Maida Heatter’s 86 Proof Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was stormy, which meant Lizzie spent most of the afternoon panting and shaking. Having a terrified corgi underfoot isn’t very conducive to housework, so I grabbed a book and Lizzie and I sat in Fuzz’s closet waiting for the thunder to subside. It didn’t, so after an hour in the closet we moved to the kitchen where Lizzie plopped down in the corner and I baked this cake.  By the time it was done, the storm had passed.

86 Proof Chocolate Cake

This recipe was recommended by Louise, who got it from my favorite baker of all time, Maida Heatter. 86 Proof Chocolate Cake is a regular chocolate Bundt cake with a hint of Bourbon and a rich but light texture. If it hadn’t rained all day, I would have gone to the store for some berries to serve alongside each slice, but I wanted to stay inside where it was dry.

The recipe for Maida Heatter’s 86 Proof Cake is in this old NYT article and I recommend you use that one since it’s so well written. There were a few things I questioned, though. For one thing, it calls for ¼ cup espresso. Did that mean brewed espresso or instant espresso powder? That seemed like a lot of powder, so I used 1 rounded teaspoon of instant espresso powder and 1/4 cup boiling water. Louise told me later I should have just used 1/4 cup instant coffee, so maybe I’ll try that next time.

Another interesting step was dusting the pan with breadcrumbs to keep it the cake from sticking. You have to butter the whole pan first (which I don’t think the recipe says to do), dump the breadcrumbs in the pan, then shake them around so they coat the sides. I’d never done this before, but it worked wonderfully. The cake slid right out of the pan.  As for the crumbs, they dissolved into the cake. Here’s a photo of what my pan looked like dusted with bread crumbs.

86 Proof Cake

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  1. says

    The texture of that looks kind of velvety. I assume the bourbon is important here. I’ve still never baked with it and am a tad leery of it. Maybe some red wine would be good in it instead?

  2. says

    Sue, go with the Bourbon. Just get some Wild Turkey and try it out. I do recommend that you use a high grade chocolate, though.

    Cakelaw, I have a picture of Lizzie but I didn’t post it because she looks so miserable. Poor baby. Luckily she recovers pretty quickly once the storms are over.

    Rebecca, she is the best. While trying to figure out what she was up to these days, I came across this article

  3. says

    If a Maida Heatter recipe fails, I know I did something wrong. About the density, I’d say it was dense but very light and tight crumbed.

  4. Karen says

    Another huge Maida Heatter fan here. I’ve made this cake, it’s wonderful. Her recipes are the best!

  5. Laura L says

    Regarding the question about the espresso, I have her “Great Chocolate Desserts” cookbook, and it specifies “1/4 cup dry instant coffee or espresso”.

  6. says

    Laura, thanks for checking! That’s what Louise uses.

    I use this brand of espresso powder.

    It’s pretty strong and I can only imagine who 1/4 cup would be. I wonder if the espresso powder Maida uses has larger crystals. I’m sure 1/4 cup of regular instant crystals would be fine.

  7. Tina says

    The recipe states “dust pan with fine dry bread crumbs”–
    is this all it takes to keep the cake from sticking to the
    pan? My pan does not have a
    non-stick coating and I have
    had trouble in the past with
    bundt cakes sticking…

  8. says

    Tina, that is a good question and I am going to update my post to address that issue. I had to Google “dust pan with breadcrumbs” to figure out how to do this. What you do is rub the whole pan with butter, shake bread crumbs all over the buttered pan to cover, then tap them off into the sink. The bread crumbs dissolve into the cake and the cake turns right out of the pan perfectly.

  9. Laura says

    I use that same brand of espresso powder and I agree, I think 1/4 cup would be too strong. When I try this recipe, I’ll use the regular instant coffee crystals.

    I have made quite a few Maida Heatter cakes, and I always just grease and flour the pan where it says “dust pan with breadcrumbs.” I don’t know why I’ve never tried the breadcrumbs, but greasing/flouring works fine.

  10. says

    Just found your wonderful blog. I’ve made this cake. I use cold brewed (strong) coffee instead of instand espresso dissolved in water. Works like a charm. Bourbon is great for this and so is Irish Whiskey. This is one of my all time favorite chocolate cakes.

  11. says

    I’m a big fan of Maida Heatter! 🙂 I was just looking on her book what sort of cake bake this evening and I’ll choose this one! Thank you for sharing a photo! It looks delicious! 🙂

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