Recipe Review

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cake Recipe Is Seriously Disappointing

published Feb 11, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

There’s no denying that Martha Stewart is a culinary icon. Between her television shows, cookbooks, magazines, and websites, she has a devoted fan base that swears by her recipes. Whenever I cook a Martha recipe, I expect it to be good, which is exactly why I decided to include her chocolate cake in our chocolate cake celebrity recipe showdown. Her recipe is made entirely by hand (no mixer needed!) and has been rated over 400 times, so I was eager to try it out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cake

You’ll begin by sifting cocoa powder into a large bowl, to which you’ll add hot coffee and milk. Whisk that together and set it aside to cool. In another bowl, sift together cake flour, baking soda, and salt. At this point you’re instructed to mix softened butter with a rubber spatula until “light and fluffy.” This, however, proved rather difficult to do by hand, and despite putting a lot of arm strength into it, I’m not sure the butter got all that fluffy.

You’ll then add sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs and to the fluffy butter and mix until combined. You’ll add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix until incorporated. And finally, you’ll add the sifted dry ingredients and stir to create a batter.

The batter gets distributed between two cake pans that have been buttered, lined with parchment paper, and dusted with cocoa powder, and baked until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes, then pop them out and let them cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Sift together Valrhona cocoa powder (a high-quality brand of cocoa powder) and powdered sugar. Add softened butter, milk, and vanilla extract and stir until combined. Once the cakes are cooled, go ahead and assemble and frost it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Martha’s Chocolate Cake

This cake was seriously disappointing. The texture was dry, crumbly, and dense. I found myself reaching for a glass of milk in order to wash it down and had no desire to finish an entire slice. The cake crumbled into dry pieces as you cut it, and it lacked the fudgy texture I associate with a good chocolate cake. In fact, it resembled a dry sponge cake in texture. The chocolate-y flavor was enjoyable, but it didn’t make up for the texture.

The frosting was actually pretty tasty and had a nice fluffy texture, but it was not enough to mask the disappointing cake. I have a feeling that the mixing technique contributed to the undesirable texture of the cake, as it was difficult to properly mix the butter using nothing but a rubber spatula.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Martha’s Chocolate Cake, a Few Tips

1. Don’t bother coating your cake pans in cocoa powder: Martha’s recipe has you butter cake pans, line them in parchment paper, and dust them with cocoa powder. This seemed a bit excessive, and it might have even contributed to the cake’s dryness. My suggestion? Ditch the cocoa powder and just use butter and parchment.

2. Use an electric mixer: Martha’s recipe has you mix both the batter and the frosting together by hand. Besides being exhausting, it was difficult to properly mix the butter enough for it to become light and fluffy, so go ahead and use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment if you have one. You’ll thank me later.

3. Ditch the cake recipe but keep the frosting: This cake was so disappointing that I suggest swapping it out with another cake (may I suggest Ina’s recipe) but keeping the frosting. The frosting is rather tasty and super-easy to work with, so it’s a shame it gets wasted on such a disappointing cake!

Rating: 4/10

Have you ever made Martha’s chocolate cake? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn