk chair:

She a little dirty, but we clean her up.
You follow our orders exactly, and we no hurt her —
not one crack.  You no listen and BADDA BING —
she go to the BIG DUMPSTER IN THE SKY.
You bakey chocolate cake, bring Monday.

We a-be a watchin’…

Do I detect a little gangsta’ here… perhaps a nod to my Jersey roots?  I found this whole thing hilarious and immediately went about accusing the likely culprits investigating this little caper.  The funniest part was I didn’t even know what was missing at first!  It took me about 10 minutes to realize the bowl I eat of out every day has pumpkins painted on it.  Everyone else found this incredibly funny as well and really got into the whodunit of it all.  The due date for the chocolate cake ransom came, but I was out of town that weekend, and there was no way I was baking when I got home.  So, I brought in the remainder of a giant box of chocolates from my weekend away.  The kidnapper responded with another note that contained clues on where to find her (my bowl became a she and apparently revealed her name to be “Madam L’Orange”).  I looked all over couldn’t find her.  This picture was taken and sent around with a letter from Madam L’Orange herself before our staff meeting that afternoon:

If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see some of the effort that went into anthropomorphizing Madam L’Orange.  She has scared little eyes and is bound (by scotch tape) and gagged (with tissue and scotch tape).  The caper went on for several more days before Madam L’Orange was returned safe and sound.  I love practical jokes and did not mind the demand for a chocolate cake.  While the kidnapper accepted the chocolate candy as payment (and felt bad I had nothing to eat lunch out of), I felt I had to fully honor the ransom.  To do this I made a dense, rich, and unmistakably chocolate cake. 

This recipe is adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe. (I told you I can never completely follow a recipe… even one that has been tested over and over by CI) I call it Cappuccino Fudge Cake. It’s definitely fudgy, the cake has a great espresso undertone, and I made a vanilla-espresso glaze to ooze deliciously over the sides.  It can be made as a 2 layer cake with your favorite icing.  I made it as a bundt cake so it would be easy to cut and eat at work.

Cappuccino Fudge Cake with Vanilla-Espresso Glaze


1 1/4  cups unbleached  AP flour

1 cup nonalkalized cocoa (Hershey’s in my house)

1.5 tablespoons instant espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup light sour cream (you can use full fat of course, never tried fat free though)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (use the real stuff, not imitation)

2 sticks of butter (16 tablespoons; I use salted ::gasp::)

1 3/4 cups white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt


3 – 5 tablespoons milk, hot

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

fat pinch of salt (trust me)

2 oz light cream cheese (can use full fat), softened

2 cups powdered sugar

To make the super yummy cake kitchen treat:

Make sure your over rack is in the middle and preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  If you’re making a bundt cake, grease and flour  the pan (make sure you get in all the valleys/details of your bundt pan)… or just use that cool baking spray that has flour in it already.  I do.  If you want to make a layer cake (you’ll have to nix my glaze and use a frosting you like), grease and flour two 9″ round cake pans.

Add the cocoa powder and instant expresso to the boiling water and mix until smooth. (It will look satiny and delicious, but trust me, it is bitter-city) Let it cool to room temp and stir in the vanilla extract and sour cream. (Even more satiny and delicious looking, still über-bitter)

Using your stand mixer or hand-held-jobby, beat the butter on medium-high for about 30 seconds, until it’s smooth and shiny.  With the mixer running, add the sugar in slowly.  Beat for about 4 minutes, until it’s light and fluffy.  Next, add the eggs in one at a time.  Make sure to beat well after each one, stopping to scrape down the sides. 

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the dry mixture and barely mix it in.  Then add 1/3 of the cocoa-sour cream mixture and barely mix that in.  Repeat this twice more.  Stop and scrape down the bowl after the last addition of the cocoa-sour cream mixture.  Mix for about 15 – 20 seconds more.  Batter should look evenly blended and satiny.  If it’s not blended yet, finish the job by hand.  Don’t over mix.

Pour into the prepared bundt pan.  Smooth the top of the batter in the pan. 

Bake until a toothpick comes out almost totally clean… one or two crumbs stuck to it is perfect.  My bundt cake took 40 minutes.  Two 9″ cake pans will take about 25 minutes.  Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before loosened the sides.  I use a toothpick to follow the edges of the bundt pan. 

Put a plate over the pan, flip it over, listen for the thwunk as the cake releases and hits the plate, then smile.  Success!  When you take the pan off the plate, a heavenly brownie smell wafts up from the cake.  Yum!  Cool completely before attempting to frost/glaze.

For the glaze: Mix the espresso powder, vanilla, and salt in the hot milk.  Add half of the milk mixture to the cream cheese and mix until there are no lumps.  Add in the powdered sugar and beat until well blended and smooth.  Add in more of the milk mixture until you get to the right consistency, not too runny and not too thick.  You want it to stick and slowly run down the cake.  Use a fork or a whisk to drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.  Enjoy with ice cream, coffee, or both!

The ultimate result is a dense, richly flavored cake.  I don’t think it needs a crazy icing – certainly not a rich, thick one.  I’m going to try a whipped marshmallow icing, maybe with some crushed graham crackers for a fudgy s’mores cake. 

The cake was so loved that there were threats of more of my things going missing if it meant ransom payments like this one.  Hey, all you have to do is ask.  No need to torment a poor little porcelain bowl!  The last piece was scooped up by a quick co-worker, labeled with his name, and stuck in the fridge to have with his morning coffee the next day.  All I found at the end of the day was a few crumbs.  Even Tommy – who much prefers cookies over cake – has already requested I make this again.

I’ll be messing with this recipe some more… the texture is so perfect, I must try more flavor variations.  S’mores? Peanut butter? Irish cream?  Try this and you’ll be the treat queen of the day!

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3 Responses to Chocolate Cake Ransom

  1. Jess huester says:

    this looks delish! you should definitely try ina gartens orange chocolate bundt cake, it’s out of control. for reals, your coworkers will go crazy. make sure to use dark chocolate. ok, now I need to go eat something.

  2. Pingback: Cake Truffles: Peanut Butter and Banana Beauties | kitchen treats

  3. Melissa Weiner says:

    Just made this cake! Holla! It is sinfully delicious ! Would totally make this AGAIN!

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