Approximately 10 months ago, I allowed my arch nemesis, Rebecca, to guest blog for me while I was on maternity leave. She made what she called “Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake.” This cake is here to kick that cake’s ass. Rebecca’s cake may be the swill that Cookie baked up for The Trunchbull, but this is the cake that Bruce deserved.
In my imagination, Bruce grew up determined not to let the trauma he faced at the hands of the Trunchbull destroy him. Rather than be defeated by dessert, he embraced it, becoming a masterful baker. He made cookies and pastries and ice cream, until he finally was able to conquer his fear and make this cake.
He lovingly prepared the cake layers, injecting each one with hot fudge, gently spread chocolate mousse over the surface, and coated the entire thing in whipped chocolate ganache. He pressed chocolate sprinkles against its sides, stacked meringues on top, and stuck chocolate shards into the frosting. He shuddered, because the chocolate shards reminded him a bit too much of The Chokey.
As Bruce stepped back to look at what he had created, he breathed a sigh of relief. The cake had taken him three days to assemble. He had had a hell of a time trying to temper chocolate in his hot and humid kitchen. He had melted and seeded the chocolate four times. The chocolate still bloomed a bit, but it still had a snap to it.
He cut out a slice for himself. No one to cheer him on, but no one to berate him, either. He sat at his kitchen table and took a bite. “This is better than my mom’s,” he said aloud to himself.
A knock on the door. Bruce opened up to see Matilda, holding a gift, and Hortensia coming up the driveway behind her. “Wow, Bruce, you look great! Happy Birthday!”. They embrace, and he shows his friends into the dining room.
They stood before the cake, a bit stunned. “Go Bruce…” muttered Hortensia. Bruce cuts them each a slice. “I couldn’t eat the entire confection myself,” he quipped. “I’m glad you guys are here to help me finish it.”
- 12 ounces (340 grams) 60-70% cacao chocolate*
- 3 ounces 60-70% cacao chocolate, roughly chopped
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (90 grams) cocoa powder
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (265 mL) hot water
- 4½ cups (540 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2¼ cups (510 grams) unsalted butter
- 3⅓ cups (675 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1½ cups (360 grams) sour cream
- 6¾ ounces (190 grams) 60-70% cacao chocolate
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 5 egg whites, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons (35 grams) granulated sugar
- scant ½ cup (100 mL) heavy cream
- ⅓ cup (80 mL) heavy cream
- ¼ cup (75 grams) light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams) cocoa powder
- pinch kosher salt
- 3 ounces (85 grams) 60-70% cacao chocolate, chopped, divided in half
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2¼ cups heavy cream
- 18 ounces (510 grams) 60-70% cacao chocolate
- 2-4 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Temper the chocolate using your favorite method. (I have had the best results with this sous vide method from Serious Eats, or the microwave method from SugarHero.)
- Use an offset spatula to spread the tempered chocolate over the baking sheet, to about ⅛-inch thickness. You can use a fork or cake comb to swirl designs into the chocolate while it is wet, if you'd like. When the chocolate has set up, use a sharp knife to gently saw the chocolate into triangles of various sizes, or break them by hand if you want a less precise look. Set aside 3-4 ounces of shards in a cool, dry place, and re-use the remaining chocolate for the rest of the recipe.
- Arrange oven racks to the top and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 275°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Fill a large saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and rest it over the simmering water to create a double-boiler. Melt the chocolate, stirring often, then remove from the double-boiler and set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar and place over the doubler-boiler, whisking until the mixture is hot, about 4 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in melted chocolate (it doesn't need to be uniform or fully incorporated).
- Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a French star tip, and pipe drops of varying sizes onto the prepared baking sheets, until all the meringue has been used. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush three 8-inch cake pans with Cake Magic, then line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and brush the parchment circle with Cake Magic. (Alternately, you can butter and flour the pans/parchment).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot water and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Combine butter and sugar in a large saucepan, and melt over medium heat. Transfer the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-low speed until cool, light in color, and integrated, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition, and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and cocoa mixture and beat until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add flour and sour cream alternately in 4 additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir by hand for a few turns, scraping the sides and bottoms of the bowl to make sure everything gets evenly mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared cake pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, rotating their positions in the oven every 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes while you prepare the hot fudge sauce.
- In a small saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla until melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Carefully turn the cakes out of their pans onto a wire rack and remove the parchment. Use a marinade/flavor injector to pump the hot fudge into the sides of the hot cake layers. Allow cake layers to cool completely.
- Bring 1-2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large heat-safe bowl and place it over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring frequently, until smooth, then remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Whisk a few spoonfuls of the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks to temper them. Add the egg yolk mixture back into the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat the egg whites. Gently fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture until uniform.
- In a medium mixing bowl, hand-whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until no streaks remain. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.
- Place chopped chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer. Bring cream to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the cream begins to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let rest for 10 minutes, then gently whisk the mixture until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Let rest at room temperature until room-temperature, stirring every 10 minutes for about 1 hour. Chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator, then stir again.
- Place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the ganache on high speed until thick, about 10 minutes. If it seems like it is too runny and won’t hold its shape, pop it back in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes and whip it again, but don’t get it too cool or it won’t be easy to spread.
- Level the cake layers with a serrated knife. Place one layer of the cake on a cake circle and place it on a cake turntable. Use an offset spatula to gently and quickly spread half of the chocolate mousse over the cake layer so that it overhangs the edges slightly. You don’t want to overwork the mousse, or it will become runny. Stack a second layer on top of the mousse, and spread the remaining mousse over that layer in a similar manner. Stack the final cake layer on top. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to let the mousse firm up again.
- Use an offset spatula or a bench scraper to spread the overhanging mousse so that it is flush with the cake layers, filling in the gaps between the layers. Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of whipped ganache and refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.
- Dollop the remaining ganache on the top of the cake and using a (clean) offset spatula, work the ganache evenly down the sides of the cake. Use the offset spatula to make a “W” motion all over the sides of the frosting to get a “rustic” look.
- Use your hands to gently press chocolate sprinkles against the bottom of the cake. Decoratively place chocolate shards and chocolate meringues on top of the cake. Serve immediately or keep chilled until at least 30-60 minutes before serving. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.
- *You usually need at least 12 ounces to properly temper chocolate. Once the shards are cooled and cut, set aside as many shards as you think you'll use, maybe 3-4 ounces, and then you can re-use the remaining chocolate in the rest of the recipe. Waste not, want not!