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Welcome to Panza Baby, where you can find delicious recipes and my musings on the world through the lens of food.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake


Fremont is a neighborhood tucked away in a corner of Seattle. On weekends my dad would take us to Fremont. We'd go to thrift stores, the flea market, bakeries, and any other quaint shop we might pass. It was my favorite weekend activity. Down a side street in Fremont is a chocolate factory housed in an unassuming brick building. It is called Theo Chocolate factory, a magical place where you can take a tour of the chocolate factory for $6. I have been on this tour 6 times. You get to walk through the factory, surrounded by the roasty toasty smell of cacao nibs and brewing chocolate. You are fed many different kinds of chocolate and confections. Because it's real life, it is probably even more enchanting than being in the Wonka factory.

Theo Chocolates is a bean to bar factory meaning that they make chocolate directly from the cacao beans. Many chocolate manufacturers order blocks of already made chocolate and melt the chocolate down and add their own flavorings. The Theo factory tour is where I learned about the process of making chocolate from bean to bar. The magic of the cacao bean which comes off a tree in large brightly colored pods. It must be fermented and then dried. It is then turned into cacao nibs which are roasted and then processed into liquid chocolate.

If you know anything about the history of chocolate you know that it was first discovered in the "New World" and brought to Europe where only the richest and most privileged had access to it. Chocolate's desirability and limited access has meant that its production has often been unethical and exploited native populations. Theo Chocolate works with small scale farms across the world, maintaining close relationships. They are fair trade certified meaning that they pay foreign workers a fair wage for their work. Nowadays, chocolate is widely available in many different forms. If you want to buy chocolate that has been produced with some transparency, Theo chocolate is a great choice along with other chocolates marked "Fair Trade." They even produce a chocolate bar called Bread and Chocolate. When the chocolate is liquified and mixed with cocoa butter and sugar, buttered and salted french bread chunks are also added to the mix. What results is a complex salty sweet and yeasty treat that capitalizes upon that popular sweet and salty combo.

I am definitely not perfect and I often don't buy fair trade chocolate but I try my best to support companies like Theo. In fact, for this cake I used Sprouts brand semi-sweet chocolate chips in a 12 oz. bag, you know, the cheap kind. I know people will tell you, just like when you cook with wine, that if you are baking something with chocolate front and center you should use the best quality chocolate. For the most part I agree, but let's be real, your cake and frosting is still going to taste pretty awesome even with Sprouts brand chocolate.

I'm always on the search for frostings that don't require powdered sugar. I like powdered sugar but I don't always have it on hand and it often makes frostings too sweet. The bulk of the frosting for this dark chocolate cake is sour cream. The sour cream is mixed with melted butter and dark chocolate. And that's pretty much it! The consistency is dreamy and smooth and the sourness of the sour cream offsets any extra sweetness perfectly.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

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2 ounces dark chocolate

1/2 cup dutch process cocoa

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup pastry flour or cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt


1 1/3 cup sour cream

12 ounces dark chocolate

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 cup butter 

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 8 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. 

  2. Combine chocolate and cocoa powder in small bowl. Pour in the boiling water. Let sit for a minute or two and then stir to combine. Add buttermilk.

  3. Beat together eggs, sugars, and oil for a few minutes by hand with a wooden spoon. 

  4. Add chocolate, butter, and buttermilk mixture. Then add all dry ingredients until just combined. 

  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. 

For the frosting:

  1. Melt together butter, cream, and chocolate. Let cool. 

  2. In a medium bowl measure out the sour cream and add the salt. Add chocolate and butter mixture and mix until smooth. Place in refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. 

To assemble cake:

  1. Cut each of the 2 8 inch cakes in half with a serrated bread knife. 

    Frost in between each layer of cake, stacking layer upon layer as you go. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the rest of the cake.

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