Classic Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting

Tonight's post is a very special one. It's very convenient that I am writing to you about a deliciously decadent and ridiculously easy and satisfying to make chocolate cake on the eve of Valentine's Weekend (how long can we stretch a holiday out for?), and I do hope that if you're searching for a last minute dessert for The Big Day you find what you're looking for in this recipe...but alas, this is not why I made this cake. L can feel free to enjoy a thawed piece of it when he arrives this weekend, but he, too, is not the reason why I went into a chocolate baking frenzy last weekend. No, I chose to make this cake to celebrate a very different occasion...

...Are you dying of suspense yet? Why, this is my 100th post!!

As soon as I realized my blog was becoming a centenarian (if posts were equivalent to years, I guess - in terms of years Floptimism is still quite the youngster), there was no doubt in my mind that I had to try my hand at a classic chocolate cake. You see, I used to get this crazy-expensive, seven-layer, rich, indulgent, sinfully heavenly chocolate cake from a local deli each year for my birthday (as well as a slice any time I went to the deli for breakfast - don't worry, I saved it for later like a good girl!). After my internal trans-fat ban, and with the knowledge that $45 for a birthday cake is kind of insane, even if it is humongous and would last me for months and months in the freezer, I stopped buying that cake, and have had every intention since then of recreating it in my own kitchen.

This cake is not that cake. Although I haven't yet had it only partially thawed, still chilled, I have my doubts that it is fudgy enough to stand up to that seven layer behemoth I'm used to. This isn't seven layers, at all - it's a modest single layer cake, making it much more fathomable and humble. In fact, humble seems like a great word for this cake - it's unassuming and simple, with a subtle chocolately cake and a richer yet still manageable ganache topping. If I make this again I would increase the chocolate factor by either adding more chocolate or adding in some decaf coffee, which is said to enhance chocolate desserts. Yet, with each successive slice I sit down to enjoy, I find myself loving its understated beauty more and more. This is Ye Olde Faithful Chocolate Cake - aside from maybe the heavy cream and baker's chocolate for the frosting, the ingredients are almost definitely in your kitchen already; they come together in smooth, flowing steps, the cake bakes absolutely beautifully and comes out of the oven to flood the house with the tantalizing smell of chocolate, and as all good cakes should, it only gets better over time (to a certain extent - like I said, I have transferred the remaining slices to the freezer for safer keeping). It's not dense or overwhelming, and in that lack of indulgence I find myself wanting to still search for That Perfect Recipe, but if you're looking for a simple, classic chocolate cake, particularly one for a birthday celebration but certainly for this weekend of romance, I encourage you to try this. I don't think you will regret it.

Also in honor of my 100th post, I thought I would do something to improve the blog itself more than just the appetites of my readers, so I've set up a GoogleDocs account and will now be providing you with printable recipes! I haven't decided if I will include the link on every post, or just the ones whose recipes are not available from other, original sources - but I just had to do it at least for this first one. Enjoy!

Classic Chocolate with Ganache Frosting, courtesy of Dana Treat
Yield: 1 9-inch. round cake (8-12 servings)*
Printable Recipe

The Ingredients - The Cake
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (omitted)
1/2 cup plus 1.5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water**
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 large eggs
6 tablespoons (unsalted) butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces***
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Ingredients - The Ganache
2.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped****
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

The Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, spraying the paper as well. Dust with cocoa powder (the recipe says flour, but after I did this step I realized that cocoa powder might be more appropriate), shaking out excess.

Over a medium-large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt (if using). In another medium bowl, sift the cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water (or coffee) over the cocoa and whisk until fully dissolved; the mixture will resemble thick, melted chocolate more than a liquid.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until light an fluffy, approximately two minutes - don't underestimate this step, since you're beating air into the mixture. Add in the softened butter and continue mixing until well blended. Then, beat in the cocoa mixture, followed by the buttermilk and vanilla, lowering the mixer speed to low and only mixing until just incorporated. Finally, slowly mix in the dry ingredients, again taking care to only mix as much as it takes to just blend. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake in the preheated oven for about 38 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Without removing the cake from the pan, allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the ganache: combine the butter, chocolate, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Place a small-medium sauce pan over no higher than medium heat and add in the cream and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while to dissolve the sugar. Once it reaches a boil, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour it over the chocolate mixture. Let it sit for approximately one minute before whisking until a smooth consistency is reached. At this point, it will still be thin and liquidy. Chill the frosting, covered, for roughly one hour, to attain the correct, spreadable consistency.

To assemble the cake, invert the cooled cake onto a work surface or unrimmed plate and remove the parchment paper. Spread the ganache liberally over the cake, smoothing it out to cover the top and sides. Allow the cake to set for at least one hour, though I found letting it sit for longer was even better. Both the cake part of the recipe as well as the recipe in its entirety can be made up to one day in advance and kept either at room temperature (without the ganache) or in the refrigerator (with the ganache), in an airtight container in both cases. However, I must admit, I let this cake sit at room temperature (which is, at this time of year, not exactly 60 degrees...) for several days and have not yet suffered from soured cream or anything of the sort.

Notes: *The original cake was baked in a 24-inch pan, which is a wedding-cake scale pan. I halved the recipe and made a beautiful 9-inch single layer cake, and altered the recipe to reflect this, as I would imagine not many people own the originally-called for 24'inch pan. **Here is where I would add in the coffee to bring out the chocolate flavor, dissolved into the boiling water. ***As per usual, I forgot to bring my butter to room temperature, so I hastily tossed the whole stick into the microwave to soften it. I then not only did not chop it into bits, but added the entire stick instead of 6 tablespoons. Clearly, I will not repeat this, despite perceiving no negative effects in the finished product - especially since using just 6 tablespoons leaves you with the 2 extra you need for the frosting. ****I could only find semi-sweet chocolate squares, and just in case you were curious, I did some research on the amount of sugar it added. It was the equivalent of 1 extra teaspoon, so rather than measure out 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of sugar, I made the executive decision that an extra teaspoon from the chocolate was perfectly acceptable. So, feel free to do the same, though if you can find unsweetened you might as well use that.

So there it is, Floptimism's 100th entry! I never would have imagined sticking with this crazy thing for half as long. And now, I must say, it might be about time for this cake to meet the microwave and then, of course, my belly. Happy Early Valentine's Day, everyone - I hope it is enjoyable and sweet, however it is spent!

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