There's chocolate cake and then there's this chocolate cake — four glorious layers of rich and tender dark chocolate cake, slathered with a whipped ganache frosting and drizzled with a bittersweet chocolate sauce. It's not the one-bowl cake you make on a Wednesday night to serve after dinner, nor is it the brownie-cake hybrid you remember eating as a kid. This is a very serious, very deep and dark chocolate cake for people who aren't afraid to shout their love of chocolate from the rooftops. The kind of cake so decadent that the only thing you can serve alongside it is a tall glass of cold milk or a cup of hot coffee.
A chocolate cake of this stature doesn't have to be complicated. Using our favorite chocolate tricks — including blooming cocoa before baking and whipping chocolate and cream into frosting — we've streamlined the making of this decadent cake for maximum chocolate flavor and smart kitchen efficiency.
The Deepest, Darkest Chocolate Cake
With its layers of black chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache, and generous chocolate drizzle, this dessert is equally at home on a fancy dessert menu as it is in a diner dessert case. It isn't super sweet like many cakes; instead the deep flavors of cocoa and dark chocolate make this cake a more grown-up affair.
For Your Information
- Beyond flour, sugar, and eggs, this cake requires both Dutch-processed cocoa and unsweetened chocolate.
- The whipped ganache calls for 24 ounces of chocolate and 2 1/4 cups of heavy cream. Make sure you use high-quality bar or black chocolate, and skip using chips here.
- This cake takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, including cooling time.
The Key Elements of Dark Chocolate Cake
- Bloom the cocoa. Mixing cocoa powder with hot water (or coffee) is designed to bring out more flavor from the cocoa before you add it to the cake. Blooming, as it's called, hydrates the cocoa powder, giving it an intensity that our deep chocolate cake requires.
- Bake the cakes. Once the cocoa is bloomed, the cake batter itself follows a pretty standard cake mixing method, but it's important to get the cakes going before making the frosting so that they can bake and cool while the frosting cools.
- Make a rich ganache and cool. As soon as your cakes are in the oven, start making your frosting by making a ganache and letting it cool. The ganache takes just minutes to come together, but needs to cool for about an hour before whipping.
- Whip the ganache. At this point your cakes will be cooling and your ganache should be the consistency of very soft butter. Use an electric mixer to whip the ganache until lightened in color and increased in volume.
- Build the cake. You'll split your cakes into 2 layers each and layer them with the whipped ganache before frosting. As long as your cake is cool and the frosting is at room temperature, you shouldn't have a lot of trouble coating the cakes, which means you can skip a crumb coat.
Need a cake frosting refresher? How To Frost & Decorate a Layer Cake
The Chocolate Drizzle
The final stop on our way to chocolate cake glory is a chocolate cake drizzle. A cake drizzle is essentially a thin ganache that is dripped down the side of the cake. It's important that your cake be at room temperature and your ganache be warm but not hot for a beautiful cascade of drips down the side of the cake. While the drizzle is still wet on the cake is a perfect time to add chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings, or even mini chocolate chips to top off the cake — baker's choice.
Slicing and Serving the Cake
You can serve this cake the same day it's made or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring the cake to room temperature before slicing and serving. A thin knife will give you neat, beautiful slices. Serve with a tall glass of milk, hot coffee, or a neat pour of bourbon.
The Deepest Darkest Chocolate Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch) 4-layer cake; serves 12 to 16
What You Need
- For the deep chocolate cake:
Dutch-processed cocoa powder
unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
(8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups
large egg yolks
large egg whites, at room temperature
- For the chocolate ganache frosting:
1 1/2 pounds
(24 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- For the chocolate drizzle and decorating:
bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Chocolate sprinkles or chocolate shavings (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife and cutting board
(9-inch) round cake pans
Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
Wide, flat spatula
Large serrated knife
Small serving spoon
Bake the cake:
Heat the oven and prep the pans. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper round; set aside.
Bloom the chocolate. Place the cocoa and water in small bowl and stir into a thick paste.
Heat the milk and melt the chocolate. Place the unsweetened chocolate and milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat.
Add the cocoa mixture to the milk mixture. Add the bloomed cocoa mixture to the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare the dry ingredients.
Whisk together the flour, leaveners, and salt. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. When the chocolate-milk mixture is ready, place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the yolks, followed by the chocolate mixture. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg yolks one at a time. Once fully incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to low speed and slowly add the chocolate-milk mixture. Beat in the vanilla until combined.
Fold in the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add the flour mixture and fold it in by hand with a rubber spatula — don't worry if there are a few dry spots, there's more folding ahead.
Whip the egg whites. Place the egg whites in a clean, large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer or a whisk to whip to soft peaks.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Gently fold 1/2 of the beaten whites into the cake batter. Use a wide flat spatula and gently scoop through the batter to incorporate the egg whites. It's okay if there are some white streaks in the batter between the second and first batch of egg whites. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
Divide the cake batter between the pans and bake the cakes. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans. Bake until the cake bounces back when pressed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool and remove the cakes from the pan. Place the cake pans on a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes. Flip the cakes out, remove the parchment, and place right-side up on the rack to cool completely.
Make the ganache frosting:
Heat the cream in the microwave. Place the cream into a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and microwave on high for 2 minutes. While the cream is heating, place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl.
Pour the cream over the chocolate. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and set aside to sit for 5 minutes — the heat of the cream will melt the chocolate.
Whisk to combine, then cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk the chocolate ganache until smooth, then set aside at room temperature to cool and thicken, about 1 hour. You want the ganache to be about as thick as room-temperature butter (soft and spreadable) before whipping.
Whip the cooled ganache into frosting. Beat the cooled ganache with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until it lightens in color and increases in volume, about 8 minutes.
Assemble the cake:
Slice the cakes in half. Use a long, serrated knife to cut each cake into 2 layers. You should have 4 cake layers.
Layer the cakes with the whipped ganache. Place a single layer of cake on a cake plate, serving platter, or cake round. Spread about 3/4 cup of the whipped ganache onto the first layer thinly and evenly. Top with second layer and more whipped ganache, and repeat until you have 3 layers of filling and 4 layers of cake.
Coat the cake with the remaining ganache. Dump the remaining ganache on top of the cake and use a spatula to work it down the sides until the whole cake is completely frosted. Smooth the top and sides as much as possible. Don't worry — the chocolate drizzle will cover imperfections.
Make the chocolate drizzle:
Combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl and stir to combine.
Microwave for 1 minute. Microwave the chocolate-cream mixture for 1 minute on HIGH.
Stir to combine and let cool about 5 minutes. Whisk together the chocolate and cream until smooth. Set aside until just warm to the touch, about 5 minutes.
Spoon the drizzle onto the edges of the cake. Use a small spoon to drizzle the chocolate mixture onto the top edge of the cake until it drips over the edge.
Decorate the cake. Decorate with sprinkles or chocolate shavings if using before the drizzle sets.
Storage: Store any leftover cake in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Make ahead: The cakes can be baked up to 3 days in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerated.