Baking for Bocce III: Chocolate Dump-it Cake

Our bocce team is no longer in last place. I think we’re second to last– but still, let’s celebrate the small victories. Chocolate seems to help. We definitely play a little better. I noticed this when I made Katherine Hepburn’s brownies a few weeks back–so last week, I decided to test Amanda Hesser’s recipe for her mom’s Chocolate Dump-it Cake (found in Cooking for Mr. Latte), a birthday staple in the Hesser household. I was intrigued because you make the cake all in one saucepan and I hadn’t tried sour cream frosting before. Hesser claims, “For the icing, you melt Nestlé’s semisweet-chocolate chips and swirl them together with sour cream. It sounds as if it’s straight from the Pillsbury Bake-Off, but it tastes as if it’s straight from Payard. Everyone loves it.” She wasn’t kidding–the icing was remarkable. It’s substantial (unlike occasionally whimpy buttercream), smooth, and has a creamy chocolate depth.

A few changes I made to the recipe below: For the frosting, I used Guittard chips only because they happened to be $2 cheaper than Nestle (hmmm…), and I also decided to make it into a layer cake instead of using a tube pan. In the future, I’d make a bit more frosting so I could frost the sides as well. The cake: it’s not one of those cakes that you really need the frosting to mask it or dress it up. But I just like the way a layer cake looks when it’s frosted completely. In addition, when you begin the recipe, take the sour cream out of the fridge. It must be room temperature to begin making the frosting–this takes some time. My bocce teammates mentioned adding chocolate chips into the batter of the cake next time around. I’m a bit of a cake purist, and believe a lovely chocolate/chocolate cake shouldn’t be messed with. But, I concur, this certainly couldn’t be bad. My notes and tips are in italics below.

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

  • Yield: 10
  • Prep time: 30 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr


2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon semi-coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, at least 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)

3. When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without over-mixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. “Dump” the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

4. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky, so if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely. My tip: If doing as a layer cake, just use common sense: split the batter into two 9″ cake rounds.

5. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/ 4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good. My tip: Hesser’s right–don’t rush the cooling of the chocolate chips and let the sour cream come up to room temperature. This is very important. If your frosting is a little lumpy, beat on.

6. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.


  1. Anne Zimmerman

    Boy, I had a lot of trouble with that flour! Regardless of how slowly I folded it in, there were still white clumps. Lacking a mixer, I just beat and beat with a fork, hoping that all would be well. I am still hoping that there won't be white clumps in the cake. Megan, do you recall if you had trouble with this?

  2. Anne Zimmerman

    I have a little status update. I was making multiples of this cake, and let some of the batter sit. 90% of the flour clumps went away. Super. But the over-mixing did affect how my cakes rose. Mine look to be 1/2 the size of the ones in the photos. I'm considering making two more (4 layer cake, anyone?) or really swathing up the icing so it looks big and tall and pretty.

  3. megang

    Hi Ann! Hmmm...ok, so it's even clumpy after you sifted it, huh? That's really odd. I don't recall having that problem when I made it the first go-around, but perhaps I'll try it again (why not?!) soon and compare notes. I don't know quite as much about the chemistry of baking as I should, so I have no earthly idea why that would happen! One thing I know that would flatten the cake would be any over-mixing, but I doubt you did that...But I do think a 4 layer cake sounds FABULOUS. Thanks for the update :)

  4. Anne Zimmerman

    I think I did over-mix it. But I also to think all will be well. I'll let you know how it tastes soon: t-minus 7 hours till party time.

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