My boyfriend Matt, and his twin brother Marc’s birthday is this Tuesday. The past few years they’ve had a bonfire at their house, which has always been a good time. There’s always lots of people there, not to mention lots of beer! In some ways it’s like a mini high school reunion, because there are always the inevitable friends-of-friends that show up, most of which I haven’t seen since graduation. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it’s not, but it’s always a surprise!
I just finished making their birthday cake – death by chocolate cake. It’s huge, dense, and has over two pounds of chocolate in it. So, in essence, it’s my dream come true. Luckily, Matt and Marc like chocolate, too. I’m also a (relatively amateur) cake decorator. I love decorating cakes – its so much fun. And now that my family and friends know that I do it, it can be profitable at times, too! I actually got interested in cake decorating before I was interested in baking. I started to bake because I got tired of using cake mixes, and everything snowballed from there!
Don’t be too intimidated by the recipe for this cake. Even though it reads like a (amazing, chocolate-filled) novel, it’s really not as complicated as it looks. It has a lot of steps because there are four different parts to the cake – it has a brownie bottom, chocolate mousse in the middle, a top layer of cake, and then ganache as a frosting. I haven’t actually cut into this cake yet (seeing as the bonfire isn’t until tomorrow), but I have a feeling that by the time we actually do cut into it, I might be a little too inebriated to remember to take pictures. :) So, I haven’t tasted the brownie or cake parts, but they both looked really good and smelled fantastic as they were baking. I did sneak a taste of the chocolate mousse part, and it almost didn’t make it onto the cake. It took all of the willpower I had not to sit there with my spoon and clean out the bowl. It was amazing.
I decorated the cake using a technique I learned from the book The Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye and Liv Hansen. If you’re at all interested in cake decorating, I would definitely recommend this book. They make a lot of their decorations by tracing them with chocolate onto wax paper. It works really well for me, because I can trace just about anything, but I’m terrible at actually drawing, like I would have to if I were using icing to pipe something directly onto the cake. They have really detailed instructions in the book, and some of the things they make out of chocolate are just astounding!
Death by Chocolate Cake
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride
Makes one 9 or 10 inch cake
Brownie layer (bottom)
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. butter
1 c. + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Chocolate Mousse (middle)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Chocolate Cake (top)
6 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 c. hot water
3/4 c. + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
18 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
To make the brownie base:
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Grease bottom and sides of pan.
2) In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
3) Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Stir until smooth.
4) Remove from heat and whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, mixing until smooth.
5) Add flour mixture in two separate additions, folding with a rubber spatula until smooth and completely combined.
6) Pour batter into prepared springform pan.
7) Bake for 25-30 minutes, then cool to room temperature. Do not remove the springform ring or parchment paper.
To make chocolate mousse:
1) Melt semisweet chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2) Place heavy cream and sugar into a well chilled bowl of a stand mixer. Beat cream until stiff peaks form.
3) Fold 1/4 of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate, folding until combined.
4) Fold the chocolate cream into the remaining whipped cream, folding until well combined.
To make the cake:
1) Combine chocolate, cocoa powder and hot water in a double boiler. Stir until chocolate is melted (mine formed a very thick paste).
2) While the mixture is still in the double boiler, add 1/4 c. sugar to the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth and shiny. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
3) In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda, set aside.
4) Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside.
5) Mix eggs and yolk with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer until combined. Add remaining sugar and mix until fluffy and lightened in color – about 2 to 3 minutes.
6) Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix until well combined. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time.
7) Add half of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk mixture. Repeat with the remainders of each, mixing until everything is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
8) Pour batter into a greased 9 or 10 inch round cake pan (make sure that the size of your cake pan matches the size of your springform pan, or you’ll have one very strange looking cake!)
9) Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
To make the ganache:
1) Heat the heavy cream and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2) Place the semisweet chocolate into a heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling cream/butter mixture over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and shiny.
3) Let the ganache stand until it reaches room temperature and is spreadible, but not too runny.
To assemble the cake:
1) Spread the chocolate mousse evenly over the brownie base.
2) Place cake round over mousse, pressing down slightly. Chill for one hour.
3) Remove springform ring and parchment paper.
4) Use a spatula to frost the cake in the room-temperature ganache. You can use the remaining ganache to pipe decorations around the base of the cake, if you want. Keep the cake well chilled.
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I thought I’d also include some pictures of other cakes I’ve decorated over the last few years.