I recently needed an out of the ordinary chocolate cake. I couldn't find a recipe for exactly what I had in mind, so I combined a couple of different recipes to get what I wanted. The result, if I'm getting a little braggy, was fantastic. The cake was delicious, extra-special fancy, and looked really pretty too. It's not particularly difficult to make, but it is time consuming because there are a lot of steps. Totally worth it though.
Cake recipe (this is based on a recipe I found on Epicurious for a chocolate layer cake)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
3 large eggs
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 9 inch diameter by 2 inches deep cake pans with a non-stick cooking spray and then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray the paper too.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk to blend, then form a well in the center. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, buttermilk, oil and eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients. Stir or whisk until just blended. Divide the cake batter between the two prepared 9 inch cake pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. If the cakes get domes on top, cover with a dish towel and push down very gently to flatten them back to level. Cool completely in the cake pans on baking racks.
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
¼ cup cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 cup half and half
1 ¾ cups chilled whipping cream
Spray a 9 inch diameter (or slightly larger, mine is about 9 ½ inches) spingform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper - spray the paper too.
Place each chocolate in its own medium sized bowl. (this recipe takes a lot of bowls) Next, combine the gelatin with the ¼ cup of water and let it stand until the gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.
While the gelatin sits, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is pale yellow and very thick. This takes about five minutes by hand, or about 1 minute if you're using a hand-held blender with a whisk attachment. Bring half and half just to a simmer in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk the hot half and half into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to boil it, just cook until it thickens and gets custard like. Remove custard from heat and stir in gelatin until it dissolves. Pour through a strainer into a glass measuring cup, then pour 1/3 of the custard into each chocolate bowl, stirring it into the chocolate until the chocolate melts. Use a different spoon to stir each chocolate so that you're not mixing flavors. If the mixture cools before the chocolate is completely melted, you can set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir for a little while longer until it melts all the way. I had to do this with two of the bowls, and it worked fine.
Beat the whipping cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. The hand blender with the whisk attachment is great for this too. Divide the whipped cream evenly between the three bowls of chocolate, using about 1 1/3 cups for each one. Stir until completely combined.
Now we go back to the cake, which is probably completely cooled by now. Place a plate over the cake pan and invert it, tapping on the bottom of the pan with a knife. The cake should pop right out on to the plate. Take a large knife and carefully cut the cake layer in half horizontally. The easiest way to do this is to put it on a cake stand, insert a large knife in the side, and then slowly saw through. You want to keep it as level as possible, but don't worry if it isn't perfect. You can always even it out later, and this recipe is pretty forgiving. Repeat with the second cake. You now have four 1 inch high layers of chocolate cake.
Take one of the cake layers you've just created and place it in the bottom of the springform pan. Pour the semisweet chocolate mixture over it, smoothing with a spatula. Some of it will run over the sides, but that's ok. It's why we're using the springform pan. Chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes to set the mousse.
Once that layer is set, add another layer of the chocolate cake, then top with the milk chocolate mousse, smoothing with a spatula. Return to the freezer for another 15 minutes to set.
Finally, drop in the third chocolate cake layer, and top that with the white chocolate mousse, smoothing with a spatula. Freeze for another 15 minutes or until the white chocolate is set. The white chocolate layer took a little longer to set than the other two had for me. Then top that with the 4th chocolate cake layer and put the whole cake in the freezer or fridge to wait to be frosted. I did this the night before and then frosted it the next day.
You could frost this with a typical chocolate buttercream and I think it would be yummy. However, I went with a ganache and it really added a another level of richness to the cake.
9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cocoa) chopped
1 1/8 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Bring the heavy cream just to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over the chocolate. Let stand for one minute, then stir until ganache is melted and smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour until the ganache is thick enough to be spread instead of poured.
Take your cake out of the fridge and remove the springform sides. It will look messy. All you have to do is take a knife and neaten up the sides until the cake is round again. Then spread the ganache over the top and sides, swirling with a spatula to make it pretty. Pop the whole thing back in the freezer for another 30 minutes to set the ganache, and then enjoy. The cake is best stored in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap. You can take it out to let it warm up for about an hour before serving, or you can microwave your pieces for 15-20 seconds.