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Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts ReinventedBaked Explorations

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Here's the recipe as it appears in Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

Quick Skillet Snack Cake

A good, solid, easy-to-put-together, and easy-to-bake snackin’ cake should be part of every home baker’s repertoire, and this is our go-to solution. It’s a springy chocolate cake with a slathering of fudgy frosting and my favorite part: It’s baked in a skillet, which gives the sides a fun crunch. This is the cake I make when I have a hankering for something less celebratory and more quick and dirty--the kind of cake I can throw together for an impromptu afternoon gathering. If I am toting the cake to a destination, I put the whole thing back in the skillet for ease in carrying.

Yield: One 10-inch skillet cake


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
  • 2 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, shaken vigorously

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 10-inch, cast-iron skillet or ovenproof stainless-steel skillet with butter. (The heavy, dark-colored cast-iron skillet will make the sides of the cake more crispy than a stainless steel one.) Line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess.

In a small, heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, chocolate, and espresso powder. Add 3/4 cup very hot water, wait 1 minute, and then whisk the mixture until it is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugars and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs one at a time, and beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to its lowest setting, and in a slow, steady stream, add the reserved chocolate mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, then turn the mixer to low.

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix for a few more seconds and pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Smooth the surface with a spatula.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the skillet halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the sides of the pan and flip the cake out onto a cooling rack. Turn the cake right side up and let it sit on the rack until completely cool.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), melted and cooled

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’sugar all at once and beat until completely blended, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat for 15 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted, cooled chocolate. Beat until smooth, continuing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed until the frosting is uniform in color.

Transfer the skillet cake to a cake board or serving platter. Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the top. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it, if necessary. Bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Baked Note: I often get asked about the necessity of using shortening in this recipe. Do you have to do it? Not really. Can you replace it with butter? Yes, I suppose. Just note that shortening gives the cake a really great springy texture, and shortening is not necessarily the devil it is made out to be. Crisco, the classic vegetable shortening, makes a trans-fat-free version, and Spectrum Naturals makes an organic trans-fat-free version.

Reprinted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito and Tina Rupp copyright © 2010. Used with permission of the publisher, Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

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