This is one of my standby desserts that I can pull out when I want to impress, but don’t have the energy for a major effort. There are several steps, but nothing about this recipe is complicated. While originally a two layer cake, I like the look of a four layer better, so I’ve adapted the recipe. Two layers is easier, so if you want to go that route I’ve included a scaled down frosting recipe (just skip the step that calls for cutting the cakes in two). While dusting a cake pan with flour is traditional, I prefer the look of cocoa powder for chocolate cakes and I think it works just as well. I usually throw the cocoa into the pan and then start shaking it around until the cocoa is thinly covering all the buttered surfaces.

I just made this for our office Christmas party – we catered in some food, but one of my co-workers and I brought in dessert. I made this intense chocolate cake and she brought in some yummy white chocolate, oatmeal, cranberry cookies. Chris, another coworker, graciously let me take some photos while she finished off her slice.

This cake goes really well with a strong cup of coffee.

That Chocolate Cake

Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate, Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup strong hot coffee
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
9 ounces dark (60-70%) chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tsp kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a pan of water on the bottom rack and place the second rack about mid oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and then coat with cocoa powder – about 1 tbs/pan.

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into the bowl of a stand mixer and then mix with the sugar on low. In another bowl beat the eggs, and whisk in the oil, milk and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the hot coffee.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn the layers out onto the rack* and cool completely.

When the cakes have cooled, check the frosting. It should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If it is still too thin, allow it to cool longer. Cut each layer in half – you’ll have 4 layers.

For the Frosting:
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Pour into a bowl and add the vanilla. Set aside to cool and stir occasionally.

Putting it all together:
Place your first layer cut side up on a serving plate/cake stand. Top it with a thin layer of the frosting and add the next layer. Repeat until you’ve added all the cake. To frost the outside of the cake you should start with the top and spread the excess frosting towards the edges, allowing it to fall over the sides. Once the top is done, start adding frosting towards the top of the sides and slowly spread thinly around the sides – you should always work from side to side putting the new frosting towards the top and letting the spreading motion push the excess frosting towards the bottom of the cake. Don’t worry if it isn’t pretty – it’ll taste good anyway.

Frosting for two layers:
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
5 ounces dark (60-70%) chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Follow directions as above.

*I flip the whole pan carefully and then just tap on the bottom – that usually frees up the cake without any hassle.