I have always loved baking, but I especially love baking cakes. A cake baked from scratch is infinitely tastier than a store-bought cake, and sometimes even tastier than a cake from a bakery. But the main reason that I love baking cakes is that they are usually baked for a celebration, rather than just for the sake of having a treat. Baking cakes for my friends and loved ones birthdays brings me so much joy and I find it to be much more special than any material gift (although I do love a handwritten card!)
Cakes can be intimidating, but there are a few ways to make sure your cake is a winner. First, use high quality ingredients. This cake uses organic flour and dairy as well as grass-fed butter. I am also a huge fan of Bob's Red Mill flours. Using high quality ingredients enhances both the flavor and texture of a cake. However, don't get caught up in needing these exact ingredients! If you have regular flour in your pantry already, use it! Your cake will still taste great! Second, take your time. Measure out all of your ingredients before you start, play some music, and enjoy the process! Baking can be very therapeutic if you allow it to be. Lastly, and most importantly, don't put too much pressure on yourself! I will be the first to admit that my frosting and decorating skills are sub-par, and I often get frustrated trying to make my cakes look perfect. But what good is a perfect looking cake if it doesn't taste good?!
I made this cake for my sister's birthday last year and it was a huge hit. I don't think I will ever make another version of a chocolate cake again. It starts with moist cake layers with a deep chocolate flavor, thanks to the addition of coffee. If your worried about tasting the coffee, you won't! My Nani taught me at an early age that coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and boy was she right. If you don't trust me, trust Nani... or try it for yourself! The layers are filled with a light and airy chocolate mouse that keeps the cake from being too dense or rich and adds a level of luxury. Finally, it is frosted with a layer of chocolate ganache. If you watch cooking or baking shows, you know that ganache can seem fancy and difficult, but to be honest i'm not sure if i ever get it exactly right. It might not be perfectly smooth and have the sheen of a professional cake, but it is fudgy and delicious and that's what really matters.
Both the cake layers and the mousse can be made in advance. Cake layers can be wrapped in saran wrap and put in a plastic bag and be left on the counter for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can wrap them and freeze them. Make sure to remove them from wrapping to defrost on the counter a few hours before assembling the cake. The mousse can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, it should be cold when assembling the cake.
The ganache should be made after you have assembled the cake layers and mousse filling. Immediately after making the ganache, it will be hot and runny and you will not be able to frost the cake. Leave it on the counter, stirring occasionally, until it is cool and spreadable, like room temperature butter. At this point, you should frost the cake. As the ganache continues to cool, it will get harder and more difficult to spread, so make sure you keep an eye on it. This is why it is important to have your layers and filling ready!
Decorating is up to you! The ganache on its own will look great. or you can get creative. My favorite is sprinkles or chocolate chips. They are fun, they add a little crunch, and they cover up any flaws in the frosting!
If you are new to baking cakes please read the notes at the bottom of the recipe. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do and that it brings a smile to someone's face. Let me know how it turns out in the comments below and feel free to reach out with any questions!
THE ABSOLUTE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE
For the Cake:
1 3/4 C Organic All Purpose Flour*
2 C Organic Sugar
3/4 C Cocoa Powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 C Grass Fed Butter
1 C Organic Milk + 1 tsp Vinegar
2 Organic Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 C Hot Coffee
For the Chocolate Mousse:
1/2 C Hot Water
1/4 C Cocoa Powder
8 oz Semisweet Chocolate (Baking Bars)**
2 C Organic Cream
2 T Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
For the Chocolate Ganache:
2 Tbsp Organic Sugar
1 3/4 C Organic Cream
1/4 C Grass Fed Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
24 oz Semisweet Chocolate
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare 2 8" Cake Pans***
1. Add all dry ingredients to a stand mixer bowl and mix on low until combined****
2. Add melted butter, milk, eggs and vanilla to a bowl and mix with a fork, mixture does not need to be completely smooth
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-low until almost combined
4. With mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the hot coffee and mix until just fully combined (do not over mix)
5. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
6. Let cakes cool in pan until room temperature and then finish cooling them on a cake rack
For the Chocolate Mousse:
1. Whisk together the hot water and cocoa powder in a small bowl, set aside
2. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave
3. Add the hot water/cocoa mixture to the melted chocolate chips and whisk to fully incorporate, set aside
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla together using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes
5. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream mixture and transfer to the refrigerator to chill until assembly
For the Chocolate Ganache:
1. Combine sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and heat on low until it just starts to simmer
2. Remove saucepan from heat and add vanilla
3. Pour mixture over chocolate chips in a glass bowl and let sit for 5 minutes, whisk until smooth and let set until spreadable
1. Slice each cake round in half to create 4 layers*****
2. Place one layer on cake stand or serving plate and top with 1 Cup of mousse, spread to edges.
3. Repeat with the second and third cake layers, and top with the fourth layer.
4. Prepare ganache and let sit until spreadable. Evenly coat the top and sides of cake with a thin layer of ganache
5. Decorate as desired
*To properly measure flour, use a spoon to scoop flour into measuring cup, then level off with the flat edge of a knife. Do not pack flour as it will create a denser cake.
**Using baking bars of semisweet chocolate is important for the mousse to set. If you can't find them, try Ghiradelli brand chocolate chips. Baking chocolate bars can be found in the baking aisle of your supermarket.
***To prepare cake pans: coat with butter, line with a round of parchment paper at the bottom, coat the top of the parchment with butter, and dust with cocoa powder. This is the best way to ensure your cakes will come out of the pans easily!
****If you do not have a stand mixer, a hand mixer or bowl and whisk will do!
*****Use a large serrated knife (like a bread knife). Slowly slice halfway up the cake, moving around the edges and slowly towards the middle.