Deep Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting

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choc cakeWhen I was about 12 years old, I would spend most Saturdays tromping a nearby forest with my best friend and our dogs.  We had a Newfoundland, and she had a small Chihuahua mix.  These two were pals, and although they were an odd pair, they stuck with us as we adventured and played.

One Saturday I arrived home to find a note on the table.  My family had left to go visit the Mt. Lehman farm, my very favourite place on earth.  I was so sad and mad.  I had known they were going, but had lost track of time.  In times of stress, I have been known to start baking and cooking and creating.  This was the first incident.

I pulled out a few cookbooks and started planning my afternoon. I ended up making bread, cookies, brownies and a huge chocolate cake.  When the family returned home, I had the kitchen clean and everything set out like a bakery.  I was admonished for being late, but forgiven as well.

This is our family’s go-to birthday cake.  It’s rich without being too sweet, or cloying.  Because it is so moist, it lasts well, and can be enjoyed a couple of days later, if there’s any left.

Click here for printable version.

Easily serves 8

2 x 8” round cake pans

Frosting recipe follows.

Ingredients

½ c good quality cocoaIMG_1821

1 c boiling water

1 ½ c sifted cake & pastry flour (165 grams)

¼ t baking powder

1 t baking soda

¼ t salt

½ c butter (113 grams) at room temperature

1¼ c sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 t vanilla extract

Options: add one or both to the dry ingredients – 1 t instant espresso powder, 1 t cinnamon

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Directions

Position the oven rack in the center of your oven.

Preheat to 350°

Prepare the cake pans by lightly greasing with butter and dusting with flour.  IMG_1828

IMG_1829If you are concerned about sticking, lay a disc of parchment in the bottom of the pan.

Put the cocoa in a small bowl.IMG_1825

Pour the boiling water over it, and whisk gently to dissolve the cocoa and let sit to cool slightly.IMG_1827

Flour – sift into a bowl, measure from the sifted flour. Return any unused flour to the bag.IMG_1826

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixer bowl, beat the butter until fluffy.  Give it a good two minutes.

Gradually beat in the sugar.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until creamy and fully incorporated.

Add in the vanilla.

Beat the mixture for another two minutes.IMG_1830

Beat in the dry ingredients alternatively with the slightly cooled cocoa mixture.

Use about ⅓ of the dry ingredients for each addition, and ½ of the cocoa mixture for each addition.

Divide the batter between the two pans, equally.  They should come up the sides of the pans equally.  They cook for such a short time, that an extra half-cup in one will cause uneven results. IMG_1831

Smooth the tops so they aren’t mounded.IMG_1832

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched.  Check at 25 minutes.  Give it more time only if needed.  You don’t want to dry the cake out.

Let the pans cool for 5 minutes on a rack before removing the cakes.

Run a sharp knife around the edges to be sure the cakes are loose.

Place a rack over the pan and invert.  You may need to knock the base gently to release the cake.

Invert the cakes once more so they finish cooling right side up.IMG_1834

Let cool completely.

Ganache FrostingIMG_1850

Ingredients:

1 ½ c sugar

1 c heavy cream

6 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

½ c butter, cut up into small chunks

2 t vanilla

Option: 1 t instant espresso powder (add in with chocolate in the recipe)

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan, mix the cream and sugar.  Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes without stirring. Use a timer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, butter and vanilla.  Stir until the mixture is uniform and all the chocolate and butter has melted.IMG_1836

Using a spatula, scrape all into a shallow bowl.IMG_1838

Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  This will let it cool uniformly.

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Once cooled to room temperature, refrigerate, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes, until it has thickened to a good spreading consistency.

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IMG_1850Lay one layer of the cake upside down on your chosen serving plate. Place small strips of waxed paper just under the cake. You can pull out these out afterwards to keep your cake plate clean.

IMG_1851Put a good-sized spoonful of the frosting in the center, and work to the outside edges.  It doesn’t have to go right to the edge, as when you do the sides of the cake the frosting will go inside the edge somewhat.  Make sure you use enough to spread evenly, and thick enough that when the cake is slice you can easily see the layer filling.

Place the other layer on top.

Check that it is centered.

Do the sides first.  Using an offset spatula, spread the icing several inches at a time, working around the cake, turning the plate as needed. Be sure to fill in the gap of the two layers with frosting.  Once it has all been covered, take your spatula and run it around the whole way, so the sides are smooth. IMG_1854

Spread the rest of the frosting on the top of the cake, twirling with the end of the spatula to decorate.

If you like you can pipe along the bottom edge for a finished look.

Refrigerate until chilled.  Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving. Cut with a warm, dry knife, wiping as needed.

Option: gold leaf to sprinkle on top

Mocha version: add the espresso powder to both the cake and frosting

Mexican Chocolate: add the cinnamon to the cake

Mexican Mocha: add the espresso powder & cinnamon to the cake and the espresso powder to the frosting.

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