So before I tell you about this luscious chocolate layer cake, I just want to mention that today marks opening day for voting in Project Food Blog 2010! Don't have any clue what I am talking about? You can find some info here, and also see my profile by clicking on the cute little widget with my cute little picture that is over on the sidebar (or here). In a nutshell, 2,000+ bloggers will compete in a series of challenges to determine who is the next food blog star. Oh yeah, and that person will win $10,000. A minor detail of course. Since I am participating (and fiercely competitive), I would love your support and your votes! I really hope you enjoyed reading my first entry and you can vote for me using this link, just click the heart! Also, on the voting page you can share my entry on Facebook or Twitter. Isn't technology these days wonderful?
And now, without further ado... On to the birthday festivities!
I am a little late in posting this cake, since I made it August for my good friends Jenn and Jill. They both have birthdays within weeks of each other, although Jill is a Leo and Jenn is a Virgo. (I am sure you were dying to know that.) I thought about having a separate birthday celebration for each of them, but then it seemed like too much to take on, even for me, especially considering I was making a second layer cake that same weekend. So, to properly celebrate both their birthdays, I decided I would make them a spectacular cake that was just to their liking.
I already had a good idea about the kinds of flavors that were their favorites, but to be absolutely sure, I asked them in advance while we chatting online what kind of cake they would like. This is what they said:
Can I just say that I love my friends? :)
So, by their request (and because I seem to find it impossible to turn down chocolate and caramel) I decided to make them a chocolate layer cake, with chocolate ganache and a bit of salted caramel and buttercream to take it right over the top. This might not be your typical fluffy birthday layer cake, but ohhhhhh... this was definitely a cake for a special occasion.
I wanted to be absolutely sure this cake would be incredible, so rather than trying to experiment too much, I decided to go with recipes that were already tried-and-true and destined for success. I used the cake and ganache recipe from this one that I found on Epicurious; it seemed straightforward (meaning, low on the difficulty and high on the chocolate content), it had a high fork rating, and 100% of reviewers said they would make it again. I took this as a good sign. To add the salted caramel to the cake, I used a recipe for Salted Caramel Buttercream that I found from Ali of Gimme Some Oven. (It should be mentioned that I might have preferentially chosen her buttercream because it looks delicious, but also because I love her blog name. I am powerless to resist plays on words.) I used half of the salted caramel to make buttercream, and saved half of the caramel to just spread on the bottom of one of the layers.
As you can see from the photo, this cake was rich and dense and everything that I dreamed it would be. The ganache was especially smooth and creamy, and paired perfectly with the the soft chocolate cake. In retrospect, adding the layers of salted caramel and buttercream was inspired genius since the salt from the caramel did a perfect job of balancing the all the rich, sweet chocolate. With all this chocolately decadence, do you want to know what the best part for me was? My friends absolutely adored it! They were so excited when they saw it, and after taking a bite, huge smiles lit up their faces. A complete birthday success. Looks like my job is done here.
Chocolate and Salted Caramel Birthday Layer Cake
Cake and Ganache recipe from Bon Appetit, by way of Epicurious, made with only these small changes:
-Decrease sugar in cake to 1 1/2 cup.
-For chocolate ganache, use quality dark chocolate.
-I did not use round pans with 2-inch sides, just regular ones. This meant the two cakes were 'domed' a bit, even after cooling, and so for the bottom layer I just sliced off the top to make it flat. For the top layer, I left it as is.
-Omit raspberry filling, raspberries for topping, and powdered sugar.
Salted Caramel and Salted Caramel Buttercream from Gimme Some Oven.
So essentially I took her recipe, and first made the caramel using her instructions and ingredient proportions (1/4 cup sugar, 2 tbsp water, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla). Then I split the caramel in half into two portions. For one portion, mixed in 1/8 tsp salt to make salted caramel and set it aside. The other portion I used to make the buttercream by combining the caramel with 3/4 stick of salted butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar, again, according to her instructions.
Once you have all the components for the cake ready to go (chocolate cakes, chocolate ganache, salted caramel, and salted caramel buttercream) assembly is straightforward if you just follow the recipe from Epicurious. For the ganache and buttercream in between the two cakes, first spread on a layer of salted caramel, then a layer of chocolate ganache, then a layer of salted caramel buttercream. To finish off the cake, fill a pastry bag with the remaining salted caramel buttercream to decorate the top and write Happy Birthday. Keep cake refrigerated until needed, and then let come to room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.