Chocolate layer cakes are what we dreamed of as kids and what we try to create, sometimes with limited success, as adults. Layer cakes have always been a bit of a nemesis for me and it is the one type of cake that most people ask me to make for them. Aarrgghh!
I have relatively good success when I am baking them at my own home, but when I have to take them to a party, something always happens. The layers come out lopsided setting me up for challenges, the frosting gets messed up, or heaven help me, the top layer slides off completely. It took me many years to finally figure out that rather than assemble them ahead of time, if at all possible, take the components with me and assemble them onsite. Please learn from my mistakes and make it a lot easier on yourself!
Today’s cake is absolutely lovely. I used my 8-inch cake pans and wound up with layers that baked up perfectly flat. What a treat! I think they would be even better when baked in smaller pans, thicker and moister. So if you have 6 or 7-inch pans, you can try those too. Smaller cakes are so adorable!
The Artist doesn’t really care for sweet desserts, so he was thrilled when I told him the filling was a simple whipped cream and not a heavy buttercream loaded with sugar. And when I told him that the cake was being covered with chocolate ganache, he nearly jumped up and down with delight. (Just picture that!) He planned what he would eat for dinner around dessert, choosing something lightweight so he could have more cake!
And he was more than happy to pour the ganache for the photographs because that meant he could help clean up the leftovers (read lick the bowl)!
Did you know that a cup of flour isn’t always the same? The volumes are remarkably variable when you consider all the different ways you can get the flour into the cup. Whether it has been whisked or lightened first. Whether is has been scooped directly into the cup using the cup itself or whether you scooped the flour with a spoon and poured it into the cup. Did you sift it first and then carefully pour it into the cup? Did you shake it to level the top or did you use a knife and scrape it across the top of the cup? You can see that no matter how careful we are, the results are bound to differ each time we measure.
Here is some great information on why measuring techniques differ and the benefits of using a scale. See, it isn’t just me! http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Measure-Flour/. In addition to the variables in measuring, flour absorbs moisture from the air in our homes. It is heavier on wet or humid days and if you don’t weigh it, you will always have too much flour in your recipes on those days.
If you bake a lot, especially with gluten-free, I recommend you use a kitchen scale to weigh your dry ingredients, especially the flour(s). Using the metric system (grams and kilograms) is much more accurate than our American ounces and pounds. 1 ounce equals just over 28 grams … using grams automatically makes your measuring much more accurate.
Kitchen scales are quite reasonably priced and take all the guesswork out of measuring. and there are many online conversion sites that help you adjust any recipes you want. Now that I’ve converted, I can’t imagine how I baked before. I love that every single time I make a recipe it turns out exactly the way I expect it to! It a miracle LOL.
The next time you are looking for an elegant, show stopping cake for a party or special occasion, look no further – this is the dessert for you, it’s a winner!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When a recipe states “or as needed” next to an ingredient, it can be frustrating if it is the first time you are making the recipe. But think back to other similar recipes you have made in the past and use your best judgment. If it is a dry weather day, add a little more milk (about 1 tbsp). If it is a hot and muggy day, you probably will not need it.
My standard gluten-free flour blend worked really well when used to make the self-rising flour blend. It takes just a minute to put the ingredients together. I did not have to make any other adjustments to the recipe. Make sure the chocolate you use is gluten-free as well as the baking powder.
Kitchen Skill: How to Make Self-Rising Flour
Self-rising flour is one of those ingredients that is found in southern kitchens, but most of the rest of us rarely keep it on hand. Whenever I have a recipe that calls for it, I just whip up this concoction. I make as much as the recipe calls for, or as close as I can get to it and add a little extra AP flour if needed. And because I bake gluten-free I use my GF blend in place of the AP flour. Here is the recipe…
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or GF flour blend)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 175 gr (6 oz) self-rising flour, sifted (See directions above on how to make your own self-rising flour), gluten-free if needed
- 1 tsp baking powder (in addition to what is in the flour)
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1-1/2 sticks (6 oz) butter, at room temperature
- 6 oz (175 gr) granulated sugar (slightly less than 1 cup)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp milk, or more if needed
- 1 tsp pure vanilla
- Ganache Icing
- 1 stick (4 oz) cool butter, cubed
- 3-1/2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1-1/4 cups cold heavy whipping cream
- 3 tsp vanilla paste or pure extract
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar, or to taste
- Optional Toppings
- Chocolate Jimmies, chocolate curls, shaved chocolate, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, etc.
- Bake the Cake: Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 (8-inch) cake pans. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the self-rising flour, baking powder, and cocoa. Whisk together until blended.
- In the bowl of your standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Turn of the mixer and thoroughly scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until the batter is creamy and smooth. If needed, add a touch more milk to thin the batter slightly.
- Again, stop the mixer and scrape the bowl, being careful to make sure there are no unincorporated ingredients in the center bottom. If there are, stir the batter until everything comes together.
- Divide mixture evenly between the prepared pans and use a small offset spatula to spread it out into an even layer. Place the pans in the hot oven on the same rack. Bake, for 15 to 20 minutes (spinning them front to back halfway through baking) or until the cakes start to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Remove pans from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Cake layers can be baked a day in advance. Cool thoroughly and wrap tightly in plastic; store in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before assembling the cake.
- Prepare Ganache: Place a heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan with about 2-inches of water in it. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and place the butter cubes and chopped chocolate in the bowl. Stir with a flexible spatula, mixing the butter and chocolate together until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Hold the bowl with a hot pad if needed and be careful of escaping steam.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat; leave the bowl on the pan, stirring occasionally, to cool slightly.
- Make Filling: In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream with the sugar to stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla. The cream needs to be quite stiff so the layers won’t slide around as much. Set aside.
- Assemble Cake: Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper and set a cooling rack on the sheet. The rack will raise the cake, allowing excess ganache to drip down onto the parchment paper. Place one cooled cake layer, top-side-down on the rack. Pile the whipped cream into the center of the cake layer. Gently place the second cake layer, top-side-down on the whipped cream and press down slightly. This will spread the cream out to the edges and help make sure the top layer is level.
- Pour the ganache in the center of the top of the cake and nudge it, if needed, with an offset spatula toward the edges, allowing it to dribble down over the sides. Make sure the entire top of the cake is covered with the ganache. You can also use the bottom of a ladle to push the ganache toward the edges - have you ever watched a pizza maker spread the pizza sauce on a crust? This is just like that only gentler. Work in concentric circles from the center out to the edges, pushing the ganache toward the edge as you move the ladle. Hard to describe, but easy to do!
- Transfer the entire cake on the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let rest until chocolate is set. Carefully use two offset spatulas to transfer the cake to a cake plate or round platter for serving. Pile the chocolate curls or jimmies (if using) in the center of the top of the cake.
- To Serve: Use a serrated knife, cut each slice, using a sawing motion and holding the top layer in place as you cut down. Wipe the knife clean between each cut. Use a cake or pie server to slip under the slice and very carefully transfer it to a plate.
- Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Yield: about 6 to 8 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!
Let’s connect! If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to email me. I can also be found at the social media site links on the right. Thanks for joining the Heritage Cook Family!
Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. This includes copying and reprinting content and photographs. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted here. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. It is the reader’s sole responsibility to determine which foods are appropriate and safe for their family to consume. The author makes no claims regarding the presence of food allergens and disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this site. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details.