This is a cake so amazing, so delicious, so decadent that I made it for my birthday two years in a row. I wanted to make a different cake this year, I really did; I love cooking things that are exciting and new, and I don’t have nearly enough excuses to bake cakes. But as the day neared, I found my mind constantly wandering back to this rich, dense chocolate cake, layered with salted caramel ganache, just the right balance of salty and sweet. And I finally admitted that I’d already found my birthday perfection; it’s my day after all, dammit, and I was going to have this cake.
(Yes, it was recently my birthday, and yes, I am now a year older, and no, I’m not worried about getting older, just excited because I think this upcoming year will be even better than the last.)
Chocolate Cake (adapted from Epicurious)
Yield: 1 2-layer 10″ cake OR 1 2-layer 8″ or 9″ cake + 1 dozen cupcakes
- 3 ounces semisweet chocolate*
- 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups cake flour**
- 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- salted caramel ganache (see below)
- fleur de sel***
*Chopped or in chips/chunks, please.
**Or substitute 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
***Or substitute sea salt or kosher salt.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Butter 2 10″ round cake pans (or 2 8″ or 9″ pans and a cupcake pan). Line the bottoms of the cake pans with a round of parchment paper, then butter the paper.
- Combine 3 ounces semisweet chocolate and 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee in a small bowl, and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups sugar, 3 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp baking powder, and 1 1/4 tsp salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 3 large eggs on high speed until thickened and lighter in color, about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Lower speed to medium, and slowly add 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and the melted chocolate mixture, beating until well combined.
- Add the sugar mixture, and beat until just combined (you don’t want any visible flour, but be careful not to overmix).
- Fill cake pans 2/3rd full with batter, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours (cupcakes will only need about 30 minutes).
- Remove from oven, and let cool completely in pans on cooling racks.
- Carefully invert the layers onto a plate, and remove the parchment paper. Cake layers can be made a day ahead and kept, wrapped in plastic wrap (I leave the parchment paper on), in the refrigerator or at room temperature. If you want to make a 4-layer cake, carefully slice each layer in two using a serrated knife (refrigerating the cake overnight makes this much easier, and I use toothpicks to guide the knife).
- When ready to assemble, frost with salted caramel ganache, and top with a sprinkle of fleur de sel, if desired.
Yield: approximately 4 cups ganache
- 16 ounces semisweet chocolate*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp corn syrup
- 1 1/2 cups cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp fleur de sel**
*Chopped or in chips/chunks, please.
**Or substitute sea salt or kosher salt. Adjust the amount to your liking.
- Place 16 ounces semisweet chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl (glass is best) and set aside.
- In a saucepan with high sides, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp corn syrup, and enough water to give the mixture the consistency of wet sand.
- Turn the heat on high, and let come to a boil. Do not stir, but (before boiling starts) brush the sides of the pot with water (this gets any sugar that has splashed up on the sides).
- Let the sugar bubble, swirling the pan occasionally, until it darkens to an amber color (about 4 – 5 minutes). Remove from heat immediately, and carefully (much bubbling will occur) pour in 1 1/2 cups cream, at room temperature and 1/2 tsp fleur de sel, and stir together for 1 minute.
- Pour the hot caramel over the chocolate, and let sit for two minutes. Stir together until smooth (you may have a couple hard pieces of caramel; just take those out and eat them, and no one will be the wiser), then taste (make sure it’s cool enough!) and add more fleur de sel if needed.
- Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes before using to frost cake.