Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Naked Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Buttercream and Coconut Flakes

Naked Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Buttercream and Coconut Flakes


Peeps. It's Valentine's Day! 

Okay, I know people have differing opinions on Valentine's Day. In general, we tend to either really love it or really hate it, with little to no middle ground.

I think it's semi-ridiculous NOT to love Valentine's Day. What's not to love? It's seriously a holiday celebrating two of the greatest things in the world: love, and chocolate. Unfortunately, people get all mentally constipated over whether or not they are single on Valentine's Day, which makes a perfectly lovely and cheerful holiday unnecessarily sad. I am incredibly excited for Valentine's Day, even though this is the first one I'll be having after a really difficult break-up with my longterm boyfriend a few months ago--that should tell you something! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and probably so is Valentine's Day.

But if you are a Valentine's Day hater, never fear. I have a fix for your mental constipation, if you're showing any of the following symptoms: 1) hating Valentine's Day, 2) complaining about being forever alone, 3) wanting to shield your eyes from the bombardment of pink/red/white when you enter the grocery store, or 4) scoffing and rolling your eyes at couples in love/bouquets of flowers/giant teddy bears/etc.

Think about it this way: Valentine's Day is all about love. I think that gets twisted in people's minds into only meaning romantic love, and while that's a beautiful and important part of Valentine's Day, that's not the only type of love to celebrate! When kids make mailboxes out of tissue boxes and send valentines to each other, that's not romantic love; it's love between friends, or maybe just love of stickers and lollipops. Either way, not romantic love, but still fun!

There are so many types of love to celebrate. Love between friends, love between families, love of your pets and your pets' unconditional love of you, loving yourself and treating yourself with care and respect, love of nature, love of color, love of life....and of course, love of food, especially chocolate.

Here we enter into another major reason to love Valentine's Day: it's a day where it's perfectly acceptable (and actually recommended) to indulge in all sorts of sweet, tasty, chocolatey, maybe fruity, perhaps wine-y, delectable treats. It's another candy holiday, like Halloween in February, except nobody is dressed in hideous costumes dripping with blood, or trying to jump out at you from some dark corner, or scaring the sleep out of you for the next month and a half.

So even if you can only get behind the chocolate, find a reason to enjoy Valentine's Day. There are so many reasons and things to love, even if the only love you're choosing to celebrate is love of February 15th, when all the pink goes away and the candy goes on mega-sale.

And whether you ultimately love or hate Valentine's Day, you can celebrate a little bit of love and a whole lot of chocolate with me and my Naked Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Buttercream and Coconut Flakes recipe!

The recipe for the cake is based off of one of those old family recipes (on my mom's side) that gets altered so much as it's passed down that it's hard to tell what it originally looked like or where it originally came from. I pulled it from my mom's recipe drawer years ago and copied it into my recipe book, storing it away until a perfect day to use it. And then of course I changed it a little, because I can't just let things be. The strawberry buttercream is a very-adapted form of my Aunt Mary Ann's famous buttercream frosting (which will appear in its unadapted form in a blog post all to itself later on down the road, for sure! It's SERIOUSLY delicious stuff).

I melted and then froze some chocolate chips with coconut oil to make chocolate hearts as a decoration, but feel free to decorate your cake in whatever way will make you happy! Sprinkles, nuts, fresh strawberry chunks; go wild, do what you love this Valentine's Day. :)

xoxo Alexa


Naked Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Buttercream and Coconut Flakes

Makes: 1 cake (6-8 servings, depending on the size of your slices)

Takes: About 1 hour & 15 minutes

The Characters:

For the chocolate cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2&1/4 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla + just a couple drops more
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used Fairlife 2% Lactose-Free)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup heated water
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

For the strawberry buttercream:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4&1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 5 Tbsp. milk (I used Fairlife 2% Lactose-Free)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. strawberry jam
  • A few drops of red food coloring

To sprinkle on:

  • 1/4 package sweetened coconut flakes

The Saga:

For the chocolate cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350Β°F.
  2. Prepare the bottom and sides of three 8" round pans with cooking spray and/or parchment paper. 
  3. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer.
  4. Mix in cocoa, egg, vanilla, milk, vegetable oil, salt, and flour. Stop to scrape sides with a spatula as necessary.
  5. Heat water in a pan on the stove until it is steaming and almost boiling. Add heated water, baking soda, and baking powder into the bowl with the other ingredients, and mix until everything is combined and smooth.
  6. Pour evenly into the three prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pans for at least 10 minutes, and then flip out and continue cooling on wire racks.
  9. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

For the strawberry buttercream:

  1. Mix butter, vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar in a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined.
  2. Add strawberry jam and red food coloring. Note: You can add more jam, depending on how strong you want the strawberry flavor to be. Test as you go. If you increase jam amount, you may have to add more powdered sugar to acquire good buttercream frosting consistency.
  3. Continue mixing on medium to medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes.

Putting it all together:

  1. Carefully cut cake tops with long, serrated knife so that cakes are flat. Note: These are delicious to eat. Seize the opportunity.
  2. On the top of the bottom layer of cake, pipe frosting in a thick circle around the edge. Pipe some frosting in the middle. Use a knife, a spoon, or a spatula to spread the frosting evenly.
  3. Sprinkle desired amount of coconut flakes over the frosting layer. 
  4. Set the second layer of cake on top. Pipe frosting in a circle around the edge and in the middle again, and then spread with spatula.
  5. Sprinkle desired amount of coconut flakes over the frosting layer.
  6. Set the third layer of cake on top. Pipe frosting in a circle around the edge and in the middle again, and then spread with spatula.
  7. Pipe some frosting on the sides of the cake. Using an offset spatula, dough scraper, knife, or index card, move around the cake in a circle, simultaneously scraping off frosting as you spread it until you get back down to the cake and have achieved a naked cake look. 
  8. Sprinkle desired amount of coconut flakes over the top of the cake. Decorate cake as desired.

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