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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chocolate Overdose Cake

I saw this cake a long time ago, and immediately saved the recipe, knowing I would make it for a special occasion. I finally decided that my sister's birthday was the perfect opportunity. We both love chocolate, and you can't get much more chocolate than this cake! Bob and I were in St. Louis for his spring break in March because there are so many birthdays in my family that week (remember this?). I wanted to try this cake not only because it sounds so delicious, but also because it seemed like a challenge - multiple layers and steps - I thought it would be a fun project. Everyone loved the cake. My only complaint was that the actual cake layer was dry. I am very sensitive to dry cake - I really bothers me. I typically don't like bakery/wedding cakes for this reason . . . they are almost always dry in my opinion. For this cake, the dryness of that layer wasn't devastating because it's flanked by mousse and ganache, so my family thought as long as you ate a bite of cake with ganache, it was fine. Here are some possible explanations for the dryness in this cake (the scientist in me is compelled to troubleshoot!):

1) Was the cake cooked too long? This is highly doubtful because I set the timer for the lower end of time and checked the cake at this point with a toothpick and it was very soupy. Five minutes later the toothpick came out clean, and I took it out.

2) The recipe calls for Dutch processed cocoa powder. I wasn't able to find this in my store, so I considered making a different cake recipe, knowing that Dutch processed and natural unsweetened cocoa powder are not interchangeable. However, I found this on the Joy of that explains the differences between Dutch processed and natural. It says that because Dutch processed is neutral (the acid has been treated with an alkali, or base, to neutralize), it will not react with baking soda and therefore must be used in recipes calling for baking powder. Well, this recipe calls for baking soda, so I thought perhaps there was a mistake and it was actually supposed to be natural cocoa. I started thinking later that buttermilk might be the acid in the recipe, and therefore the Dutch processed cocoa powder is there to be neutral, which means my cake may have risen more than it should have and attributed to the dryness. Perhaps my substitution is to blame? But then again, the double chocolate layer cake calls for natural cocoa powder and also has buttermilk...

3) Is this just a recipe for a drier cake because of the richness of the rest of the dessert? That's possible. Or maybe other people don't take such offense to a little dryness? Like I said above, I considered making the cake layer from the recipe for Double Chocolate Layer Cake (now that cake is moist!!!)

As far the rest of the cake, the mousse was outstanding, the ganache was great, and the brownie was good, but no better than a really good brownie mix. Overall, I was just a bit disappointed, probably because of all the time it took to make this. I have no problem making something from scratch as long as it turns out better than a boxed mix, and I did not feel this was the case for the cake or brownie layers.

I think the idea of this cake is fabulous, and it has real potential for the future. If you think this looks like a good cake but don't want to spend this much time making everything from scratch, I recommend trying a boxed brownie and cake mix and using this mousse and ganache. Or if you have Dutch processed cocoa laying around, give it a try and let me know it goes!!!

Chocolate Overdose Cake

Brownie base:
5/8 cup (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 1/8 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate mousse filling:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-ounce pieces
1 7/8 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Chocolate cake:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
7/8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/8 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 cup hot water
7/8 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
18 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-ounce pieces

To make the brownie base:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325F. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom and line the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Spray lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water (or top of a double boiler), stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.)

4. When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in two additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogenous.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using a small off-set spatula or bench scraper, spread batter evenly and smooth the surface. Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour (do not remove the springform ring or parchment collar).

To make the cake:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan (or springform pan) with parchment and spray bottom and sides with baking spray.

2. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl and set aside.

4. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment.

5. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of the buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds).

6. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Pour into prepared pan; smooth batter to edges of pan with an offset spatula.

7. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack and cool completely.

To make the chocolate mousse filling:
1. Place stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer or fridge.

2. Heat 1-inch of water in the bottom half of a doubler boiler over medium heat. Place the semisweet chocolate in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with firm wrap and allow to heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate to a stainless steel bowl and set aside until needed.

3. Place heavy cream and sugar in the well-chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a well-chilled whisk attachment. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

4. By hand, whisk to combine 1/4 of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate until smooth and completely incorporated. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to fold together.

To make the ganache:
1. Heat the heavy cream and the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. Place the semisweet chocolate in a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Chill 1 cup of ganache for 1 hour. Remaining ganache should be brought to room temperature (about 40 minutes).

To assemble the dessert:
1. Spread mousse over top of the brownie base evenly. Use an offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the top.

2. Place cake round over mousse, pressing down lightly. Chill for 1 hour.

3. Remove springform ring and parchment collar. I removed the springform ring in step 1 before I spread the mousse. Use a spatula to smooth the room temperature ganache over the cake top and sides, covering evenly.

4. If you decide to decorate: Place the chilled ganache into a piping bag fitted with a #18 tip and pipe a shell border around the base. Replace the tip #1M and pipe 12-16 rosettes around the top of the cake to indicate servings. Serve chilled and store leftovers in fridge. Cut the cake with a hot, dry knife.

Yields 12-16 servings

Source: Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride


  1. Well, it looks beautiful. The mousse and ganache-how decadent!

  2. You cake looks beautiful anyways! I made the chocolate PB ganache cake from Smitten Kitchen. The chocolate cake in it was the moistest cake I've ever made. You could try subbing that in for the cake in this recipe... and keeping the rest of the recipe the same.

    I'm sure the mousse and ganache were amazing. And that brownie layer at the bottom... yum!

  3. Aww, sorry the cake layer was dry, that is the absolute worst! It is a gorgeous cake though and the chocolate mousse looks delicious.

  4. That is a lot of chocolate. I love it!


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