The sheer amount of writing on this cake - not to mention it was dark blue piping on white frosting, which is terribly unforgiving - nearly unnerved me. Plus, I really wanted to please my client. Of course, that's always the goal, but in this case, she had a very particular mental image of what I was going to create. Luckily, she was thrilled with the results. I can only hope the birthday girl got a good giggle - and a keepsake photo - before diving into the deep, dark chocolate cake filled with bittersweet ganache (she is a confirmed chocoholic).
For this client, I needed an even richer, deeper chocolate cake than my usual one. The Double Chocolate Layer Cake I've made before tastes delicious and is nearly Oreo-colored, but I was concerned it would be too moist to handle being carved and stacked. I was told more than once that the Hershey's one bowl recipe is foolproof (promise to try it next time!) but I chose Martha Stewart's one bowl cake. It was dark in color, didn't have that metallic cocoa taste, was light in texture and moist, and really couldn't be easier to throw together. I did take the extra time to sift the dry ingredients, but unless your cocoa is especially lumpy, I'd say you could skip that step and instead just whisk them around a few times. Oh, and the recipe divides very neatly in thirds if you want a smaller cake!
I wanted an equally rich, dark filling, so I made a very simple whipped ganache. There are all sorts of philosophies about the proportion of chocolate to cream, depending on what you want to use the ganache for, but I usually do 1:1. If I am using it as a glaze, I pour it immediately. If I plan to whip it, I let the ganache cool and set up for a number of hours. Honestly, the 1:1 proportion has served me well in all applications, but feel free to do your own math. In this case, I used Trader Joe's Pound Plus 72% Bittersweet bar.
Ganache may sound scary, but it couldn't be easier: chop the chocolate finely, place in a metal or glass bowl, scald the cream, pour it over the chocolate, and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Stir until it all comes together and looks like chocolate gold. In this case, I added a drizzle (a tablespoon?) of corn syrup because it was really pretty dark. It had no effect on the consistency and sweetened it up just a touch. I let the ganache sit at room temperature for several hours. Just before assembling the cake, I whipped about half of it, on medium-high speed, until it was lightened in color and spreadable. Once you do this, use it quickly, because it begins to set and achieves a mousse-like airiness. Leftover ganache can be used for truffles. Mmm...
The cake was frosted with plain ol' vanilla buttercream. Much as I am in the chocolate camp, I imagine vanilla worked well to cut some of the chocolate. But isn't that what a glass of cold milk is for?
Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cake
Makes 2- 8" square layers, 3- 8"round layers, or 1- 9x13" layer
1 1/2 cups (4 1/2 ounces) cocoa (use good cocoa if you can)
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) flour
3 cups (21 ounces, or 1 pound plus 5 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) warm water
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) buttermilk
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F. Line pans with parchment paper and spray edges lightly with cooking spray with flour.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, measure the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk around a few times, or, if you're feeling fancy, you can sift them all together. With the mixer on low (really! or you will have cocoa everywhere!), stir in the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Beat for about three minutes, and then scrape down the sides to make sure everything is well incorporated and beat for another few seconds.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or the cake springs back when pressed with your fingers. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert the cakes onto wire racks and peel off the parchment paper. Re-invert the cakes if you want 'em upright, and allow them to cool completely. Frost and eat!