First I’d like to start this post with a huge WOOHOO to the Super Bowl XLVI Champs, the NY Giants! Way to go, Big Blue!
Now let’s celebrate with this Dark Chocolate Almond Layer Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Filling! It’s a One to 1-bowl FEAST of a chocolate cake!
February is definitely a chocolicious month, so when I was assigned the blog The Pajama Chef by The Secret Recipe Club for February, my cursor went straight to CHOCOLATE in Sarah’s cloud of categories. Don’t get me wrong, Sarah’s blog is filled with loads of fantastic recipes of all sorts (Dying to try these!), but chocolate has been occupying 99.8% of my brain the past few weeks, so I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless I chose something chocolate.
Notice the one broken heart? Everyone needs to be represented on Valentines Day.
I had this whimsical, rustic Valentine cake in mind already, but I didn’t think I would get so lucky and find this great dark chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart which Sarah calls ‘Chocolate Cake that Changes Everything’. I think I have to agree. It’s so deep, dark, moist and super choc-o-latey, it’ll blow your socks off if you’re a deep, dark chocolate lover (I’m not). Sarah made hers in a 13 x 9 -inch pan, but I decided to make it as Martha’s original recipe reads; in two 8-inch cake pans. I had serious plans for this chocolate cake.
I ended up doubling the recipe and baking four separate 8-inch layers because after the first two were baked, I felt they were a little too thin to be torted (sliced in half horizontally to make two layers), plus, I had a ton of homemade fresh, raspberry buttercream and chocolate ganache to use. I sliced about 1/2-inch off the tops, then spread each layer with milk chocolate ganache and a smashed assortment of red, pink and white Jordan Almonds. I love candy coated nuts, so much so that I practically subsisted on Boston bean candy for a period in my early 20’s.
Oh Nuts, my favorite place for all things nuts, fruits, candy etc, sent me my choice of 1 lb of Jordan Almonds to play around with – and play I did. I chose a Valentine mix, and after smashing some of the Jordan Almonds to smithereens, I stirred them into the ganache while it was still liquid. This way, you get bits of almonds and candy shell with each bite. Oh, but I’m not done yet. The ganache was then topped with the aforementioned deep pink, fresh raspberry buttercream, and let me just say; I LOVE this buttercream!
I try to avoid food color at all costs, so for this buttercream, a fresh raspberry reduction made that possible. Look at that deep, hot pink hue! I was originally going to make Swiss or Italian meringue based buttercreams for the filling and frosting, but with this deep, dark chocolate cake and all the tempered chocolate hearts I painted, plus the chocolate shards and ganache, I thought the cake would be far too rich. So, I made a confectioner’s based buttercream reducing the powdered sugar in both the raspberry filling and the super, silky dark chocolate frosting, another recipe courtesy of Martha dearest.
In order for the chocolate hearts to stick, you need a textured frosting. The sloppier, the better, although I ran out of frosting right here, above, so there wasn’t enough to really push them in to adhere. Please excuse the ugly cake board. I forgot to remove it before frosting the cake.
Of course I ran head first into a few disasters, both of them with my tempered chocolate decor. The transfer sheets I used for the hearts did not adhere properly to the chocolate; the red color was completely washed out, also known as poorly made transfer sheets. I ended up painting about 20 chocolate hearts with tinted cocoa butters and melted milk and white chocolate. Disaster #2; The cake was supposed to be topped with long, thin chocolate curls and loops. I wrapped chocolate coated and tined (scraped with a fork to create thin divides to break them apart) acetate around a rolling pin, and used two bowls to support the rolling pin while the chocolate set.
Just my luck, when the chocolate was set, I accidentally knocked over the rolling pin..smack against the table. Those shards on top of the cake are the remains of my beautiful curls and loops. So, a cake that was supposed to be eclectic and whimsical is now ‘rustic’. In the end, taste and texture is what matters most, and it certainly delivers on both.
Finally, you don’t have to make this behemoth of a cake; you can make a normal cake using two layers. Normally, for a 4-layer cake, I just split two layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers, but I was feeling behemoth, so I built a tower with 4 whole layers. The layers weren’t too high, so it made complete sense at the time. Thankfully there were enough people willing to attack it, regardless of the massive, wobbly tower slices doled out to them.
Now for the linky’s. The first one is for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. Click the blue froggy to see a gallery of amazing dishes from all of our blog assignments!
