Preparing for the wedding has been a tough exercise in patience. Things don't go right. A couple of weeks ago, our cake maker decided to have surgery the day before the wedding, which is in another couple of weeks. Terrible timing. So then I was on the hunt for another cake maker with a tight timeline and a very specific cake outline.
I decided I'd make it myself just to be sure my dreams weren't completely ridiculous. So I got my best chocolate cake recipe, my best chocolate ganache frosting recipe, and looked up a mousse recipe that actually started out as an espresso recipe, but I just replaced the coffee powder with cocoa, and planned to fold in diced strawberries.
And lo, it was the greatest cake I've ever tasted, hands down. The other 9 people I tested it on thoroughly agreed. It was amazing.
Fortunately, I've since found a cake maker that will do it exactly as I want (minus the ganache-- buttercream is less rich, and therefore apparently better for the common palate). But here, for your baking pleasure, is the recipe to the best cake ever:
from Smitten Kitchen
Also, I made this cake before for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, where you can go to see better pictures mid-production, etc
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. Somehow when I read this, I read it as "butter and flour the paper," which is something that you do sometimes. Anyway, it didn't really need to be done I suppose, but I like that there was absolutely no stickage, so I'm going to recommend you do it, but it's apparently not necessary.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (although two of mine were done in that time and the other needed probably another 7 minutes, but apparently my granparents' oven is a little weird), or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting (which I used in this chocolate cake recipe)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil. Remove from heat; add 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, and let stand, without stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk just until combined. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until spreadable, about 1 hour.
Mousse (I googled mousse recipes and this one-- which was originally an espresso one-- seemed like it would work best)
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (62.5ml) whole milk (or, if you're me, 2% lactaid milk)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 stick butter
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (known in the more poorer people's world as a makeshift double boiler), melt together the chocolate, milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolk. In a mixer, whip the cream to medium peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture (a handheld egg beater works great for this).
2. Dice a bunch of fresh strawberries (I just did a regular strawberry box from the store). Fold them into the mousse. Refrigerate for a bit (while the ganache frosting is cooling, per example).
Putting it together
This is super easy. You take a layer of cake, spread a bunch of mousse on, throw on another layer, more mousse, another layer, do a crumb layer with the ganache, then spread on the rest of it thickly so that it looks nice and pretty. Mine didn't look pretty because I didn't freeze the layers beforehand, but man was it tasty. Man.
Ignore my face. I wasn't aware it made it into the picture.
For more tips on perfect cake assembly, you can go to my post on said subject.