Today's Famous Fridays post is brought to you by chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!! Guys, this is one of the absolute best and most chocolate-y cakes I have ever made or eaten in my life and it was a huge (and I mean literally--there are over 4 layers here!!) hit at my daughter's birthday celebration earlier this week. It comes to you courtesy of the The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook by John Barricelli, one of my favorite baking cookbooks and bakeries (we've actually been there) and I am so excited to be sharing this amazing cake and more from SoNo with you on the start of this very sultry summer weekend!!
The SoNo Bakery is located in Norwalk, CT and last year my daughter and I went for a little lunch/dessert jaunt there (notice I didn't say little before the dessert part!) and that's because there were so many delicious treats to choose from that we couldn't just pick one! I've already shared John's Jammy Filled Corn Muffins with you earlier this year (they're one of my true favorites) and I've been waiting and waiting for a special occasion to make this cake that's looks so gorgeous in the book and is hailed as a bakery special. Thank god, someone finally had a birthday!!! Now before I go on and tell you how to make this scrumptious and surprisingly easy-to-make concoction, let me tell you a little about John, the bakery and the cookbook. First off, John was a regular on The Martha Stewart Show (she's the writer of the Forward in the book) and the host of Everyday Baking. The book is filled with both homey recipes for muffins, scones, pies and cookies and more complicated things like Raspberry Streusel Pinwheels (I must try these when I'm feeling ambitious one day), Passionfruit Mousse, Chocolate Bavarian Torte, and a whole slew of breads like Herb Focaccia, Almond Croissants, Cornmeal Bread and more. We brought home an amazing cranberry pecan bread from the bakery and it's definitely on my bucket list to try as well--I just need more free time!! As you can tell, I'm in love with all things SoNo!!
Now, back to this show-stopping cake! You start by making two moist, chocolate sponge layers that are enhanced with both buttermilk and coffee--even if you weirdly don't like coffee like me (I know) don't leave it out--you don't taste it, but it does something to enhance the chocolate intensity of the cake, which is what this whole experience is all about!!
Eventually you cut the two layers in half (very carefully) so that you wind up with 4 thin layers.
Now it's on to the chocolate ganache--aka the best thing in the world!! And guys, use the highest quality chocolate here you can find, your tastebuds will thank you. I used Ghirardelli for the semisweet and Lindt for the bittersweet and the taste was just mind-boggling!! Worth every extra step on the treadmill!!
Once you make the ganache and let it sit to thicken--and here's the thing--what makes this cake not so overwhelming, is that you're forced to do it in stages over the course of two days, which means that none of the steps feels too arduous, but I digress, sorry, that's just my little helpful tip...once the ganache is ready, you layer some of it between the cake layers and build...
Then you heat the rest until it achieves a liquid state and pour it over the top of the entire cake, letting it drip down the sides, till the cake is literally bathed in chocolate!!
It's moist, rich, not too sweet and intensely chocolate! Great at room temperature but even better (I think) when eaten cold, standing in front of the fridge late at night--not that I would know from personal experience, ahem, but I hear it's almost fudge-like that way!!
So if you have a chance, hit the SoNo Bakery, get the cookbook and enjoy something yummy in the comfort of your nice air-conditioned home while those incredible Olympic athletes give it their blood, sweat and tears! Have a great weekend everybody!!
The SoNo Baking Company's Chocolate Ganache Cake-Famous Fridays
Makes one 9-inch four-layer cake that serves at least a dozen people
Prep Time for Cake: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 35-40 minutes; Prep Time for Ganache: 15 minutes, plus at least 6 hours of standing time
For the Cake
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting the pans
- 2 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, well shaken
- 1 1/3 cups brewed coffee
For the Ganache
- 1 pound good quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped ( I used Ghirardelli)
- 1 pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Lindt bittersweet)
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF and butter 2 round 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and dust the pan with a bit of cocoa powder, shaking out the excess. Set aside.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and soda and salt into the large bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed to combine or use a whisk to combine everything.
3. Add in the eggs, vanilla, melted butter, buttermilk and coffee and mix on low speed until fully combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake the cakes in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. You cannot judge by color as these will be very dark. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Then invert, peel off the parchment and invert again to cool right side up. Let cakes cool completely before filling and frosting. Cakes can be made 1 day ahead and wrapped well at room temperature.
4. To make the Ganache: Place all the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. In a separate medium saucepan, mix together the cream, honey and salt. Scrape the seeds in from the vanilla bean and add the pod in as well. Stir together and bring the mixture to a boil. Pour over the chopped chocolate in the bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Then, use a whisk to mix it together until completely smooth. Strain the mixture into another large bowl and discard the vanilla bean. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours or better yet, overnight, until the ganache stiffens and thickens.
5. When ready to assemble the cakes, level the tops if necessary and then use a large serrated knife to cut each cake in half horizontally, so that there are four layers. If you have a large round of cardboard, place it on a large plate or platter and put one of the layers on top of it (this will help you to transfer it later when the cake plate gets messy). Otherwise place 4 strips of waxed paper forming a square at the edges of the cake plate, so you can pull them out with the excess frosting on it later and the plate won't get so messy. Once the layer is on the plate, spread about 1 1 1/2 cups of the ganache evenly across the top. Add the next layer and repeat with the ganache and the next layer as well. Place the final cake layer on top and now spread the top and sides with a very thin layer of the ganache all over (this is the crumb coat) and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This will help the final frosting layer to go on more evenly.
6. Place the remaining ganache in the bowl of a double boiler. Right before you are ready to take the cake out of the fridge, place the bowl over a pot half filled with simmering water. Let the ganache heat just until it becomes liquified. Now place the cake on a wire rack set over a rimmed sheet pan and pour the ganache over the center of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Use a large offset spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the sides and top so that the cake is completely covered. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes to let the ganache set. You can serve the cake at room temperature as we did originally, but I think it's even better and more fudgy served cold, as we learned with the leftovers. Either way you can't go wrong!
Note: Recipe adapted from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook by John Barricelli.