I know that when you look up recipes on the internet, everything advertises itself to be “the best”, “the most delicious”, “my favorite”. But listen to me, you guys. THIS is the most amazing homemade chocolate cake! I like a good chocolate cake, but when you taste this one, you’ll see it goes beyond your average chocolate cake. It’s special.
I can’t even remember where I originally saw this recipe and tried it. I do remember that I made it early on in my marriage, and my husband was super impressed. The name of it was “Union Hotel Chocolate Cake”, so that’s what I had written on my recipe card. Yes, I said ‘recipe card’. I know, I know, I’m dating myself.
Where did it get the name “Union Hotel Cake”?
When I started writing this post, I was curious to see if I could find any history to this recipe and where it originated. I wasn’t even sure where Union Hotel was. There are several hotels with that name, but I’m guessing it originated at the one that’s been in business since 1852 in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can’t confirm or deny this info, but a recipe that’s 170 years old is the one that makes the best story.
Anyway, none of that really matters if I don’t deliver on the taste, or, dare I say, the experience. Am I hyping this too much? (No)
What makes this cake so amazing?
I think the thing that makes this cake so special is the fact that it is a deep, true chocolate taste, and also the texture. This cake is made with cake flour, which gives it a much softer, finer crumb. This was the first recipe I ever made where I used cake flour, so I wasn’t really sure how it would be any different, but it definitely made a different kind of cake than I was used to. In a good way.
Cake Flour? Do I have to use it?
Bon Appetit magazine defines cake flour as: “a low-protein, finely-milled flour that contributes to tall, fluffy, tender, and delicate cakes”
And the article that I found in their magazine started with “When a recipe calls for cake flour, get the cake flour”. So, there you go!
However, I know that not everyone has cake flour stocked in their pantry, so I looked up a substitute for you.
Cake Flour Substitute
Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and place it back in your flour canister. Replace the removed all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift flour 5 times. Yep, 5 times. Sifting the flour and cornstarch together helps to thoroughly combine the mixture and help to lighten and aerate the flour.
The other thing that makes this chocolate cake taste so amazing is the fact that one of the ingredients is strong coffee. For those of you who are not coffee drinkers and/or don’t like mocha flavor, you have nothing to worry about. I promise you will NOT taste the coffee,; it only deepens the flavor of the chocolate.
let’s talk chocolate
Speaking of chocolate, this recipe calls for 3-1/2 squares of unsweetened chocolate. The decision on which brand of chocolate you buy will essentially determine the depth of flavor.
First of all, you must use UNSWEETENED. Not “dark chocolate” or “extra dark chocolate” or even “bittersweet chocolate”. Trust me on this.
Which brand should you buy? I did a little research online about the best brand to use for unsweetened chocolate, in particular. I was convinced the top-rated one would be the most expensive, but that’s not true! Taste of Home used a different brand in a recipe for brownies in a taste test. https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/looking-for-the-best-baking-chocolate-heres-what-you-need-to-know/
They determined that people who prefer to eat dark chocolate candy preferred Guittard as their No. 1, followed closely by Ghirardelli and Scharffen Berger. The people who prefer milk chocolate candy liked the brownies made with Baker’s chocolate I will link these chocolates from Amazon, so you can easily buy the one you want. I’ve found that all grocery stores do not necessarily have the same brands of chocolate on their shelves.
I made this Union Hotel chocolate cake on Father’s Day for my husband. I hadn’t made it for so long that we forgot how delicious it really is.
Finishing Up The Cake
who doesn’t love whipped cream!
This cake is not frosted or glazed. It’s not an overly sweet cake, but it tastes best if you serve some whipped cream with it. And please don’t use the kind in the can. Homemade whipped cream is going to compliment the cake so much more than canned. It’s really easy to make and I’m going to give you the recipe here, although it’s really just heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar*. Using vanilla bean paste, as opposed to vanilla extract, adds an extra depth to the whipped cream flavor. You can read how to make vanilla bean paste in my recent blog, linked here.
*Cooking Tip: Use powdered sugar, instead of granulated sugar when making whipped cream. It blends in so much better.
I originally thought this blog post would be relatively short, because, let’s face it, my entire blog post is about a chocolate cake recipe. But I threw in some (hopefully) helpful information and advice, and my goal is just to help you make this delicious cake a success.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my words. I would love it if you would try out this recipe, and then come back and tell me how it turned out in the Comment section, below. In my opinion, this cake is worthy of a celebration, even if that celebration is just about your dessert tonight!
Union Hotel Chocolate Cake
- 3-1/2 oz squares of unsweetened chocolate baking bar
- 6 tbls unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup strong coffee
- 1/8 cup rum (or bourbon)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup cake flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
Vanilla Whipping Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 3 tbls. powdered sugar - then taste it to see if it is lightly sweet; adjust by adding more cream or more sugar, as necessary.
Union Hotel Chocolate Cake
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Grease and flour 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" x 2-1/2" loaf pan.
- Put the chocolate, butter and coffee in a heavy sauce pan. Place over low heat and stir constantly until chocolate melts; then stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- After it has cooled, beat in the rum, egg and vanilla with a wire whisk.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift the cake flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
- Add the chocolate mixture to dry mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until well blended and smooth.
- Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean; let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve with vanilla whipping cream; recipe included
Vanilla Whipped Cream
- Pour whipping cream into mixing bowl and mix with electric mixture for approximately 30 seconds.
- Add vanilla and sugar to the mixture and whip mixture until fluffy and stands up in soft peaks.
- Serve with Union Hotel Cake