In her appropriately named book Sweet, Valerie Gordon offers us a bounty of delightful dessert recipes, ranging from quince and pear pies to tiramisu trifles. But it’s her chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream that screams for attention like a cavity. Valerie’s version starts with melted ribbons of dark chocolate and butter, to which she adds coffee to bring out the chocolate’s bittersweet flavor. Cocoa powder intensifies the cake’s foundation. Slathered with chocolate buttercream, this moist cake is a confection perfect for Valentine’s Day. Incase you can’t make it to Valerie Confections, we’ve got the recipe for you.
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 8 to 12
For the Cake
1 ¼ cups (6.75 ounces) 61% bittersweet chocolate chips or fèves or chopped 61% bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ cup (4 ounces) strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups (6.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) light brown sugar
2/3 cup (4.66 ounces) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1.3 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 cups (1 pound 2 ounces) Chocolate Buttercream (recipe follows), or more to taste
2 cups (10.8 ounces) Valrhona Crunchy Dark Chocolate Pearls
To Make the Cake
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat the bottoms and sides of three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray or butter and line with parchment circles.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Stir in the coffee, remove the top of the pan or the bowl, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Sift together the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and heavy cream until fully combined. Continue whisking as you stream in the chocolate mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients.
4. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans, spreading it evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the cake pans and bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, until the cakes appear firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans on cooling racks.
5. Run an offset spatula or a small knife around the sides of the cake pans, invert the cakes onto cooling racks, and peel off the parchment paper. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.
To Assemble the Cake
1. Transfer one cake layer to a serving plate, top side down. Using an offset spatula, spread about ¾ cup of the buttercream evenly over the top of the layer. Place the second layer top side down on top of the butter-cream and spread about ¾ cup of buttercream evenly over the top. Top with the third layer, top side down, and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream (or more to taste).
2. Take a handful of the Valrhona Pearls at a time and press onto the sides of the cake until the sides are covered. Cover any empty spots with more pearls. Chill the cake until the buttercream is firm and the pearls are set in place, at least 30 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
This cake can be stored, lightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes just under 5 cups
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (4.5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
¼ cup (2 ounces) corn syrup
2 cups (11 ounces) 61% bittersweet chocolate chips or fèves or chopped 61% bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add the vanilla paste and corn syrup and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
2. With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream the melted chocolate into the bowl, mixing until the color is uniform and there are no ribbons of chocolate. Add the salt and beat for 30 seconds. The buttercream is ready to use. It can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks; see instructions on page 102..
Tip: The Valrhona Pearls used as décor on this cake are made of tiny bits of toasted puffed cereal coated in bittersweet chocolate. Keep some on hand in your cupboard—they are a delicious snack and a great last-minute embellishment for myriad desserts, including puddings and ice creams.
Excerpted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2013. Photographs by Peden + Munk.