I love cake, but I have a serious aversion to bad cake. What do I mean by bad cake? Too-sweet cake. Too-dry cake. Boring cake. Uninspired cake. Cake that tastes like it’s made from a cake mix, or cake that has a texture resembling a used sponge from a college cafeteria dish pit.
Some people believe that any and all cake is good, just for the sheer fact that it’s cake. I’m not like that. For me, bad cake is the worst form of baking heresy. And there are a lot of bad cakes out there.
I’m always tinkering with recipes, trying to make them more interesting. More… compelling. Sometimes that involves reducing the amount of sugar, changing up the type of fat used, experimenting with different kinds of flours, or adding other ingredients that the average person might not think to put in a cake. This cake is a great example of that line of thinking.
I’ve dubbed this decadently rich, moist cake The Dark Knight Cake. It’s a tall, glowering tower of chocolate intensity – the emo Christian Bale of baking. A generous blast of dark roast coffee and a touch of milk makes for a gently bitter tone, while a hint of cayenne adds mystique without turning up the heat.
I’ve also added dates for extra tenderness – you might think it’s weird, but trust me and try it. It’s nearly impossible to ruin this cake unless you A) seriously over bake it, or B) overmix it within an inch of its life. Don’t go crazy with the baking and mixing, and you’ll be sure to have a masterful dessert on your hands when all is said and done.
This dish calls for one recipe each of chocolate ganache and chocolate buttercream frosting. I’ve linked to these additional recipes in the ingredients list below. Feel free to make the icings the day before and keep them in the refrigerator, allowing them to come fully to room temperature before constructing the finished cake.
- Butter for greasing
- 1 3/4 cups dates, pitted and chopped coarsely
- 3/4 cup hot, brewed dark roast coffee
- 1/2 cup hot milk
- 1 cup (about 5 ounces) flour
- 1/2 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups chocolate buttercream icing
- 2 cups chocolate ganache
- 3 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
- Set oven rack to the middle and preheat to 350°F (176°C). Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Set a parchment round in the bottom of each pan.
- Set the dates in a bowl and cover with hot coffee and hot milk. Cover and let soak for 10 minutes. Add to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa, cayenne, baking soda, and salt. Stir well.
- Add the butter, sugar, and brown sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-low until light and airy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating each until incorporated. Add vanilla and beat until well mixed.
- With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Add the dates to the batter and gently fold with a spatula, stopping as soon as the batter is uniform in texture.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared baking pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the sides pull away from the pans. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the pans, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Wrap cakes in plastic wrap and set them in the freezer for 4 hours.
- Remove cakes from freezer. Work quickly to slice each cake horizontally into two layers of equal thickness. You should have four layers total.
- Set one layer of cake on a cake round, and place the remaining three layers of cake back in the freezer. The layers are much easier to handle when frozen. Pull them out as you need them, one at a time.
- Use a large, round piping tip to pipe chocolate buttercream on top of the cake, following the rounded edge of the cake. Scoop 1/2 cup of chocolate buttercream into the circle and smooth flat with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon of espresso powder and set the next layer on top.
- Repeat with the second and third layers of cake. When you place the fourth layer on top, do not frost the top.
- Spread a thin crumb coat on the sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream and set the cake to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Gently warm the ganache over a double-boiler just to the point that it flows well but is not too thin or watery. Set the chilled cake on a cooling rack placed into a baking sheet and carefully pour the ganache over the entire cake, coating the top and sides in one smooth layer.
- Set the cake in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes to set the ganache. Serve at room temperature.
Special Equipment: two 8-inch round cake pans, food processor, parchment paper cut to fit pans.
Nutritional analysis based on 12 portions and does not include buttercream frosting or ganache.
This content was originally posted on FearlessFresh.com.