Why all the yelling? (Obviously all caps=yelling. Get with it.) Because this is some serious chocolate cake up in herrrrre. Yet as per usual, chocolate fails at food photography and this picture cannot even begin to express the hidden cocao-ness layered up in that shining brown round object. Miss Fats is talkin’ moist chocolate cake sandwiching both dark and white chocolate mousse, all contained in a rich chocolate ganache frosting. Rich bliss.
How did Miss Fats go crazy, you ask? After a brief birthday break, she returned to her idealistic work of making sure that no birth celebration goes cakeless. Her friend D was throwing a casual mid-week-come-celebrate-me-if-you-got-a-little-extra-time-on-your-hands-but-no-pressure birthday drinks sesh and Miss Fats offered (forced) her baking skills on the evening. She is a big believer in the birthday cake request: everyone gets to make all their guests eat whatever damn cake they like on their birthday (even if it’s some bullshit like a bundt cake or whatever). So as usual she asked the birthday boy his favorite flavors: Miss Fats doesn’t need you to dream up your crazy cake idea, but she appreciates a general direction. And D sent her a dangerous way; one simple request: chocolate.
Part of Miss Fats love of baking is thinking up the ideal sweet for the situation. So birthday cakes present a particularly fun challenge: how do you essentialize a person in a cake? Basically Miss Fats gets REAL excited about objectifying people. But hey, at least you become a crazy tasty pastry object that everyone chows down on all evening. Plus if you’re lucky, you get all lit on fire with candles. Now Miss Fats is half kidding on this one (she hopes all her friends don’t go psychoanalyzing their birthday cakes and wind up thinking Miss Fats wants them to confront their repressed mother issues).
However she does spend a good deal of time scouring the interwebs for flavor ideas and recipes to help build the ideal person-cake. In this case, D’s chocolate request felt incredibly appropriate. Simple, classic and could easily be jazzed up for celebration purposes (oh god, please don’t go over thinking the rest of this post, D). Chocolate is Miss Fats favorite kind of cake (false: chocolate is in fact her favorite object in existence in this world), so the real challenge was restraint in this case (which, clearly she didn’t do a GREAT job at). However she knew that D’s cake should be a rich balance that didn’t overdo it on the sweet. Additionally, D suffers from an unfortunate peanut allergy that kept Miss Fats far from her favorite peanut butter chocolate nonsense (more to come on that: just you wait ’til the next cake). So her theory was: if he asked for chocolate, he is damn well getting chocolate.
The first question was cake versus cupcake. She decided that since D said it had been an eternity since he’d had a proper birthday cake, that she should serve it up right with a classic layered round cake. Miss Fats stuck to her guns, and used her go-to chocolate cake recipe that has now appeared a bajillion times on this blog, but she’ll link you to it anyway. Now the next question was what should this cake experience be? She was real into the idea of those rich chocolate fancy restaurant cakes that beautifully layer mousse, ganache and cake like a thousand times and take ten million hours and an insane amount of precision to produce. However D is not that fussy. And neither is Miss Fats baking style. So she decided to bring all the flavors of fancy town to a rustic, classic layered cake that didn’t go seducing you with all its glitz and glam.
This cake ultimately ended up being composed of four layers of chocolate cake (two nine-inch cakes cut in half), with two layers of Food & Wine’s dark chocolate mousse and one layer of white. For the filling she made a full batch of the dark chocolate mousse which ended up being a little bit light for Miss Fats’ taste. (Though guests seemed more satisfied with the proportions that she did.) She halved the white recipe which was just fine considering the super sweetness of white chocolate.
Miss Fats recommends breaking this cake into two days. Day one: bake off the cakes and store them wrapped in plastic wrap. Make both mousses and allow them to properly firm up in the fridge over night. Day two: make the ganache. Then assemble the cake and mousse layers and allow to freeze while the ganache cools to the right spreadable temperature.
Now it has been pretty damn hot in Chicago, so Miss Fats had some serious melt situation on her hands. For those of you working in warmer, humid climates, she highly recommends assembling the cake layers and fillings and freezing the whole thing for at least 30 minutes before frosting. This will allow the mousse to firm up before you go encasing the beast in a solid wall of fortifying ganache goodness. Miss Fats is sharing her super simple ganache recipe that easily molds itself to a whipped, spread or poured version depending on when you decide to use it.
Easy Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
yields enough for one nine inch cake or twenty-four cupcake
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbs butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1. In a medium bowl (or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer if you’re planning to do a whipped frosting), dump the chocolate chips, butter and salt. Heat the heavy cream in a microwave safe dish for about 1-2 minutes, or until quite hot. Dump the heavy cream over the chocolate chip mixture and let stand for a couple of minutes. Whisk thoroughly until you get a smooth, glossy ganache.
2. For pouring: allow the ganache to cool for at least 10 minutes. Then go to town. For spreading: allow the ganache to cool to room temperature or until it reaches a buttery, spreadable consistency (about 2 hours). For whipped: allow the ganache to cool for about an hour. Then whip on high until soft peaks form.
This cake, despite its many steps and components was not actually that difficult. Spread over two days, you only have an hour or two of actual work. There’s just quite a bit of the waiting game with chocolate. However the end result is pretty damn worth it: you get to bite into an incredibly moist trio of chocolate forms that play between chocolate’s sweet and dark, bitter sides. This is a damn chocolate symphony. And like a festive concert, this cake needed a little pizzaz to remind itself that it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. So Miss Fats went to sprinkle town:
Rainbow sprinkles, polka dots and chocolate? Ingredients to throw any jaded grad student into childhood nostalgia (or at least Miss Fats hopes). To make these simple (yet effective) decorations, Miss Fats carefully placed round cookie cutters on top of the cake and spooned in the sprinkles. Clearly she wasn’t as careful as she should have been, because a few pesky dots found their way across the surface. Oh well.
In the end, Miss Fats likes to think of this particular birthday cake as a serious yet lighthearted chocolate monstrosity. It spans the excess of childhood, yet indulges in the rich decadence of fantasy adulthood. D was celebrating his twenty-eighth after all: a weird year somewhere between things, and this cake’s attitude is same. She hopes D enjoyed his birthday cakery, even if he ended up leaving it sitting on the streets of Chicago (don’t even get Miss Fats started on this story). She’s kidding: everyone gets to do what they want with their own damn birthday cake.