TWO Delicious Chocolate Cakes?! Yes, You Heard Correctly.

Seven layers of dark, dense chocolate cake that turn into a near brownie-like fudge when chilled, separated by a smear of rich, chocolate buttercream and encased in a thick ganache of a frosting that has been adorned with mini chocolate chips. Each slice is big enough for two sittings and even then a glass of cold, cold milk is needed to balance out the pure indulgence sitting on your plate. It’s heaven, in food form.

Heaven, apparently, costs close to $50 at a local diner (for the full cake, not a slice!) and likely contains ingredients up the wazoo that I wouldn’t touch if I were at all the wiser. So, what do I do? Aside from stare longingly into the glass dessert case of said diner whenever I walk by, there’s only one thing I can do: learn the secret to making this behemoth of a chocolate cake myself.

The last chocolate cake that I made was good – really, really good – but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t dense enough, intense enough. It was the demure little sister of the big, bad rebel cake of my dreams, and so as much as I enjoyed eating it, I laid the recipe to rest on my shelf and went in search of a new one.

My second attempt came when I decided to bake a cake for a friend’s birthday. I chose a recipe from the endless list of chocolate cake recipes I have bookmarked, and dove in; it was originally a mocha cake, but I went for the plain chocolate route and eliminated the coffee/espresso elements. Coffee and chocolate may just be one of my favorite combinations, don’t get me wrong, but this had to be all chocolate, all the way. Fortuitously enough, I found out at the birthday party that the Birthday Boy himself actually hates coffee-flavored things, so maybe it was a little bit of fate stepping in that I went with the simpler ingredients. The cake was…good. Actually, scratch that, it was delicious. There’s a pinch of cinnamon thrown in that really heightens the flavors, adding a je ne sais quoi that everyone commented on in a very excellent way. It did taste pretty good cold, which is a test I have to subject all chocolate cakes to because it’s my favorite way to eat all things dense, fudgy and chocolate (and although this cake is not as dense and fudgy as I hoped it would be, it still tasted fantastic with a chill and some milk). However, it still wasn’t quite right.

 Then, for my birthday, I took it a step further. I thought the frosting on the above cake was the filling I had been in search of all along, so I kept that recipe the same and just used it for between the cake layers instead of to frost the entire cake as I had done before. Then, I found a chocolate frosting recipe that looked from the pictures on the original post to be a dark, thick ganache. For the cake itself, I turned to a less conventional gluten-free chocolate cake that uses quinoa instead of any flour, and the pictures made it look like the dense, dark fudge cake I have been dreaming up all these years. I got to work, hopeful that this would really be The One. I loved that it used quinoa, so I wanted this one to work. Granted, it also has 4 eggs, a near ton of sugar and copious amounts of butter, but you just feel good about it when there’s quinoa involved! Anyway, I was rewarded with a delicious cake, one that also tasted unbelievable after a few hours in the fridge. It was dark and intensely chocolate, not too sweet at all which was a welcome surprise. The sweetness and richness came from the buttercream, the frosting that was intended to be a ganache but wound up being just a conventional chocolate frosting. The filling was good, but I had an epiphany when eating the cake: the frosting, the buttercream that I had thought would be a ganache but wasn’t at all, was the true filling I had been searching for, not the one from the previous cake. My disappointment in choosing a wholly wrong frosting was ameliorated by the realization that it was merely placed in the wrong part of the cake. The only true negative about the cake was really that the quinoa didn’t puree completely, so it had a chew that would be really nice in a nut brownie or something like that, but wasn’t really ideal for a chocolate layer cake. So, what came out of this was the first official component of My Dream Chocolate Cake (the filling), and a very solid, intriguing (and gluten-free!) base for a chocolate bar or brownie that I’d love to experiment with in the future.

Now I just need another excuse to bake a chocolate cake so I can try again! Maybe the next time I’ll conquer the frosting and then, perhaps, the cake itself. One day, I will have the most decadent chocolate layer cake to share with you, but in the meantime, these two very-solid-though-not-flawless cakes will have to suffice.

Because this is a monster of a post in terms of recipes and some of the recipes even overlap, I’ve divided them by section of the cake rather than by the two cakes themselves. So, first you’ll see the recipe for the first chocolate cake, followed by the second (gluten free) cake, and at the very end you’ll see the recipes for all of the fillings and frostings used between the two cakes. Hopefully that makes it a little less confusing, since I was so stubborn about lumping them both into the same post in the first place.

One Year Ago: Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan

 Traditional Chocolate Layer Cake, adapted from My Recipes1
Yield: 1 9-inch, 1 8-inch and 24 mini cupcakes2

The Ingredients – The Cake
cooking spray and butter, for greasing the pans
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup buttermilk3
1 cup boiling water
1 batch ganache icing (recipe below)
1 batch chocolate cream filling (recipe below)

The Method
Lightly grease the baking pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms of the cake pans with wax paper, and grease the wax paper with butter. For the cupcakes, simply stick with the cooking spray or use cupcake liners (though these will be discarded before serving so it’s kind of a waste). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, prepare your cake batter: melt both types of chocolate over low heat in a small sauce pan, stirring to smooth; then, set aside. Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and gradually pour in the sugar, continuing to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing the yellow to just disappear before adding in the next one. Finally, stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt (if using) and cinnamon and add it to the butter mixture in about 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk; be sure to do so at a low speed, beginning and ending with the flour and not overmixing. Stir in the boiling water.

