This past Friday night my parents wanted to celebrate Jeff’s birthday a week early, since they will be missing the real thing. And although, I am sure to make another cake on his actual birthday, I could not resist the urge to try a new cake recipe, especially when this one looked so appetizing in the current issue of Bon Appetit.
Now as you may know, I already have a favorite chocolate cake recipe (two actually, one vegan and one non), but I was intrigued by the simplicity of this cake’s method and also happened to come across some wonderfully inexpensive raspberries at my local Russian Market (those Russian’s scoff at the Whole Food’s berry prices, as they should– 3 or 4 bucks for a 6 ounce container! Seriously? I think not).
This cake was in fact, as easy as the recipe indicated, but I would definitely make a small change next time: I would use chilled brewed coffee, or black tea instead of water. I just can’t understand why anyone would use water instead of the perfectly complimentary flavors of coffee or tea in their chocolate cake. I think that a good chocolate cake should be able to stand on its own, without frosting or ganache, or jam and should be dark, rich and moist for days when stored properly. This cake was very good with the berries, jam and ganache, but without them, it was nothing special. That being said, this recipe did adapt very nicely to being dairy-free with the use of soy creamer and a little apple cider vinegar. Make sure to treat your raspberries delicately, during and after rinsing, they are the stars of your presentation.
Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake, adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010
Note: this recipe made about twice the amount of ganache I needed for my cake. I would recommend either halving the ganache recipe, or saving the remaining ganache for another cake (you can keep the ganache in your fridge, covered tightly, for about 2 weeks).
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar (I used a scant 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water (I think 1 cup of chilled coffee would be better)
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used 3/4 cup soy creamer, plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, stirred and set aside to curdle for 5 or 10 minutes)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
Chocolate ganache and raspberry topping:
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (I used soy creamer, and it worked really well)
6 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, stirred to loosen, divided (seeds are fine, if you cannot find seedless)
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries
Powdered sugar (optional)
Special equipment: 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides
Position racks in top and bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; spray rounds. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; whisk to blend and form well in center. Whisk 1 cup water/coffee, buttermilk/soy creamer-vinegar mixture, oil, and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Divide cake batter between prepared pans (about 3 cups each).
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (If cakes form domes, place kitchen towel atop hot cakes, then press gently with palm of hand to level.) Cool completely in pans on cooling racks. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover cakes in pans and let stand at room temperature.
For chocolate ganache and raspberry topping:
Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream/soy creamer just to boil in heavy medium saucepan (do not walk away, your creamer will boil over very quickly!!!). Pour over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until ganache is melted and smooth. Transfer 1 1/4 cups ganache to small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ganache is thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let remaining ganache stand at room temperature to cool until barely lukewarm.
Place rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Carefully run knife around pan edges to release cakes. Invert 1 cake layer onto cardboard round or bottom of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Place cake layer on round on prepared rack. Spread 3 tablespoons jam over top. Spoon dollops of chilled ganache over, then spread evenly. Invert second cake layer onto another cardboard round or tart pan bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Carefully slide cake off round and onto frosted cake layer on rack. Spread remaining 3 tablespoons raspberry jam over top of second cake layer. Pour half of barely lukewarm ganache over cake, spreading over sides to cover. Freeze until ganache sets, about 30 minutes. Pour remaining ganache over cake, allowing to drip down sides and spreading over sides if needed for even coverage and to smooth edges. Freeze to set ganache, about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.
Arrange raspberries in concentric circles atop cake. Sift powdered sugar lightly over raspberries and serve.