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Summer Reading: Small-Batch Baking

Have you ever desired to bake some lovely homemade treats, only you didn't because you only wanted a few bites of cake, or few cookies. Didn't you wish there was a way to bake exactly what you wanted? Well, author Debby Maugans Nakos knows exactly how you feel. That's why she's created Small-Batch Baking, an entire cookbook full of recipes that yield just enough for one or two servings. She's even come up with an ingenious way to bake a two layer cake using clean cans. While I love the concept in theory, I did have a problem with the use of egg substitute. Everything is measured out exactly, that you're often measuring out 1/2 of an egg, etc. Also, some of the editing is a little sloppy - ingredients listed on the same line instead of separate ones. I've used a few of the cookie recipes, but found the flavors to be so-so, I'd rather make a large batch of my favorite dough and freeze the rest to bake for later. However, the cake recipes are quite ingenious as sometimes you do just need a little cake. If you've ever wanted just one or two bites of something, then it's definitely worth checking out.

For the recipe to Debby's mini chocolate cake,

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Double Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
From Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos

Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the cans

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the cans
3 tablespoons buttermilk
Yolk of 1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
Double Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting (recipe follows)

Two 14- or 14.5-ounce cans
1 baking sheet

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Grease the insides of the cans and lightly dust them with flour, tapping out the excess. Place the cans on a baking sheet for easier handling, and set aside.
  3. Combine the buttermilk, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl, and whisk to mix. Gradually pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl, and then whisk to blend well. Add the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared cans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the cans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of each can and invert them to release the cakes. Turn the cakes upright and let them cool completely on the rack.
  7. To frost the cakes, cut each cake in half horizontally. Spread a layer of Double Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting about 1/2 inch thick on the cut side of one cake half, then stack the other half on top of it. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake and frosting. (The cakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Let them stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.)

Double Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting (makes 1 cup)

6 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperture
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

  1. Place both chocolates in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, and heat, stirring occasionally, until they melt. (Or place the chocolates in a medium- size microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power until glossy, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, rotating the bowl after 1 1/2 minutes.)
  2. Let the chocolate mixture cool for 5 minutes. Then add the sour cream, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to blend well. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring it occasionally. When it is cool, it should be thick enough to spread. (If not, refrigerate for a few minutes to thicken.) Use immediately.
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