For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups white (caster) sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup shortening
- 2 cups hot coffee
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla
For the filling:
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (approximately), sifted
- 1/4 - 1/3 cups milk
For the topping:
- 8 oz good quality dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Oven, mixing bowls, measuring cups, etc
- 2 9-inch round cake tins (springform works)
- Electric mixer
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa, and salt. If you don't have a sifter (as I don't) you can instead use a fine-mesh sieve. Sifting is important, especially for the baking soda and cocoa powder, because these items tend to clump and there is nothing worse than biting into a big clump of baking soda. Yuck.
In a large bowl, pour the hot coffee over the shortening and whisk together. The coffee will melt the shortening, which is what you want. It might take a bit of whisking, so be patient, and eventually it should look like this:
Appetizing, I know.
The coffee is a key ingredient in this recipe. It doesn't have to be good coffee (goodness knows my homemade coffee isn't), and I can assure you that you won't taste it in the final product. Coffee and chocolate are one of nature's inspired flavor combinations, and in this recipe the coffee will bring out the richness of the chocolate. You can use this same technique to doctor boxed chocolate cake mix: just substitute coffee wherever the recipe calls for water.
Once the shortening is completely whisked into the coffee, you can begin to add the dry ingredients to the coffee mixture a little at a time, whisking as you go. You can use an electric mixer if you want, but at this point it's really not necessary. Once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, the mixture should still be quite wet. Add the eggs and vanilla to the batter, and whisk until well-incorporated. Try and get the batter as smooth as you can, but there will still be a few little lumps here and there.
Once you're satisfied, pour the batter (in as equal parts as you can) into the two round cake tins. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool completely and then put them in the refrigerator.
Next it's time to make the filling. Mix the butter, vanilla, and cocoa in a medium-sized bowl until they form a paste. At his point, I recommend having an electric mixer handy. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, and beat it into the paste. Then add a splash of the milk, and beat it into the paste. Alternate adding the sugar and the milk until the filling has reached the texture and sweetness you desire. Because this is a matter of preference, what I usually do is sift the powdered sugar as I add it, so I don't end up with too much or too little. I also recommend using the full 1/4 cup of milk, to keep the filling from being overly sweet. It won't be as stiff as a typical buttercream, but it should be rich and creamy by the time you're done.
Take the cakes out of the fridge. If you haven't already, remove them from their tins. You may wonder why we refrigerated them in the first place; here's the reason: the cakes are easier to move around and manipulate when they're cold, and there's less risk of them falling apart.
Now you have two layers for the cake. Pick which one you want to be on the bottom, and use a long, serrated knife (I use my bread knife) to level off the top of it. Slather the filling on top of the bottom layer, then gently place the other layer over it. If the top of your bottom layer collapsed a bit in the center (this still happens to me occasionally), just fill in the depression with extra filling. If anyone complains that there's too much frosting, just make a mental note never to let them have any of your delicious homemade cake again. My cakes came out well this time, so I just let the filling ooze out over the bottom because I like that.
Now we're ready to make the topping, which instead of being a traditional frosting like the filling, is a chocolate ganache. This is super easy to make. Bust up your good-quality chocolate (I recommend beating it against the side of the counter while still in its packaging) and dump it in a bowl or large measuring cup. Heat up the one cup of heavy cream until nearly boiling; you can do this either on the stove top or in the microwave. Once it's hot, pour it over the chocolate and stir it all with a fork until the chocolate is completely melted. The mixture should be dark, smooth, and shiny. Pour the ganache over the top of the cake and smooth it out with a spatula. It won't stick to the cake like a frosting; instead just let it drip down the sides. Let the ganache cool and set for ten or twenty minutes, and then your Delicious Chocolate Cake is ready to be served!
Ideally, this cake should turn out fudgy, rich, and deeply chocolatey. I've found that it's an enormous crowd-pleaser, and despite its somewhat involved prep, it's utterly worth it for a special occasion, or just whenever you want a really, really good chocolate cake. Enjoy!