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She's a Brick House: The NYC Brownstone Front Cake

Brownstone front cake
What's in a name? They say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet--but would it be as compelling? 

Take for instance the New York City Brownstone Front Cake. Certainly that's a much more appealing and interesting name than say, "Chocolate Loaf Cake"--and certainly the name is what lured us to learn more about, and bake, this cake. 

New York City Brownstone Front Cake

As Maida Heatter notes above, the Brownstone Cake is not something easily defined: the name has been used to describe cakes of caramel and chocolate, served as loaves or as layer cakes (if you're interested in learning more about its history, click here). But what holds true in each version is that this is a serious, dare we say brick house, of a cake: moist, rich, and very dense. 
Using Maida's recipe as a starting point, we made our own version of the Brownstone cake, in a loaf pan. The result was an almost brownie-like cake. Because it was a large one, we let it stand as a loaf and let each eater choose their own adventure with their slice. It's an easy one to enjoy plain, iced (top picture), a la mode, or completely over the top-chocolatey (below). 

Ridiculously over the top chocolate brownie cake

New York City Brownstone Front Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp. dry instant coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups unsifted unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 3/4 firmly packed cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • *Optional Cakespy additions for added decadence and deliciousness:
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark chocolate peanut butter--this gave it a richer, deeper dark chocolate color than some other examples of the cake we've seen.
  • 1 generous handful chocolate chips
  • Adjust a rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You need a loaf pan with a 9-cup capacity (we didn't so we made two loaves using a smaller loaf pans). Butter the pan. (The original recipe calls for a breadcrumb mixture to line the pan but we didn't do that).
  • Chop the chocolate into coarse pieces and place it in a small saucepan off the heat. Add the boiling water and instant coffee. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Maida's note: the mixture is in a saucepan so that if necessary it can be placed over heat until the chocolate is melted). Stir to mix and set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until well mixed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then beat in the vanilla. On low speed add about half of the dry ingredients and beat to mix. Beat in the sour cream and then the remaining dry ingredients. Still on low speed, gradually add the melted chocolate mixture, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and beating until thoroughly mixed.
  • *At this point, figuring it would be delicious, we also stirred in a generous handful of chocolate chips, and about 2 heaping tablespoons' worth of dark chocolate peanut butter (we used Peanut Butter and Co.'s), in little chunks here and there in the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). 
  • Bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until a cake tester gently inserted in the middle comes out dry.
  • Cool the cake in the pan for about fifteen minutes. Then cover with a rack, turn the pan and rack upside down, and remove the pan, leaving the cake upside down to cool on the rack.

Empty pan, baby!Brownstone Front cake deliciousness

Now, this is the point at which we split paths with Maida. Rather than making her suggested Brownstone Icing,  as mentioned above, we left the cake as-is and let each eater choose their own adventure; the most delicious variation was undoubtedly the over-the-top chocolatey slice, on which we slathered on a bit of leftover chocolate buttercream frosting from a recent bout of baking and topped it with Hershey's chocolate syrup; to those who might consider this a bit excessive, it really is quite good lightly iced or even plain as well.


*As an added note, those who find this cake of interest may also get some extreme enjoyment out of David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake recipe.

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Reader Comments (13)

It is indeed a compelling name! I have a number of Maida's books - all of them are wonderful.

January 17 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

Your version looks sinfully delicious, Cakespy. Just what the doctor ordered, not, but soon, I hope...For now, I can have beautiful sweet dreams. Thanks for sharing Jesse...

January 17 | Unregistered Commenter~~louise~~

I was invited on a trip to Jamaica in six weeks. My bathing suit has begged me leave your site and don't come back until that trip is over. I hope you understand. :-(

wow this cake looks dangerously delicious ! I love its texture and look. Cute way of decoratng it :)

January 17 | Unregistered CommenterSnooky doodle

Delciious cake and since I am not great at 'icing' (aversion to sugar, to fat etc etc...,) your decorations suits me great!

January 17 | Unregistered CommenterSunshinemom

Yummy :-) .. I came through flickr ... this cake looks delicious :-)!!

By the way: Just love your cake-artwork :-)!


January 18 | Unregistered Commentergine

Oh, I have been wanting to make this for a while now. There's something romantic about the NY brownstone connection. I'm getting lost in those dense, chocolate slices ...

I like that a lot - quirky but still delicious. Great!

Interesting! I wish I could have some right now, for breakfast.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

As always beautiful photography and exceedingly good cakes, however you not Mr Kipling (get it?) Love visiting your place..thx for doing the same. Rico

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo

Dana: I love Maida's baking, don't you?

Louise: Ha! It's a good one.

Courteous: Weird, your bathing suit sent me an email and says it loves Cakespy. I think it's two-timing!

Snooky: Thanks!

Sunshinemom: It's a very dense one and is fine without frosting...I think you'd like it!

Gine: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed!

TW: It's a worthwhile endeavor. Can't wait to hear how yours comes out when you get around to it!

Caked: It's unusual but good!

Sarah: I did have some for breakfast the other day, it was great!

Ricardo: Thanks for the sweet comments!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

That is a funny name indeed! But a gorgeous looking cake!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterClumbsy Cookie

Awww...the iced version is so cute!

January 20 | Unregistered Commenterdessert girl
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