Uber Fluffy Chocolate Layer Cake

This chocolate cake is the intersection of everything I could possibly want from a chocolate cake. The sponge is somehow both fudgy and rich, but light and springy with this almost honeycomb-like crumb structure that could only be achieved by whipping the living hell out of egg whites, and adding in just the right amount of egg yolk, canola oil, and sugar to give it the lightness of air, but also the richness to make black cacao powder taste like chocolate mousse, but in cake form. Needless to say, I have been searching for this batter, and I have found it. This is my ultimate chocolate cake batter. Even better, arguably, than the chocolate cake that got Gordon Ramsay to lick the plate clean. That is, if you like chocolate. If not, then you will absolutely hate this cake. It is an inescapable chocolate experience. Chocolate purgatory if you will. But for me, being a shameless choco-holic, this cake is my everything. Two different kinds of whipped chocolate ganache, an Ovaltine soak, crunchy chocolate pearls, and tempered chocolate on top, there is chocolate in so many different forms and for all to enjoy!

With the cake, I have made more than my fair share of chocolate cake on this blog. What differentiates this one from all of the others, like I already touched upon, is that the cake has this spongy, porous crumb to it, but manages to still taste rich and decadent. The reason for that is my ratio of egg yolks. Normally, with super fluffy cakes, I omit or use less egg yolks compared to egg whites. However, in this case, I used more egg yolks, which when combined with the cocoa powder, creates this fudgy, rich texture. I also used a much higher ratio of cocoa powder to flour than I normally would. Typically, I would do 1 part cocoa to 4 parts flour. In this case, I did 1 part cocoa to 2 parts flour, so about twice the amount I would normally do. Typically, you rely in the higher flour ratio to contribute gluten to the cake, but in this case, I am relying on the usage of more eggs and the protein/binding power of those to bring the cake together in place of it. I also used black cacao to give the cake a more intense cocoa flavor, although regular cocoa powder works here too.

For the two ganaches, we have a layering ganache, and a decorative ganache. The layering ganache uses a secret ingredient in non-alcoholic egg nog. The reason for this is twofold – I had a carton of egg nog I needed to get rid of, and egg nog has eggs and cream in it, so when you combine those things with chocolate, you end up with a rich, creamy ganache that is soft in texture. This egg nog-based ganache is kind of the perfect glue hold the cake layers together. For the decorative ganache, I wanted to make a ganache that is more stable, but still spreadable. Instead of using egg nog in the decorative ganache, I went with milk, cream, and a larger quantity of butter, which gives the ganache a buttercream-like consistency. If you do not have egg nog, you can also just double up on the decorative ganache recipe, although you will be missing out on a silkier ganache filling instead! I also used this chocolate-tonka bean salt in my actual cake, but since I purchased that from Germany and I’m not trying to make people fly out to Germany to make this recipe, I simply subbed that out with regular salt in both ganache recipes.

To finish the cake, we have crunchy chocolate pearls, which we layered throughout the cake for a fun textural contrast to the two different ganaches and the spongy, light cake. There are also gold pearl dragee sprinkles, to add a bright pop of color to the top of the cake, and tempered dark chocolate shards, to add a little bit of height and drama. That and this would not feel like a proper chocolate dessert without some kind of tempered chocolate on top. This would be the perfect cake for a choco-holic, and if you are not, this is the perfect cake to eat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Either way, if you have any sort of affinity towards chocolate cake, I highly recommend you at least try the recipe for the batter on this one!

For the chocolate cake:
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup black cacao powder
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Whisk the egg whites with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with oil, vanilla, and salt first. Then sift into the egg yolks the cacao powder, flour, and baking powder. Fold into that the egg whites to form your batter. Spread the batter in a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. Cool down the cake before cutting out 3 6-inch rounds(use scraps as necessary for one to two of the rounds).

For the cake soak:
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp Ovaltine powder
a pinch of salt

Mix together and pour over the three cake rounds. Transfer the cake rounds to the freezer.

For the layering ganache:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup non-alcoholic egg nog

In a pot, melt down the chocolate with cream, butter, and salt. Transfer the fully melted mixture into a bowl, and whisk in the egg nog first. Continue to whisk until everything is fully combined, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For assembly, be sure to whip the ganache for another 5 minutes in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or until soft and spreadable.

For the decorative ganache:
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a pot, melt down the chocolate with milk, butter, and salt. Transfer the fully melted mixture into a bowl, and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Then beat the ganache mixture with a paddle attachment or a rubber spatula until soft, then whisk in the heavy cream until combined.

For the chocolate shards:
1/3 cup dark chocolate
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp freeze-dried cocoa butter

To temper the chocolate, melt down half of your chocolate with salt over a double boiler. Once the chocolate registers at 120 degrees, take the chocolate off heat and stir until it goes down to 100 degrees F. Mix the remaining chocolate and the cocoa butter with the melted down chocolate off heat, and once the chocolate reaches 90 degrees F, spread the chocolate on acetate or parchment in a thin layer, and refrigerate for 10 minutes before breaking into smaller shards.

To garnish:
Crunchy chocolate pearls
Edible gold pearl dragees

For initial assembly, start by taking your frozen cake layers and spreading a layer of layering ganache and a generous sprinkle of chocolate pearls on top of the layers(I used the scrap layer and one of my good layers for this). Then stack the cake layers(I put the scrap layer on the bottom), then spread the remaining layering ganache around the cake. Freeze the cake for 1 hour. Then spread about 3/4 of the decorating ganache around the cake in an even layer, using an offset spatula or bench scraper to create a smooth exterior. I would recommend refrigerating or freezing the cake at this point for at least another hour and transfer it to the desired serving surface. Then using a piping tip, pipe a border on top of the cake with the remaining decorative ganache. Sprinkle on more crunchy chocolate pearls and edible gold pearls, and then finish with the chocolate shards.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Virginia L. says:

    It’s so very generous of you to share the process and recipe with us. This decadent chocolate cake is absolutely divine! You are uber talented, Fred!

    Liked by 2 people

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