Given the demise of America’s long-beloved sweetheart (sob, Hostess), making these from scratch may be the only way to cure your shakes.
This recipe is a tender, chocolatey devil’s food cake filled with a fluffy, vanilla whipped-cream filling. Once upon a time, I used this very same recipe as cupcakes to make Little Debbie knock-offs. Same concept, different execution.
For the cupcakes, you make the cake recipe in a cupcake pan and bake at an adjusted time, for the ding dongs you make it as a sheet cake and cut out mini-circle cakes with a 3-inch round biscuit cutter.
Make sure you enter the giveaway to win the book, but in the mean time, enjoy this recipe for “Retro Ring Cakes.” They’re so good, even kitties can’t resist!
Homemade Ding Dongs Recipe
Makes: 9 cakes
For the Cake
- ½ cup dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ cup + 1 cup water, divided
- 1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
- ¼ cup (1 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Filling
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Glaze
- 8 ounces dark chocolate*, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional: Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling
Make the cake
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a 9 by 13-inch cake pan with foil and/or parchment. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
2. Place cocoa powder in a small bowl. Heat ½ cup of the water until it just begins to simmer and pour it over the cocoa, whisking until incorporated. Add remaining 1 cup of water and stir until smooth; set aside to cool.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with both of the sugars on medium-high speed until very light; 4 to 5 minutes (a couple minutes longer if using a hand mixer). Scrape down the bowl.
4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla together just to blend. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, scraping down the bowl after half the eggs have been added. Make sure to allow each addition to completely blend before adding the next.
5. With the mixer on the lowest speed add the flour and cocoa mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour ( ⅓ flour- ½ cocoa – ⅓ flour – ½ cocoa – ⅓ flour). Once the last of the flour has been added, mix just until combined and turn off the mixer. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, incorporating any last bits of flour.
6. Pour the batter into your cake pan and bake about 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare for the filling
1. Once the cake has cooled, use a 3-inch cutter to cut eight rounds from the cake. You can freeze the scraps for ice cream sundaes or midnight snacks. Press a 2-inch round cutter into the cake round until it is ¼-inch from the bottom.* Pop the cake piece out of the 2-inch cutter and cut off ¼-inch of cake from the bottom of the small cake round (this will ensure that you have enough room for your filling).
* You can do this by inserting a paring knife ¼-inch from the bottom and insert the 2-inch cutter until you feel it hit the paring knife.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until it reaches firm peaks. Transfer to a pastry bag, or to a quart-size Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe the cream into the whole of each cake. Press the reserved 2-inch cake rounds into the top of each cake to cover the filling.
Prepare the Glaze
1. Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl* and warm the cream in a small saucepan or microwave until it just begins to boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk gently until completely blended and smooth. It will start to blend right after you hit the point where you are about to give up all hope. Have faith. Once mixed, let the chocolate mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken slightly.
* I put my chocolate in a large 4-cup measuring cup, to make the next step easier.
* I also used dark chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate, because chopping chocolate is the bane of my existence.
2. Place the cream-filled cake rounds onto a rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet. Working one cake at a time, pour about 3 tablespoons of glaze over each cake, using an offset spatula to gently spread the glaze over the top and sides of the cake.
3. Continue with each cake, being careful not to drip new chocolate onto your newly beautified cakes. If your glaze thickens too much, microwave it in 10 to 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until it reaches your desired consistency.
4. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired.
Adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking