Valentine's Day Chocolate Cake

Valentine’s Day is approaching and romantic gift giving is in the air. Homemade gifts are the best and the chocolate cake recipe below is for a cake I often get asked to bring to potlucks and family gatherings. You can make this a “high octane” cake (meaning fully laced with alcohol) by pouring a quarter cup of your liquor of choice over the cake once it has cooked. Pour the liquor slowly and carefully – you don’t want a soggy mess! Even if you choose not to add the extra liquor, this is a wonderful, moist chocolate cake to enjoy with coffee or after dinner drinks. Do set aside a couple of hours to make this, especially the first time as there are multiple steps to putting the cake together.

Drunken Chocolate Cake

(from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts)


5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (Bakers, Ghirardelli, etc. The better the chocolate, the better the cake.)

2 cups shifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup instant coffee or espresso

Boiling water

Cold water

½ cup bourbon (or cognac, amaretto, blackberry brandy, apricot brandy, kirsch, Grand Marnier, Chambord – the flavor of the liquor will help determine the flavor of the cake)

½ pound of butter, softened at room temperature (2 sticks, 1 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large or extra-large eggs

Optional: extra liquor to sprinkle on cake

Optional: powdered sugar to sprinkle on cake


            Adjust rake one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. You will need a 9-inch Bundt pan or any other fancy tube pan with a 10-cup capacity. Butter the pan even if it is a non-stick pan. Then dust the whole inside of the pan with fine, dry, plain bread crumbs; invert over the sink and tap lightly to shake out excess crumbs. Set the pan aside.

            Break or cut chocolate into small pieces and place in a small glass bowl. Microwave for 60 seconds. Stir, if chocolate is not melted, microwave another 30 seconds. Stir until all chocolate pieces are melted. Be careful to not overcook! You can also melt the chocolate on the stove in a double-boiler. Set chocolate aside and let cool slightly.

            Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

            In a 2-cup measuring cup dissolve the instant coffee in a bit of boiling water. Add cold water to the 1 ½ cup mark. Add the liquor. You will now have 2 cups of liquid.

            Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each egg. Add the chocolate and beat until smooth.

            Then on low speed, alternately add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions with the liquids in two additions, adding the liquids gradually to avoid splashing, and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Be sure to beat until smooth after each addition, especially after the last. The final batter will be a thin mixture.

            Pour into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan a bit briskly, first in one direction, than in the other, to level the top. The batter will reach almost to the top of the pan, but it is OK, it will not run over and you’ll have a beautiful, tall cake.

            Bake for 1 hour and 10 or 15 minutes. Test by inserting a cake tester into the middle of the cake and bake only until the tester comes out clean and dry.

            Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then cover with a rack and invert. Remove the pan, sprinkle the cake with a bit of optional liquor and leave the cake upside down on the rack to cool.

            Before serving, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar through a fine strainer.

            This is a no-icing cake, wonderful as is or with a spoonful of vanilla or liquor flavored whipping cream.