My friend Tyler has the kind of fidelity that Jesse James could only dream of. I could offer him desserts made with the sweetest, ripest fruits - pear plum crisps, strawberry lemonade bars, buttermilk raspberry cake - and Tyler would stay true to his one true love: chocolate. So, naturally, when Tyler's birthday came around this year, there was only one thing I could make him: chocolate cake with chocolate icing.
I love making homemade birthday cakes for friends, but I admit that I had a bit of trouble with this one, not because it was particularly hard to make, but because of certain time constraints. First of all, the icing needs time to cool before it reaches a thick and spreadable consistency. I tried putting it in the freezer for 10 minutes, but David and I were late to meet our friends for dinner, so I frosted the cake while the icing was still thin and runny, figuring that messy frosting was better than no frosting at all. Secondly, the cake is very tender and has a very loose crumb, which is great while you're eating it, but not so great when you're trying to assemble it. I was kind of in a rush while putting it together, and a small part of the cake crumbled and avalanched down the side (which I'm sure you can tell by the top picture).
Even though the cake looked a bit messy and lopsided, it tasted so, so delicious. I've tried several chocolate cake recipes, and this one is by far my favorite. As I've already mentioned, it's amazingly moist and tender. It also has a deep and intense chocolate flavor. It was so decadent that none of us could finish our slices! Even though it's time-consuming to make, it's a relatively simple and straight-forward recipe.
The recipe is for two 10-inch layers. However, I only have 9-inch pans, so I divided the batter into three layers and baked it for slightly less time. I decorated the cake with a simple buttercream icing. There's no recipe, because again, I was in a rush, and I just mixed some powdered sugar into a little bit of softened butter until I deemed it thick enough and tinted it blue.
Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, March 1999
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup hot coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup buttermilk (well-shaken)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease cake pans, line the bottom with wax paper, and grease the wax paper.
Combine chocolate with the coffee. Let stand, stirring occasionally until smooth.
In a large bowl, sift sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thickened slightly (about 5 minutes). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and chocolate-coffee mixture, beating until combined well. Add the dry ingredients, and beat until combined.
Divide batter between pans and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour for 9-inch layers or 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes for 10-inch layers.
Cool completely before inverting (or else they will crumble).
Chocolate Ganache Icing:
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I've also used chocolate chips in the past)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
Bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Cut butter into pieces, add to frosting, and whisk until smooth. Transfer the icing to a bowl to cool, stirring occassionally. To speed up the cooling process, you can put the bowl of icing in another bowl filled with ice and stir continuously.
To assemble the cake:
Level the cake layers with a long serrated knife or a cake leveler. On the first layer of cake, spoon some chocolate ganache in the middle. With a small spatula or butter knife, gently spread the icing outwards until you reach the edges, adding more icing as needed. Place the second layer on top of the first one, and frost with chocolate ganache. Place the final layer on top. Pour some ganache on the top and spread outwards, letting it fall over the edges. Frost the sides with the excess ganache from the top, working from top to bottom, adding more ganache as needed. I also highly recommend slipping pieces of wax paper halfway underneath the cake to catch the frosting dribbles. When you're done frosting the cake, you can slip them out for a presentation that's a lot less messy than mine.