Monday, October 12, 2009

double chocolate layer cake

Gourmet was not a fixture of my childhood the way it was for some. But it was there, providing vicarious culinary pleasures, back when my cooking extended only to chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon toast. Later, the magazine became a highly anticipated monthly ritual of reading, re-reading and archiving. For me, as for many others, the announcement of its folding was unexpected and incredibly sad.

So it was that last night I attended a farewell wake for the magazine, hosted by two friends and fellow Gourmet-enthusiasts. The premise was simple: a Gourmet potluck—an occasion to share our favorite recipes from years past, or discover new ones. Offerings ranged from the retro—a caviar tart and Moroccan-spiced shepherd’s pie (with lovely mashed potato florets)—to the contemporary—a candied-fennel lemon cake that had the stained-glass-window effect enjoyed by all great upside down cakes.

In many ways, my Double Chocolate Layer Cake was the most obvious selection. This cake has a reputation known to most Gourmet readers and Epicurious bookmarkers. Ten years after its original publication, it’s the most popular recipe on website, with accolades from over 1300 reviewers. And it felt like an appropriate way to mark the occasion.

The cake was (predictably) excellent, an exercise in pure, dense, chocolate oblivion. (I kept hoping for more ganache frosting, if only to cut through the richness of the cake itself.) As I learned this morning, when I tasted one of the cupcakes sired from leftover batter, it’s a cake the benefits from a day’s rest, so the flavors have time to marry. (Last night, the coffee notes were more pronounced, almost out of sync with the chocolate.)

It’s a Gourmet recipe—one of many—that I know I’ll reach for again, a promise of the magazine's delicious legacy.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Adapted from Gourmet

As one, unfortunately, has few occasions for this kind of cake, I think it will become my go-to cupcake batter recipe, a canvas on which I’ll experiment with other frostings (though there's certainly no need to diverge from the ganache). The recipe yielded two 8-inch cake layers and 10 cupcakes. If you can, make the cake layers a day in advance.

For cake layers:
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting:
1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Make cake layers:Preheat oven to 300 degrees, and grease two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. [For 8-inch layers, begin checking after 45 minutes. For cupcakes, reduce the baking time to 20 to 25 minutes.]

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting: Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable. [Depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency; I chilled mine in the refrigerator for 2 hours.]

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.


  1. Charlotte: this was positively delish! Check out our recap of the dinner party at (You'll find some link love there, too.)

  2. this looks amazing, and i love the sculpted icing. how did you achieve that design?

  3. turtle, i think you would enjoy it. the sculpted surface involved the bottom end of a wooden spoon and some strategic swirling. it was a last-minute attempt to up my icing game (and somehow distinguish this cake from the chocolate stout cake i made earlier this year).