Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Decadent Chocolate Cake

intense deep chocolate cake - slice with milk

This is some serious chocolate cake. I'm talking, for REAL. I don't often make something I find myself thinking is "the best". As hard as I strive for perfection, I almost never achieve it. That's not to say I don't think the things I make turn out well, because they (usually) do. It's just that I always see the room for improvement. I'm often left thinking of substitutions or additions I could make to change the recipe I'm using to make it better.

This time, dear reader, that is not the case. This one is IT. Lean in and listen close because I don't say this often.

intense deep chocolate cake - top

This, right here, is - to date - the BEST chocolate cake I have ever made. BOOM. Period. The end. Dare I say, best CAKE I've ever made! Oh yeah, we're not just talking chocolate cake here, we're crossing borders! We're taking down yellow cake, white cake, red velvet and any other cake that has ever crossed my path! This one is it and I have to say, I'm quite proud of myself about it. Did you just hear that horn? Yeah, I'm tootin' my own over here because yes, I have really out done myself this time. A personal best, for sure (and trust me, it takes a lot for me to even think that, let alone proclaim it!).

It's not just this particular cake recipe that makes it the best (this one is equally as delicious but was more cake than I needed), but rather all the components put together. In total, there is over a pound of chocolate in this cake. And it is good. So good. So good I felt the need to italicize and bold the fact that it is so good. This is serious people! I think I mentioned that? Wait - yes, I did. Whew. Just wanted to be sure.

I promise you, if you make this cake, it'll make you proud. People will rave. The skies will part and a rainbow will shine down on you and glitter will fall from the sky.

intense deep chocolate cake - layers

The cake itself is incredibly moist (even days later if wrapped well and stored in the fridge) and despite all the chocolate components, it's not at all overly sweet. It has an intense, deep chocolate flavor that is truly decadent.

Now, I must forewarn you - a cake of this caliber does take some time to produce. None of it is very technical but give yourself an afternoon to put it all together. You can most certainly make it a day ahead, just be sure to store it in an airtight container of some sort (or wrap it very well in plastic wrap) and keep it in the fridge.

intense deep chocolate cake

Beatty's Chocolate Cake
from Barefoot Contessa at Home (Ina Garden is my hero. She never fails me.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra large eggs, room temperature (I used 2 large eggs and about half of another egg)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet to combine. Slowly add the hot coffee just until combined.

4. Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

intense deep chocolate cake - mousse

For the filling:

Chocolate Mousse
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, via Orangette

*Note - you can probably halve this recipe depending on how much filling you like. I prefer a very thick layer of filling and had just enough left over for some simple decoration for the finished cake, plus a couple extra spoonfuls for a taste test ;)

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon whiskey
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar, divided into 1 1/2 teaspoons each
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold heavy cream

1. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water and whiskey in a medium heat proof bowl. Heat over a double boiler, stirring frequently until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and salt. Whisk until mixture lightens and thickens slightly (about 30 seconds if using an electric mixer). Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. Set aside until mixture cools to just warmer than room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy; add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Gently fold in remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

4. Using your now empty mixer bowl (no need to wash it), whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate/egg white mixture until no white streaks remain. Cover and refrigerate until firm for at least 2 hours (or up to 24).

intense deep chocolate cake - ganache

For the frosting:

Simple Ganache
adapted from various sources of ganache ratios

5 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
6 oz. heavy cream

1. Place chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a medium bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just to a boil. Pour over chocolate and let sit, covered, for about 5 minutes.

2. Whisk cream and chocolate mixture until smooth. Cool until ganache is of spreadable consistency.

intense deep chocolate cake - inside