It’s hard to even count how many different shapes and sizes Rosa’s Mud Cake has taken over the past three decades. That’s it up there, in a heart shape underneath frosting and an army of m&ms for Phoebe’s Valentine-themed birthday party a few years back. It was also the cake I used for Phoebe’s birthday “beach cake” and the dessert I made for my parents anniversary (one round pan, sprinkled with powdered sugar, surrounded by raspberries) and, of course, the cake I ate at my best friend’s birthday parties all through childhood. Her mother is the famous Rosa and she cooked the most amazing meals for her family from a collection of recipes she had jammed into in little wooden box on her kitchen counter. (How I dream of that box!) Even before I had kids, I knew enough to dig around for the mud cake card so I could copy down the instructions and continue her tradition. The secret to its moist muddiness is a cup of strong black coffee. If you’re not a mocha person, don’t be scared by that, the flavor is very subtle.
Rosa’s Mud Cake
Makes 1 9×13 sheet cake or 2 9-inch layers.
1 1/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup strong black coffee (brewed, not grinds!)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dump everything in a bowl, mix, pour into a sheet pan that has been buttered and lightly floured. Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Glaze
More often than not, I make this cake without frosting. But here’s a glaze that takes about 10 minutes (most of it hands-off time) that is impossible to mess up. (Unlike most of the frostings I attempt.)
Dump a small bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) in a heatproof bowl. Meanwhile heat 1 cup of heavy cream so it’s bubbling but not boiling. Pour over chocolate chips and let sit about 2 minutes without stirring. Whisk together and pour over cake that has been set over a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet that has been lined with foil or parchment.
Also Very Easy Classic Chocolate Frosting (makes 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the chocolate, milk, and vanilla until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency, about 1 to 2 minutes.