This month also happens to be #chocolatelove in the lovebloghop. I’m a member of. Link up any chocolate recipe from the month of February 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post so that your readers know to stop by the #chocolatelove event! The twitter hashtag is #chocolatelove. Click below to see a ton of beautiful and decadent chocolate creations!
SO, what are your plans for Valentine Day? I’m going to be making these Kid’s DIY Valentines Day Cards with my nephews! I love crafting!
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I forgot to trim the top layer, so the heavy, moist cake with all that chocolate on top squished down the other layers. Did it matter when we ate it? Uh..NO.
Dark Chocolate Candy Almond Raspberry Cream Layer Cake
Cake and frosting adapted from Martha Stewart
Fresh Raspberry Buttercream adapted from Making Life Delicious
The best part about the dark chocolate cake is that it can be made in one single bowl!
- 1½ cups unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cups low-fat buttermilk
- 1½ cups warm water
- 6 tablespoons safflower oil or any neutral oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Framboise for brushing cake layers (optional)
- 9 ounces good quality, chopped milk chocolate
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto (optional)
- ½ cup chopped, toasted almonds (optional)
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 2¼ cups (4½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- 24 ounces fresh raspberries
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- big pinch of kosher salt
- 3½ to 4½ cups powdered sugar
- Make the dark chocolate frosting and chocolate ganache before you make the cake, so they have enough time to reach a spreadable consistency in the fridge by the time you're ready to assemble the cake.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); and dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Divide batter between the four pans. Place two on the middle rack and two on the rack below, unless your oven is deep enough to hold 4 cake pans on one rack. If on one rack, switch pans from back to front and front to back half way through baking. On different racks, switch pans from top to bottom rack and bottom to top rack half way through baking.
- Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, top up, to wire racks. Let cool completely.
- When cakes are cooled, cut about ½ inch off the tops of all four layers of cake. Wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and chill until ready to assemble cake.
- Place the chopped milk chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil (once you see a bubble orv two, take it off the heat), then pour over chopped chocolate and let it sit for about 2 minute as is, no stirring. Once it's sat for 2 minutes, stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is uniform. Stir in almond extract. Stir in Amaretto and chopped, toasted almonds, if using either or both. Cover and place in the fridge for several hours or until it's of a spreadable consistency, 1 to 2 hours at least.
- Combine the cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until the cocoa has dissolved (dissolved meaning there is no more powder, like you would packets of instant hot cocoa). With an electric mixer , starting on low speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until combined, then, on medium-high speed, beat until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low then add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa - water mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it's of a spreadable consistency, at least 1 hour.
- In a medium to large saucepan, cook down the raspberries until they've broken down and released their juices..they will be floating in their own liquid - super saucy. If you use frozen, this will take a little longer. Strain cooked down raspberries in a fine meshed sieve into a bowl, pressing down on them to get every bit of liquid out. You should have about 1 cup raspberry juice. Place this back in a clean saucepan, and cook down until reduced to ½ cup. It should be thick - like chocolate syrup, and will be dark blood red. Set aside until completely cool (I put it in the fridge).
- In a bowl, beat the two sticks of butter until creamy. Add in 2 cups of powdered sugar, the reduced raspberry juice, the lemon juice and huge pinch of kosher salt. Beat until creamy and uniform in color. Continue adding powdered sugar until you get a nice, thick, but still creamy consistency. I used a little less than 3½ cups. If you end up adding too much, drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of milk or cream until you reach the desired consistency. Set aside covered, at room temperature, until ready to assemble the cake.
- Place one layer, cut side up, on a cake plate or board (I glue down the first layer of all cakes with a dab of buttercream so it stays put). If using Framboise, brush top of layer with it lightly. Spread about ½ cup of thickened ganache within ⅛-inch of the edge. Top with about 1 to 1½ cups of the raspberry buttercream and spread to within ½-inch of the edge of the cake. Top with next layer and press down. Repeat above. Do the same with one more layer, then top with last layer, pressing down.
- If you're adding any chocolate decorations, like my hearts, frost the cake sloppily, meaning thick with swirls or lines, so the hearts can stick - do not smooth it out. If not adding decor, frost any which way you please.How to Make Chocolate Transfer Sheet Cut-Outs, like my Hearts. You can find chocolate transfer sheets at some craft stores or candy making supply businesses, You can also do a search online and find loads of places to order them from.
** You can leave out the milk chocolate ganache and just make it a chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling. Either option is wonderful.