Here’s a knock-your-socks-off special occasion cake to make for the chocolate lover in your life. The cake itself is super-tender, moist and very chocolaty – it’s made with a good amount of 85% dark chocolate – while the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting between the layers is light and silky, with a subtler hit of chocolate. The dark chocolate drip glaze on top adds some drama and is relatively easy to apply, particularly if you have a squeeze bottle. I admit this cake is a bit of a project, so save it for a special occasion, and make it over the course of two days – make the cake layers on the first day, and do the buttercream, glaze and assembly the next day.
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 12
Devil’s Food Cake:
- 8 ounces (227 grams) extra-dark chocolate, 85% (I used Lindt)
- 2 1/4 cups (256 grams) cake flour
- 1 ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (216 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ cups (360 grams) brewed coffee, hot
- 3 large (150 grams) eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (163 grams) canola or safflower oil
- 3/4 cup (181 grams) sour cream
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Silky Chocolate Buttercream:
- 7.5 ounces (213 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72%), coarsely chopped
- 6 tablespoons (88 grams) water, divided
- 1 ¼ cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 large (180 grams) egg whites
- 38 1/2 tablespoons (546 grams) unsalted butter, softened, but cool
- 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Glaze:
- 4 ounces (113 grams) high-quality bittersweet chocolate 70%, finely chopped
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (130 grams) heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Callebaut Chocolate Crispearls (optional)
Make the cake layers:
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut parchment paper out to fit in the bottom of the pans and press the paper into the pans. Grease the paper, then dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
- Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.
- Place the flour, sugars, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are well blended, about a minute.
- Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate; allow it to stand for about a minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs until the yolks and whites are blended. Whisk in the oil, whisking until the mixture is emulsified. Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla until blended. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. While mixing the dry ingredients at low speed, add the chocolate mixture one-third at a time, mixing just until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to make sure it is fully combined. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place the pans on wire racks and cool for 20 minutes.
- Invert the cakes onto the racks, peel off the paper, and let the cakes cool completely.
- Once the cakes are cool, refrigerate them until ready to use (because the cakes are extra tender, chilling them will make it easier to slice the layers in half).
Make the buttercream:
- Place the chocolate and 3 tablespoons (44 grams) of the water in a medium-size stainless steel bowl, and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl). Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from over the water and allow the chocolate to cool.
- Pour enough water into a skillet so that it comes 1/2-inch up its sides. Bring the water to a simmer; reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, use a hand whisk to combine the sugar, egg whites, and the remaining 3 tablespoons (44 grams) of water. Place the bowl in the skillet of water and whisk gently until the mixture registers 160˚F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer the bowl to the mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the meringue is cool and forms stiff, shiny peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Beat at high speed until the buttercream is smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low speed and add the melted cooled chocolate to the buttercream, mixing until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and, using a rubber spatula, mix the buttercream to incorporate the chocolate fully. Set aside ¾ cup of the buttercream in a small bowl, covered and at room temperature, for the garnish.
Begin to assemble the cake:
- Using a long serrated knife, cut the slightly domed top off each cake layer to make the layers level. Set aside the cake scraps to make the crumb garnish later.
- Using the same knife (or a cake leveler, which is my preference), cut each cake layer horizontally in half to make a total of 4 cake layers. Place one of the layers, cut side up, on a cardboard cake round or cake plate and using a metal icing spatula, spread a generous ½ cup of buttercream on top of it, covering it completely. Top with another cake layer and repeat the layering so that you have 4 cake layers, ending with the last cake layer, cut side down. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake (this is a crumb coat). Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes, to chill the buttercream.
Make the glaze:
- Place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Allow to stand for 1 minute, to allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk until smooth and emulsified. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the glaze with a piece of plastic wrap and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before using.
Make the cake crumb garnish:
- Break the cake pieces reserved for the crumb garnish into chunks and place about one-third of them in a food processor. Pulse a few times just until the chunks form crumbs (don’t over-process, or the cake pieces will form a paste). Set the crumbs aside in a bowl and repeat with the remaining cake chunks.
Frost, glaze and garnish the cake:
- Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, making the buttercream as smooth as possible. Pat the reserved cake crumbs gently and evenly around the bottom one inch of the sides of the cake.
- Put about 1/3 of the glaze in a squeeze bottle or parchment paper cone or small sealable plastic bag. Place the tip of the bottle (or cone or bag) near the top edge of the cake and gently squeeze to release the glaze, letting it drip down the side of the cake. Continue around the top edge of the cake, making drips of varying lengths (the more glaze you release, the longer the drip will be). Once you’ve done the drips, spoon the remaining glaze into the center of the cake. Using a small, offset metal spatula, smooth out the glaze to meet the glaze around the edge.
- Put the reserved buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a medium closed star tip (such as Ateco #6). Pipe generous rosettes around the top edge of the cake. Sprinkle a few Crispearls on each rosette. Serve the cake at room temperature and store in the refrigerator.