Have you ever stalked a recipe? Checking the webpage daily just to catch a glimpse? I have been stalking this recipe ever since Annie posted it on her blog two months ago. This cake is like the motorcycle-riding bad boy (or girl) you know you shouldn’t date, but can’t stop checking out. Eventually you just give in, and before you know it you’re speeding down the highway, hair blowing in the wind. The intensity is fleeting, but at least you’ll have a subject for daydreaming, and stories to tell.
My friend Carol recently celebrated a milestone birthday (three whole decades of life!), and since I couldn’t give her a motorcycle-riding bad boy, I decided to bake her a cake. Now, normally on this blog, you’ll find healthy everyday foods. Foods that will love you back in the long run. Day-to-day “I love you’s”, scattered with the sporadic slight indulgence, say, a bouquet of flowers, or the occasional whole-grain spiked chocolate chip cookie. But, every now and again, we just need to pull out all the stops, and treat ourselves to a tropical Maui vacation. If life were a vacation, then Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cake would not taste so impossibly fudge-y and intense. Celebrations call for deviation from the norm, in the form of buttercream and ganache!
Now, let’s get one thing straight, before the prospect of making this cake sends you hiding behind a cardboard cake box from your local grocery store. I’m not a baker. I am a cook, through and through. I improvise, I’m disorganized, and I create messes! The birthday girl Carol, who is in nursing school, says that it is not about learning the facts as much as learning to think like a nurse. I needed to think like a baker. For a day (well, two days), I played pastry chef. First of all, pastry chefs don’t have messy kitchens. Make kitchen spotless: Check! Next, the apron, starched and tied neatly around my waist. Alright, not starched, and tied slightly off-center, but one can’t change overnight! What else? Yes, yes, I know! Mise en place. I felt very professional with my ingredients and baking implements lined up like a little infantry across my butcher block.
Have you ever looked at a cake (or a motorcycle-riding bad boy, for that matter), and admired the exterior, just hoping that it is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside? I’ve been let down by many a bakery cake, adorned with more frosting than Paris Hilton, and leaving just as much substance to be desired on the inside. This is not one of those cakes. Some chocolate cakes are just that: chocolate, and more chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, this cake is rich and chocolatey almost to the point of ridiculousness. However, each bite is balanced with the fresh lightly glazed raspberry filling, silky ganache, and buttercream with just a hint of raspberry puree to tie the whole package together. The coffee in the cake is barely perceptible, except for an added layer of complexity, and the texture takes on an almost fudge-y consistency when cool. As if this weren’t enough of a spectacle, the whole darn thing is topped with a silky chocolate glaze. Really, when you think about it, why not?
All 14 of us sang happy birthday to the birthday girl, then she carefully cut into the cake, serving each of us a piece topped by a raspberry. One by one, the cake sent the party guests into euphoria, and one by one, they insisted they couldn’t eat another bite. Then, one by one, they marched back into the kitchen to have just a little more, as if led by a strange invisible force.
If there remains any question as to the addictive and mania-inducing properties of this cake, I leave you with an excerpt from an e-mail sent by the birthday girl herself. Subject line, simply, “cake”.
Jenny, I have concerns about you posting my fabulous cake on your blog. Then, other people will request the honor, and I must admit, I am very selfish, and would like to keep Jenny heaven cake all to myself. I understand if you still feel compelled to show off, just know that I will be requesting Jenny heaven cake for every birthday from now on.
If you’re not afraid of being adored for your baking prowess, make this cake. If you want to be hounded on each of your friends’ and families’ subsequent birthdays, make this cake. If you want occasional excuses to throw care to the wind to make and eat the richest, best cake you may ever eat, make this cake. This cake is just as risque as a motorcycle-riding bad boy, but will give you none of the drama. Make. This. Cake!
- For the cake:
- 1½ cups (4½ oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp. coffee or espresso powder
- 1½ cups boiling water
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (18¼ oz.) sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. (9¼ oz.) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. salt
- For the raspberry filling:
- 16 oz. fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries thawed
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1¼ cups water
- For the ganache filling:
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- For the raspberry frosting:
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 21 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup strained raspberry puree (if using frozen raspberries, use the juice remaining after thawing. If using fresh raspberries, use a food mill to puree, or smash the raspberries through a colander with a wooden spoon)
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- For the chocolate glaze:
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- For garnish:
- Additional fresh raspberries
- For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease and flour the edges of three 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper (I used a pencil to trace the bottom of the cake pan onto parchment paper). Combine the cocoa and coffee/espresso powder in a small bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk together until smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Whisk in the sour cream.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in three additions, alternating with the cocoa-sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.
- Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the raspberry filling: In a medium saucepan, stir together the water, sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Once thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice. Fold in berries with a spatula. Cover and chill until ready to use. (The filling will continue to thicken as it chills.)
- For the Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let stand 1-2 minutes, then whisk together until a smooth, thick ganache is formed. Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Let the ganache sit to thicken a bit so that it is suitable for spreading and piping. (To speed thickening, place the bowl in the fridge or freezer and whisk every 10 minutes to ensure even cooling until the desired consistency is reached.) Transfer about ½ cup of the thickened ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip about ½-inch in diameter.
- Assembling the cake: Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake board or serving platter. Spread ½ cup of the ganache in an even layer over the cake. Using the reserved ganache in the pastry bag, pipe a border around the perimeter of the cake layer. This will act as a well to help hold in the raspberry filling. Spoon some of the raspberry filling inside the ganache border in an even layer (Don't be shy. Use more than you think you need. Some of the raspberry will soak into and meld with the cake layers). Top with another layer of cake and repeat this process, layering with another ½ cup of ganache and additional raspberry filling. Top with the remaining cake layer.
- For the raspberry buttercream: To make the raspberry frosting, combine the sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (a metal mixing bowl will do the trick). Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more. Blend in the raspberry puree and vanilla until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the buttercream, smoothing the surface as much as possible. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
- For the chocolate glaze: Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and allow to cool for 10 minutes. (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.) Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides. Let the glaze set about 5-10 minutes.
- Garnish the cake with fresh raspberries and chill the cake until ready to serve.