This was the cake which, rather sadly, made me realize that there is such a thing as too much chocolate. But please hold off on hurling spatulas, I promise to explain the chocolatey issue.
For her birthday, my sister requested either a double chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies. Seriously, chocolate chip cookies for a birthday? That's like asking Picasso to draw a portrait using an etch a sketch. I don't understand why my friends and family don't take more advantage of me. I'm in a constant state of baking/cooking mode, If I over hear a phone conversation, I hone in on key words such as bake, party, kitchen etc...and I immediately run in with a pen and paper and ask said talker to write down what they want (not at all annoying). Anyway, since the insulting cookie idea was out of the equation, I set out to find a chocolate cake recipe. In the food blogging world, this cake seems to be one of the most popular, plus, it received rave reviews on Epicurious. Whenever there is a lot of hype about something, we tend to raise it up so high, that there is no way it can possibly live up to what we're expecting. If anyone remembers the Seinfeld episode about "The English Patient", that's basically how things played out. When I took the first bite, I think I was expecting some chocolate-induced life-changing moment of clarity and zen. But all I tasted was a very rich chocolate cake. It was great, but going into it, my aim was set a bit too high.
This cake is intense. Normally I can put away just about anything, but I could barely finish one slice (and my serving slices were much smaller than the one in the photo, which was cut generously for the finicky camera). I never thought that I would claim anything to be too much chocolate, but this cake really threw down the gauntlet. On their own, the cake and frosting, which was actually a ganache, were spectacular. The cake is richly moist, and the ganache...chocolate, cream, and butter speak for themselves. I think the cake would be perfect, paired with an orange or vanilla buttercream frosting, while the ganache would be better suited for a classic yellow or, better yet, a tart lemon cake.
But if you truly love chocolate, I thought I did, this cake is worth a try! It really is delicious, just go into it expecting a fabulous, albeit non-life changing, cake. Also, be aware that it's super-rich, and you will want a lot of people around to help you eat it, as well as a few gallons of cold milk.
Double Chocolate Cake (adapted from Epicurious)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Baker's semi-sweet baking squares)
1 1/2 cups of hot brewed coffee
3 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons of baking soda
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups of well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon of pure orange extract (if you don't have orange, you can use pure vanilla extract instead)
Grand Marnier syrup ingredients
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
2 Tablespoons of Grand Marnier
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of sugar
2 Tablespoons of light corn syrup
1 pound (that's about 2 2/3 cup) of semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped [Note: I used Ghirardelli's 60% cacao, which may have been why mine was so rich.]
1/4 cup (that's 1/2 a stick) of unsalted butter, cut into about 6 pieces (don't worry about the size, it's all going to me melted)
Prepare the cakes: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease Three 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the paper and flour the pans. Gently tap out any excess flour. Set the pans aside as you make the batter.
Cake batter: In a heat proof bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and hot coffee. Cover loosely with tin foil and let it sit for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted. Set aside.
In a separate, large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, or using the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 5 minutes using a hand-held, and 3 using a stand mixer). Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, orange extract (or vanilla, if using), and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar/flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean. [Note: If you have a smaller oven, you may want to rotate the pans around at least once during the baking time.]
Remove pans from the oven and place them on cooling racks. Allow them to cool completely in their pans before removing. Once they have cooled, run a thin knife around the edges of the pans and carefully invert onto cooling racks. Gently remove the parchment paper. [Note: My cakes were extremely crumbly and fragile, so be very careful when you're handling them.] Carefully wrap up each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to frost. [Note: Because the layers are so fragile, refrigerating them for several hours will make them much easier to handle and frost.] Well-wrapped, the layers can be made one day in advance.
Prepare the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and Grand Marnier. Slowly bring to a gentle boil and stir just until all the sugar has dissolved.
Remove the cake layers from the refrigerator and unwrap. Brush each layer with the Grand Marnier syrup. I did each layer twice, allowing the syrup to soak in as I did the other 2. Return the layers to the refrigerator as you prepare the ganache.
Prepare the ganache: In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan, bring the cream, salt, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for about 2 minutes, then, using slow concentric circles, whisk until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on what chocolate you used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).
Assemble: Place one chilled cake layer on a serving plate and, using an off-set spatula, spread some of the ganache over the surface. Cover with the next layer and repeat. Repeat again with the final layer. Spread the remaining ganache in an even layer around the sides of of the cake. Decorate as desired or leave it plain and simple!
Bring cake to room temperature before serving.