Last week, when it was 95 hateful, humid degrees outside and the 13-block walk home had entirely sucked what traces of motivation remained out of me, I had what I still consider The Best Dinner Idea Ever: chocolate cake with chocolate icing and watermelon.
I’ll give you a moment to absorb my utter genius.
Let’s just be honest here: when you were of single-digit age and night after night your dinner plate was filled with, ecch, vegetables and protein and your glass with what seemed like a gallon of milk, did you not swear that one day, no, One Day With the Capital Letters and the Chest-Thumping Conviction of Grownups that you would eat cake and watermelon for dinner and Nobody would be able to stop you.
Well, I called in that promise on Tuesday and night, and this boy, this suddenly and inconveniently acting-like-a-grownup person I married did not share in my enthusiasm. And despite my thpbbblt-ing and threats to tell the whole internet how Not Fun he is, he was not swayed and we had a 33 minute meal instead.
But chocolate cake with chocolate icing can only be put in the corner for so long, and in this case, that was just over 48-hours when the excuse to eat cake and watermelon reemerged with my mother-in-law’s birthday barbeque on Saturday. And let me just tell you that if I had known that the chocolate layer cake recipe I had in mind–and it’s ganache frosting–would be this transcendent, there would have been no chili. No beans. And no excuse to tell my husband how wrong he was.
Because chocolate layer cake this good needs to be made immediately. It needs to be matted in your Top Honors Cookbook for every chocolate-lovers birthday to come, for all time. The cake, it’s so moist, it’s not so much a solid baked good but gigantic dewy crumbs loosely aligned in a disc-like format. With the slightest pressure from a fork, they’ll bend and scatter about, only to be gathered back together with a frosting-tipped spoon. The cake is so perfect in every way, frosting and filling are afterthoughts–I can personally vouch that the cake alone is a perfectly decadent late-evening snack. But with split layers oozing with raspberry sauce and coated with bittersweet, shiny ganache and decked out with lavender and yellow flowers, it’s fit for the grandest of parties.
That is, if you are willing to share. Because this cake doesn’t make it easy to bestow generosity on others. I kind of wanted to swat people off with a spoon. I’m not sure that chocolate cake with chocolate icing served with wedges of cut fruit brings out my maturity and I’m not sure that when I’m finally sinking my teeth into it that I really care. But I have a feeling you’re better than that. More mature, perhaps more rational in the face of chocolate desserts, and when you make it, everyone will have a grand old time; even more so if you don’t invite brats like me.
Hide the children! There’s a picture of my head so big in this Q&A with me last Friday on Serious Eats, I feel that it warrants a fair warning before you click over. Because the freckles, they are loud. Learn why my mother beams with pride over my pancake snobbery, what I keep tucked in my desk drawer at work and my idea of a perfect meal including the part I’d probably steal off your plate. Stay when you are done to take in all the other awesome on the site.
Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, March 1999
The recipe below is for 2 10-inch layers filled and coated in chocolate ganache. My adaptations were to split the layers to create a four-layer cake and use raspberry filling instead of chocolate. To do the same, use half the frosting and all of the raspberry filling, recipe at the end.
For cake layers
3 ounces (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) hot brewed coffee
3 cups (600 grams) sugar
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (aprox. 130 grams; weights vary between brands) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) table salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
For ganache frosting and filling (If you want to just use it for frosting, halve the recipe. A raspberry filling recipe is below.)
1 pound (455 grams) fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (40 grams) light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup or 55 grams) unsalted butter
Special equipment: two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans
Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
Make frosting: Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.
Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency). I found that stirring this over a bowl of ice water did a great job of cooling it off quickly and evenly.
Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.
2 10-ounce bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Puree the raspberries in a food processor, blender or immersion blender. Press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a spoon, removing the seeds. Heat the puree in a small pot with the sugar and cornstarch until mixture boils, stirring constantly. As it boils, it should quickly thicken.
Let it cool complete before spreading it thinly over three layers.