I have a serious love-hate relationship with chocolate cake. I love it, because it is chocolate cake and because it makes for beautiful, impressive and dramatic desserts. I hate it, because all the recipes that claim to be the best ever seem to be the same one, which has failed me many times! The oft-cited recipe has oil, buttermilk and hot coffee and gives you a very liquid-y batter. Every time I try it, it ends up being impossible to frost and much too moist.
I wanted to bake a cake with the texture of a 1-2-3-4 cake, which is a classic yellow cake, the kind you use in layer cakes. If I tinkered with that recipe, couldn't I find a way to adapt it to include chocolate? Turns out you can. Basically a chocolate butter cake, this recipe yields a batter that whips up into a light, airy, mousse-like texture.
This cake tends towards being a touch dry, so watch the baking time carefully! To balance that dryness, I used an intense, rich chocolate class over a mint buttercream. If you want a HELL OF A cake that will leave people feeling the need to lie down post-dessert, then you have come to the right place.
Chocolate Layer Cake with Mint Buttercream and Chocolate Glaze
Makes two 9-inch cakes (or 8-inch, if your pans are high-sided)
156 grams cake flour
31 grams cocoa
200 grams sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup milk, divided
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if you don't have one), whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, egg white, vanilla and half of the milk. Set aside.
Add the butter and rest of the milk to the flour mixer and beat until well-mixed with the stand mixer, or hand mixer. The dough will get very thick and paste-like (like a thick brownie batter).
Add a third of the egg mixture and beat until well-mixed. Add another third, beat for 2 minutes. The batter will turn lighter in color and rise in volume. Scrape down the bowl, add the rest of the egg mixture and beat for another minute or two. The batter will be light-colored and mousse-like in texture. Divide the mixture evenly between two pans and tap them to make sure the batter is level. Bake for 40 minutes (check with a toothpick to see that it comes out clean). Let the cakes cool on a rack.
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
500 grams powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tsp. peppermint extract (to taste)
chopped dark chocolate, optional
green food coloring, optional
Beat the butter with a mixer until fluffy. Add the sugar one cup at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the mint extract, mix until combined. Add chocolate and food coloring, if you want it to look more minty.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
Melt 12 oz. very good quality bittersweet chocolate with 1/2 cup heavy cream over a double boiler. The consistency should be thin enough to drip easily from a spoon, but not too liquid-y or it won't drip nicely from your cake. Add more cream or chocolate to achieve desired consistency.
To Assemble Cake
Level each cake layer using a serrated knife (layers should be chilled before shaping). Add a heaping spoonful of frosting to the center of the cake and work it slowly to the edges. Top with next layer, spread frosting on top in the same way. Top with the third layer. Frost a thin layer around the entire cake--don't worry about crumbs. Chill the cake briefly. Then re-frost the cake with a thicker layer of frosting. Make sure to use a separate spoon for the frosting bowl and a clean offset spatula for the cake itself so you don't get crumbs in the frosting! Dip your spatula in hot water to make the finish look extra-smooth.
Pour the warm ganache over the cake to finish it, and slowly work it towards the edges with a spoon so it will drip down the edges nicely.