layer cake tips + the biggest birthday cake yet

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Giant Chocolate Butter Cake with Raspberry Filling and Brandied Bittersweet Ganache
Adapted from Sky High Cakes: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

The components of this cake may look familiar. We used the cake recipe for the bottom tier of the wedding cake (that post contains the recipe for a regular-sized version of the cake), though three layers tall when this one is only two (I didn’t think a birthday cake needed the height/grandiosity of a wedding cake) and the filling we used on those layers (Brandied Bittersweet Ganache) was actually the frosting on this (though realizing I’d made extra, I put a little between the layers too).

I go back and forth between this chocolate layer cake and that from the Double Chocolate Layer Cake. That one is, hands down, the most incredible chocolate layer cake — it’s insanely moist and soft and light-tasting and nobody who has made it regretted it. However, this cake also has its glories; it’s sturdier but still moist, it’s practically a one-bowl recipe and it’s a lot easier to work with because it’s not so soft that if you pick it up, you’ll end up with a handful of crumbs. (The downside of an extremely soft cake, if there could ever be one.) For large cakes and wedding cakes, or if you find soft cakes hard to work with, this is the one to use.

Last note/warning: This yields a ridiculous amount of batter, too much for my 5 quart Kitchen Aid or any of my bowls. I halve it and make the batches of batter separately.

Cake Layers
5 1/3 cups cake flour
5 1/3 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, not Dutch process
6 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/3 sticks (20 2/3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups buttermilk
5 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
2 2/3 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
1 cup seedless raspberry jam (for cake assembly)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 12-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the two prepared pans; each pan will take about 5 1/2 cups of batter.

4. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

Brandied Bittersweet Ganache [Makes approximately 6 cups]

2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, broken up
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut up
2 cups heavy cream, heated slightly to remove the chill
1/2 cup brandy or Cognac

1. Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. As the chocolate and butter melt, stir to blend.

2. When completely melted, remove from the heat and whisk in first the cream and then the brandy. Be sure to scrape down the bowl well and mix thoroughly. Allow to cool and thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise.

Assemble the Cake

1. Place one 12-inch layer on a 14-inch cake board. Use a long serrated knife to level it if has domed a bit on the top. Spread one cup of ganache thinly over cake layer (optional, you can have a raspberry-only filling too). Once it sets (if your cake is cold, this will be quick, otherwise put it in the fridge for a bit) spread the jam over the ganache.

2. Carefully place the second layer on top of the filling. Use the knife to even out any edges that overhang or don’t smoothly meet. Spread a thin layer of ganache over the top and sides of the cake, covering all of the crumbs. Let it set. Once set, spread the remaining ganache over the tops and sides. [I had some extra, and put it in a piping bag with a thin round tip to make the dots. You’ll only need a little.]

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