Hot Fudge Sundae Cake: A Piece of Cake #30

So, a snack cake walks into a party...

The photos for this recipe came out so great! The props, the creative direction, the food—we even made a stop-motion video of building the sundae. The previews I saw were so exciting. And then? The hard drive crashed. So while we pray to the Geek Squad for a smooth recovery, I’m gonna press on with a few photos we do have. But you’re not here for photos—you’re here for a hot fudge sundae cake! 

Obviously, this is not a snack cake you can leave on the counter—at least, not in its fully dressed sundae form. It’s a celebration-worthy cake with the soul of a snack cake. It’s got showstopper looks, but with weeknight ease. And you get the fun of an ice cream cake, without the work of an ice cream cake. Please don’t mishear me: I do love ice cream cake. And if you’re in the market for a really good traditional version, Tara O’Brady has a great tutorial and recipe over on Epicurious! 

The chocolate cake at the base of this sundae has been my go-to chocolate cake recipe for years. It is a very close Martha Stewart adaptation, but it’s essentially an old-fashioned hot water chocolate cake. The truly great thing about this cake is its ability to stay moist for DAYS. That particular attribute will not be showcased in this application, but it's a great thing to note for future use. Due to its high oil content, it stays relatively pliable when frozen, which also makes it a great choice for a cake layer in a traditional ice cream cake. And this cake also freezes incredibly well, so if you ever need to bake a cake in advance, this is a great one. I baked it here in a tall 8-inch cake pan. I love the height it gives it on a cake stand—honestly, it's mostly an aesthetic choice. If you don't have an 8-inch, 9 will work too. Just adjust the baking time down. 

This hot fudge topping is made with honey, as opposed to corn syrup. I just love the flavor! *Cue the VH1 Behind the Music Theme* The real story here is that I was already making hot fudge when I realized I had no corn syrup. So I swapped in the first liquid sugar I found in the pantry, and as it turns out? It’s really good. I used a fancy dark raw honey here; as with maple syrup, the darker the honey, the stronger the honey flavor. That complex sweetness really came through and added a fun little layer of flavor. 

As for the ice cream on top, any decent vanilla works. I bought a half-gallon and used as much as I thought it needed. Like many recipes in this newsletter, this is a mix-and-match situation. I went with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, chopped peanuts, whipped cream, and sprinkles, but you do you! What about coconut ice cream, drizzled with caramel, and sprinkled with toasted coconut? Or cherry chocolate ice cream with the syrup from a jar of fancy Luxardo maraschino cherries? Or mint chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles? Alright, I’m thinking I need to make this again already.

Speaking of sprinkles, this is a jimmies-only situation. Save those chunky “fancy” sprinkles for your TikTok cakes. And the little nonpareils? Non on this cake, mes amis. Save those for sugar cookies. Ice cream calls for old-fashioned, long boy sprinkles. Preferably rainbow. 

Obviously, this cake needs to be assembled right before serving. So if you’re bringing this to a party, pack all your toppings and bring them to assemble on site. It’s a fun opportunity to have friends or kids help out! Now, I need to wrap this up, because I just got some local intel that a sour cherry tree down the street was taken down by the wind, and the cherries need to be saved ASAP. I’m ON IT.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake 

For the cake

¾ cup cocoa powder, I used very dark nice cocoa, but whatever you have in your pantry is fine

1 ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ cup sugar

6 tablespoons canola oil

¾ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

¾ cup very hot water

For the hot fudge

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup sugar

½ cup dark raw honey

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

For the sundae

½ gallon vanilla ice cream, your favorite brand

¼ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts 

Whipped cream

Rainbow sprinkles

Maraschino cherries

Make the cake: 

  1. Sift together all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer: cocoa, salt, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar.

  2. With the paddle attachment on medium-low, mix the oil, then buttermilk and vanilla, followed by the eggs one at a time. Mix until fully incorporated.

  3. Add the hot water and mix on low to start to avoid a mess. Gradually bring the speed up to medium, to mix until fully incorporated. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl and mix again to incorporate the scrapings. 

  4. Line an 8x3 inch round cake pan with parchment and spray with pan spray. Pour in the cake batter and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Let it cool completely and remove it from the pan. 

Make the hot fudge:

  1. Combine all the ingredients, other than the vanilla, in a small saucepan. 

  2. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. 

  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. 

  4. Let cool to just warm before assembling the cake. 

Assemble the sundae:

  1. Place the cooled cake onto a cake stand or serving plate

  2. Top with as much ice cream as you deem necessary (or structurally wise). 

  3. Drizzle over a generous amount of hot fudge (I used a squeeze bottle). 

  4. Top with whipped cream, chopped nuts, sprinkles and maraschino cherries. 

Quick bites: 

  • I’m kind of obsessed with most things Yellow Rose does, but this Lone Star beer-battered broccolini is out of control. Since I’m not in the city, I might have to try and dupe this recipe over the weekend. I know it won't be the same.

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  • Speaking of ice cream cakes, these easy ice cream cakes that Ali Slagle developed for NYTCooking are so damn pretty and just scream summer. She says (in a really great video) that she was tasked with creating ice cream cakes that use store-bought ingredients, and obviously, I’m into that. 

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A Piece of Cake is written by Bill Clark and edited by Andrew Spena. Photography by Hunter Abrams. Logo design by Brett LaBauve.