I make a lot of loaf pan chocolate cakes these days, but Brownstone Front Cake is the OG chocolate loaf cake. Referenced in many a historical cookbook, it is a rectangular shaped chocolate cake named for the front of a brownstone.
There are different versions of Brownstone Front Cake. Some call for whipped egg whites, some are made with cocoa, others solid chocolate, and most include sour cream and buttermilk. Frostings varies. White frostings are often used, but for my first Brownstone Front Cake I used a chocolate frosting.
The recipe below will give you a cake with a moist but light texture. It doesn’t make a ton of icing, but you will get enough to cover the cake. I’m glad I didn’t double it. Also, this is a cake open to a lot of fun decorating ideas. That was wasted on me since I frosted the cake right after dinner and served it immediately for dessert, but if I’d planned ahead I could have had a lot of fun with the shape.
Brownstone Front Cake
1 cup water, boiling
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (230 grams)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar (350 grams)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons softened butter (28 grams)
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons whole milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan with flour added cooking spray and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper.
In a large (2 cup) microwave-safe measuring cup or in a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir chocolate into the water and let it sit until it’s room temperature. This takes a while so do it first.
Sift the flour, then whisk it with the baking soda, and salt.
In bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the brown sugar and continue beating for about 3 minutes on high, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at time, beating 30 seconds after each egg, then beat in the vanilla.
Make sure the chocolate/water mixture is room temperature, then stir in the sour cream into the water. Starting and ending with the flour mixture, add flour mixture and chocolate mixture to batter alternately, stirring just to blend. Batter might be a little lumpy.
Bake on center rack at 325 F. for one hour. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.
For frosting, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add the salt and melted chocolate. Continue beating and scraping sides of bowl. Add the vanilla. Add milk as needed, starting with 2 tablespoons and using more (I used all 4 T.).
Ice the cake!
Get a good head start on the boiling water and chocolate step so it will have time to come to room temperature.