Divide the mixture amongst the baking pans and place in the oven. Bake the full cakes for 28-30 minutes, but remove the cupcakes earlier – 10 minutes should be sufficient, but keep an eye on them. A toothpick or cake tester into the center should come out clean. Cool all cakes for 10 minutes in their respective pans, then remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

To assemble the cake, slice the tops off of the cupcakes; set the tops aside for garnishing and reserve the bottoms for a later use.4 Place the 9-inch cake layer on a work surface or serving plate. Top with roughly ¼ of the ganache icing followed by half of the chocolate cream filling. Top with the 8-inch cake layer and repeat with another ¼ of the ganache icing and remaining half of the chocolate cream filling. Spread the rest of the ganache icing on top, smoothing it over the top and sides of the cake completely. Garnish with the cupcake tops and any other designs you prefer.

1 For the mocha flavored recipe, follow the directions in the original post.
2 For a more traditional layer cake, use 3 8-inch round cake pans.
3 I never buy buttermilk. Instead, make it by mixing 1 tablespoon lemon juice for every cup of milk – so this recipe would call for ½ cup of milk combined with ½ tablespoon lemon juice. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before adding to the recipe; it shouldn’t curdle but it should react chemically just a little bit.
4 See how I used my leftover chocolate cupcakes, which fell apart due to a poorly greased muffin pan, in this chocolate-berry trifle.

 Gluten Free Chocolate Quinoa Cake, adapted from Babble
Yield: 2 8-inch cakes

The Ingredients
2/3 cup white or golden quinoa
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup low-fat milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
½ batch chocolate cream filling5 (recipe below)
½ batch chocolate buttercream frosting (recipe below)

The Method
Cook the quinoa by combining it with the water and bringing to a boil in a saucepan over high or medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to just above medium, allowing it to simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the saucepan, still covered, on the burner for an additional 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and allowing to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the milk, eggs and vanilla to a blender or food processor and pulse a little bit to combine. Add in 2 cups of the cooked quinoa along with the butter, blending until as smooth as possible (be persistent).

Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt (if using), and then add that mixture into the blender until well mixed. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans6 and bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, removing when a knife/tooth pick/cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans completely before removing to assemble.

To assemble, place one cake on a work surface or serving plate. Place roughly ½-2/3 of the chocolate cream filling on top and smooth out, leaving roughly ½ - 1 inch of cake around the perimeter. Top with the second cake and spread a thin layer of the remaining cream filling around the entire cake, forming a crumb layer. Place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes (though not long enough to really freeze the cake – you just want the crumb coating to firm up a bit). Top with the chocolate buttercream, smoothing out over the sides to make a smooth, even frosted outer layer. Decorate with chocolate chips and extra frosting as desired.

5 This filling does call for flour, which makes it no longer gluten free; to maintain the gluten-free aspect, simply sub in a gluten free flour (might I suggest, perhaps, quinoa flour?).
6 I’m a tad bit anal and I actually measured my cake pans out. Now, I didn’t zero the scale to take the weight of the pan into account, but each one topped out at just over 600 grams, if that helps at all. I wound up doing a lot of back and forth juggling getting them even, but I’d imagine eye-balling it isn’t such a bad option, either.

The Ganache Icing, adapted from My Recipes
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pace the chocolate in a glass bowl and heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until it smoothes out, then stir in the butter and vanilla. Allow it to rest approximately 45 minutes, or until it reaches a more spreadable consistency.

The Chocolate Cream Filling, adapted from My Recipes
5 tablespoons whole wheat flour                             
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup half-n-half
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and half-n-half over medium heat until it thickens, whisking continuously, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool, approximately 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the cocoa mixture one tablespoon at a time, allowing each tablespoon to become fully incorporated before the next addition. Add in the vanilla and beat until the filling resembles a whipped cream.

The Chocolate Buttercream, courtesy of Babble
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup low-fat milk
8 ounces confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Next, pour in the milk and vanilla while gradually adding in the sugar and cocoa.7 Cover and refrigerate to store, allowing it to come to room temperature before using to decorate.

7 Now, I’m not sure about you, but I have 2 hands. And my feet aren’t very adept in the kitchen, unless you count them supporting my weight for the hours on end that I spend in there on some occasions. I don’t know how to run a mixture, pour in two liquids, and add in two solids at the same time, while being sure not to let the whole mixture pouf up in my face. Maybe I just wasn’t going about it in the most efficient way, but I saw it leading nowhere but disaster so I simply had my sugar and cocoa at the ready, quickly added the milk and vanilla, and then got right to business adding in the sugar and cocoa. I like to think that this little change didn’t completely alter the end result, but who knows. Just thought I’d write it as it was originally written so that you could do it nice and proper if you could figure out how. Or were superwoman. Or man.

 Bon Appetit!

(I can't believe you haven't given up reading this post yet!) I also recently revamped my recipe archives page to be (hopefully) a little cleaner looking, and added an "About Me" section to jive with the personal face I'm trying to add to this blog. This is still the internet and I don't want to divulge too much personal information, but I don't want to be more than some mystery person. So, I'm going to put myself out there a little more - it's the least I can do for you after you've supported me and my little blog that could. Thanks for reading!


  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment