For those looking to imitate the sort of chocolate cake you get from a boxed mix, or you want a chocolate sheet cake like like you’d get from a larger commercial bakery, this is your ticket. This cake has the tight crumb and relative durability you want, plus it bakes up well in broad cake pans. This formula is enough for one 11″ x 14″ x 2″ sheet cake pan or three 8″ x 2″ round layer pans. It can be easily scaled up or down depending on your needs.
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease your pan(s). Here’s I’ve also lined this big 11″ x 14″ with parchment for easy extraction. I recommend it.
To begin your batter, bring the water to a simmer and combine it with your cocoa powder:
…and whisk it thoroughly. Allow that to cool, then add the vanilla.
Next, sift the cake flour into a large bowl.
Add half the sugar, the salt and the baking soda and baking powder.
Whisk it. Whisk it good.
Next combine the other half of the sugar and the shortening in the bowl of a mixer.
Beat that for 2-3 minutes on medium-high until it is extremely light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down…
…and start adding your eggs one by one, then your yolks. Beat thoroughly after each addition and scrape regularly. If the batter develops a clumpy or curdled look, fear not and press on.
Once everything is beaten and scraped, add a third of the flour.
Stir that in on medium-low, then add half the chocolate mixture. Yours will be thinner than this (I added more liquid after the fact because I didn’t have enough in there). Stir, add another third of the flour, stir and scrape. Keep going in this manner until everything is incorporated and the batter is smooth (you don’t want to over mix, so don’t go hog wild on the stirring).
Scrape the batter into your pan(s) and spread it around evenly.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until it looks about like this.
Allow it to cool about ten minutes, then place a cooling rack on top and flip everything over. The layer will drop out. Place another rack on the bottom, flip everything back again and remove the rack from the top. Allow the cake to cool completely before decorating. The top of the cake probably won’t be perfectly even. I like to trim off the outer half inch completely, then shave any bulges off the top with a serrated knife before I start to frost it.