Ah…the marvels of the Internet. Yes, I have my favorite cook books. And of course, I get cooking magazines whose photos I salivate over each month. But Epicurious…Oh, how I love that it is so easy to get a recipe when I don’t have time to sit and sift, oogle, and day dream in the land of food possibilities. My youngest son’s birthday was celebrated a week ago, and like the dutiful mother I am, asked what kind of cake he’d like this year.
“Chocolate,” was his immediate response.
“Chocolate with chocolate icing, chocolate with cream, chocolate with…?” I inquired.
“Chocolate with chocolate,” he concluded.
A young man of few words and great taste.
A simple search of “chocolate cake” took me to a cake on the first page. The “four forks” got my attention, and there was a photo as well. More interestingly, it had 900 reviews. Yes, that’s what I said. Nine-hundred reviews. Unbelievable. Of course, I’ve thrown my two cents into the pot.
I bookmarked the cake, and began reading the comments. I had to. I couldn’t stand not knowing what everyone had to say about a chocolate layer cake when Epicurious has over 400 pages of them. I must have been up until after 1am reading the usual helpful tips from thoughtful bakers along with those of the less than sane. But what made it so hilarious were the arguments over whether the cake merited that many comments from people. One person who must have been banned, deleted or something heinous like that, was making it an individual quest to say that the chocolate cake recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box was better. Others made comments about the cake not being so good and were clearly in the dark about what everyone was raving about, even though they had used a bread spread instead of butter.
Bread spread instead of butter? That’s completely disgusting. How or why would anyone think of making that substitution and expect any recipe to come out? Then to blame it on the recipe? Like I said — I was enthralled.
The one real problem with the cake recipe was the size of baking pans required. The recipe calls for ten-inch pans, and I don’t have them. I read enough comments about this problem with others having the basic nine-inch pans, so decided to suck it up and head down to Great News to buy the ten-inchers. Well…they were out. It figures. But I continued to look and found some square pans that were nearly ten inches in size. I chose two, and stopped for a minute or two to really decide if I should buy them because they were silicone, and I have managed to go without silicone pans up until this point. I don’t have anything against silicone, because I love the baking mats, spatulas, and basting brush I have, but was I ready to switch out my entire set of pans? Well, this would be a great time to find out.
Double Chocolate Layer Cake with Strawberry Creme Filling
Equipment: two 10×2″ round cake pans
3 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate (I used Sharffen Berger)
1-1/2 c. hot brewed coffee (I used Starbucks Espresso)
3 c. sugar
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil (I used Canola)
1-1/2 c. well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1 lb. fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 c. heavy cream
2 T sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) unsalted butter
Creme with Strawberries Ingredients
1 scant cup heavy cream
1 T sugar
16 oz fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper. (To experiment, I greased one pan with a spray — very lightly because silicon requires that you do that on the first use. To experiment, I greased the second pan, and then cut a piece of parchment to place on the bottom, then greased that.)
- Measure out all ingredients to be ready.
- 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 the salt.
- In another large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 min. with a standing mixer, or 5 min. 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. (“just combined well” seems odd to me, so I mixed until it was combined, and held together)
- Divide batter between two pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes (I used a convection setting)
- Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic, at room temperature. (My layers came immediately out of the silicone pans, which were a bit wiggly for my comfort. I placed my cooling racks over each pan, then inverted the whole thing, lifting the silicone pans off the cake layers. It was amazing!)
Make the ganache & creme with strawberries:
- 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. (My frosting thickened enough to pour slowly, then spread gently to the edges of the cake so it could flow down the sides. I then touched up the sides where there were gaps. I used a baking sheet beneath the layers while doing this as the chocolate would have pooled on the cake dish had I used one…)
- Whip heavy cream -about a cup — and lightly sweeten with a T of sugar. Slice 16 oz. of strawberries and place around one layer of the cake. Spread sweetened cream over the berries. Spread more berries over the cream. Place the second layer on top. Spread chocolate frosting over the cake.
- Because of the creme filling, the cake had to be completely cool. I made the frosting very quickly after everyone was full from their dinner, and served it immediately. We had about a 1/4 of the cake left over after serving huge slices to 10 people, and had to put it in the refrigerator to stabilize it. This cake is very dense, very nearly like a brownie in consistency, but not quite.
- For those of you who may be concerned about the addition of the coffee — we had several people enjoy this cake who are not coffee drinkers. Regardless, no one could detect a coffee flavor. The strawberries and creme are not part of the original recipe, but I love berries and chocolate, as well as cakes filled with simple whipped cream. The combination was perfect for this cake which was extremely chocolatey. The cake is not overly, tooth jarringly sweet, however. I truly love bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate because of the sharp taste. I prefer it not to be too sweet, so this was a great recipe for that.
- What did I learn from making this chocolate cake? I have to think about how to get a cake that must have weighed five pounds off of the racks and onto a serving platter after the frosting settled down. I didn’t give it much thought, but if I make this again, I need to have a piece of cardboard I cover in foil to secure one of the layers….THEN pour the frosting over the cake. I actually have square plates to place the finished cake on, so voila.
- As far as the comments on this cake at Epicurious go….you’ve got to see some of them. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of wine and have a hoot. And if you’ve got a chocolate cake you think I’d enjoy trying, by all means, point me in the right direction. So many chocolate cake recipes, so little time..