But, Valentine’s Day doesn’t always have to be about romantic love, as Azusa from K-On!! shows us in her heartfelt gift of a delectable chocolate cake to her treasured senpai and fellow band members of the light music club! Her strong feelings of gratitude and friendship are baked into her cake, making her handmade Valentine’s Day gift to her friends all that more sweet….
About the recipe:
Soft chocolate cake melds seamlessly with meltingly silky milk chocolate buttercream and the slightly bitter taste of rich dark chocolate ganache in this decadent dessert… And, while this cake recipe has a lot of steps, it’s certainly worth the effort!
To help you along, the ganache and the milk chocolate buttercream can both be made in advance, allowing you concentrate on the cake and its assembly on the day you serve it. Just remember to beat the buttercream in a stand mixer for a few minutes before using to ensure it’s smooth and silky. This cake also keeps very well (the ganache covering the cake helps to seal in the moisture, preventing it from drying out too quickly), so the entire cake can even be made an entire day ahead.
About the ingredients:
Cake flour is a particular type of flour that contains less protein than all purpose flour, and is of a fine texture and very light color. The lower amount of protein in the flour makes it so that less gluten forms when it’s used in a recipe, which in turn makes it ideal for making soft, fine crumbed cakes. Cake flour is readily available in most grocery stores. Just don’t get it mixed up with cake mix!
Creme fraiche is a type of soured cream that has a higher fat content and is less sour than typical sour cream. It can be found in most grocery stores, but make sure to read the label carefully because some creme fraiche come flavored with vanilla and other such things. You can substitute with sour cream, but your cake will not be as rich due to the difference in fat content.
Chocolate cake with milk chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate ganache
Makes 6 – 8 servings
For the cake:
- 1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup + 3 tbsp cake flour
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the milk chocolate buttercream:
- 4 oz milk chocolate
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 2 inch pieces, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch kosher salt
For the dark chocolate ganache:
- 4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
For the chocolate cake:
1. Butter and flour a 4 x 8 inch loaf pan, position the rack in the center of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a small, heatproof bowl, combine cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. Pour the boiling water over top. Using a whisk, mix together until smooth and completely combined. Let cool to room temperature. (If cooling in the refrigerator, whisk the chocolate every 10 minutes to prevent clumping).
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar until combined. On low speed, add the butter and continue to beat for 30 – 40 seconds, or until the butter is thoroughly combined and the mixture resembles dough.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together creme fraiche, eggs, and egg yolks until well mixed. On low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the butter-flour mixture, mixing until combined. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes, or until fluffy and light. Scrape down the bowl as needed to ensure it is well mixed.
5. On low speed, slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix for about 30 seconds to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on medium speed for an additional 30 seconds, or until the chocolate mixture is thoroughly incorporated.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before assembling the cake.
For the milk chocolate buttercream:
1. Place milk chocolate in a small heat proof bowl. In a small pan, scald cream over medium-high heat until small bubbles form along the edges of the pan, but the cream is not yet boiling.
2. Slowly pour the cream over the chocolate, and let sit for 1 minute to help melt the chocolate. Whisk the chocolate and cream together until completely combined and smooth. Let cool to room temperature. (If cooling in the refrigerator, whisk the chocolate every 10 minutes to prevent clumping).
3. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar to form a thick slurry. Place bowl over simmering water (without the bowl touching the water), and heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is hot to the touch (about 160 F).
4. Remove the egg whites from the heat, and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip on medium-high speed until it becomes a light, white meringue, is cool to the touch, and holds a stiff peak.
Turn down the mixer to low and add the butter, one piece at a time. The mixture will look chunky at first, but will become smooth and silky in about 2 – 3 minutes.
5. Switch to the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, and add the cooled chocolate mixture, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium speed until the mixture comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure it is evenly mixed.
Use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Stores well for up to 1 week refrigerated in an airtight container. If storing the buttercream and not using it immediately, bring to room temperature and beat in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment for a few minutes until smooth before using.
For the chocolate ganache:
1. Place the chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream on medium-high heat until small bubbles form along the sides of the pan and the cream is scalded.
2. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Slowly whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
Use immediately or store in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Stores well for up to 1 week refrigerated in an airtight container.
To assemble the cake:
1. Carefully remove the cooled cake from the pan. Using a long serrated knife, trim the top of the cake to make it level and flat. Split the cake in half, and carefully remove the top layer.
2. On the bottom half of the cake, use a spatula or an offset spatula to add all of the buttercream in an even layer. Gently settle the top half of the cake on top of the buttercream. Some of the buttercream will squish out, but use a spatula to smooth it so that it lies flush with the sides of the two cake layers, filling in any gaps.
(If the buttercream is too soft to work with, briefly cool the cream in the refrigerator before applying it to the cake – you may need to re-beat it in a stand mixer to smooth it out – or cool the cake in the refrigerator after adding the second layer.)
Place in the fridge until the buttercream is firm, about 1 hour.
3. When the buttercream is firm, carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. If needed, gently heat the chocolate ganache in the microwave or in a heat proof bowl placed over simmering water (without the bowl touching the water) until it is fluid and easily spreadable.
4. Pour or spread the ganache over the cake in stages using a spatula or offset spatula to apply it thinly along the top and sides of the cake, letting any excess drip off the bottom of the cake and through the wire rack. When working along the sides of the cake, be gentle while spreading the ganache as the heat of the chocolate may begin to partially melt the buttercream. You may not need to use all of the ganache.
5. Place cake, still on the wire rack, into the fridge to let the ganache set. When firm, use a metal spatula to cleanly separate the cake from the rack. Slide a long, thin spatula (such as an offset spatula) under the cake and transfer to a serving plate.
Serve at room temperature. The cake can be kept for up to 5 days in an airtight container (or, covered with plastic wrap) in the refrigerator.
Source: Adapted from Flour: spectacular recipes from Boston’s flour bakery+cafe by Joanne Chang.