Monday, March 22, 2010

3 Tiered Triple Chocolate Cake

First, I'd like to apologize in advance for posting this...I may be tormenting readers who gave up sweets for Lent.  I tried to do that...but confess by the 4th week of Lent, I succumbed to temptation.  I did stop snacking after the kids went to bed...but I needed chocolate to get through a few emotional roller-coasters.  Chocolate fixes everything, right? ;-)

Anyway...Joshua had to make a cake to auction off at his Cub Scout meeting 2 weeks ago.  It was supposed to be made with minimal help from an adult.  But I knew David wouldn't be able to help at all...he's almost never home from work before 7:00 PM.  And you don't let a ten-and-a-half year old boy whose ADHD medicine wears off around 5:00 PM loose in the kitchen.  Seriously...I couldn't bring myself to do it.

But..Joshua and I sat down and designed the cake, and all the ideas were his.  He baked all the cake layers, mixed all the buttercream frosting, and made 1 batch of the chocolate ganache.  Yes, I helped, but he measured and poured, and we had everything nearly done after 3 nights in the kitchen.  Thursday I assembled the cake, and Joshua helped finishing decorating it once he came home from school. 

David was happy there was leftover frosting and ganache to eat, straight out of the fridge.  I told y'all he's the biggest kid around here. ;-)

So, if you want a chocolate dessert that will impress...I dare you to take this on!  Please keep in mind I am a total amature when it comes to cake decorating, and I relied on the advice of 2 girlfriends who bake and decorate cakes on a regular basis.  I give them all the credit!  I don't have step-by-step pictures...I was too stressed...but you should be able to follow along.

3 Tiered Triple Chocolate Cake

FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE: (makes 2, 8 or 9 inch layers)

1 box chocolate devil's food cake mix (without pudding)
3 tablespoons unsweeted cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease your cake pans with shortening and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the cake mix, cocoa, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes...the batter will be somewhat thick.  Divide evenly into the prepared pans at bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  (Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then a layer of foil if you're freezing them in advance). 

FOR THE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM: (makes enough to frost 2 cake layers)

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (buy the good stuff!)
4 cups (appoximately 1 pound) powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk

In a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and butter.  Add the cocoa powder, then the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scrapping down the bowl as necessary.  When all the sugar has been incorporated, add the milk, and beat well for 2 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy.  (If making in advance, store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks). 

FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE: (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup heavy whipping cream
9 ounces (just over a cup) bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream just until a few small bubbles form around the edges, do not let it boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips.  Let sit for just a minute, and then stir gently until all the chocolate is melted.  (Store in a covered container in the fridge if making in advance.  Either reheat in a double boiler or in the microwave on LOW power until it is the spreading consistency you want). 

* You will also need cake pans in 9, 8, and 6-inch diameters, cardboard cake rounds, 1/4 inch wooden dowels, 1 bamboo skewer, chocolate sprinkles (optional), a large, star-shapped frosting tip and pipping bag (but a zip-top bag will also work), an offset spatula, and a sturdy, 1/2 inch plywood base covered with foil to transport your cake.  I also used one white cake dollie on top of the foil base.  All of these supplies can be found at Walmart or Michael's except the plywood base, which my hubby kindly make for me. 

First, make your cake layers.  Bake 2 9-inch layers, 2 8-inch layers, and 2 6-inch layers, using 1 recipe of chocolate cake for 2 layers.  Because the 6-inch pans are small, use only 1/2 of the batter, and bake the rest seperately.  I made 7 cupcakes, which my kiddos didn't mind eating at all. ;-)  To save yourself and your sanity, you can make the layers in advance and thaw at room temperature once you're ready to frost. 

Next, make 3 batches of the chocolate buttercream frosting.  I used 4 tablespoons of milk because I like it to be more spreadable (remember, I'm a novice here!).  The frosting can also be made in advance and set out about an hour before using (you'll want to rewhip it too). 

Finally, make 3 batches of the chocolate ganache.  Store in the fridge until you're ready to use it. 

Now, we're finally ready to assemble.  You'll want to allow plenty of time to assemble.  I like to take things slow if I'm doing something the first time.  I started about 10:00 AM, and finished around 3:00 PM. 

Level the tops of all your cake layers.  It is VERY important that they are COMPLETELY flat.  Save the scraps for your kids or your pets.  Slice each one of your cake layers in half.  Here's a tutorial if youy need help (I used toothpicks inserted halfway up the sides of the cake also):

 Splitting Cake Layers

Place the foil covered, plywood base on your work surface.  Place a small dollop of the frosting and spread it out with the offset spatula.  Place your cake dollie on top of the frosting and make sure it's perfectly flat...smooth out any ridges of frosting with your fingers if necessary. 

Now place another small dollop of frosting on top of the dollie, and spread it out. 

Place one, 9-inch cake layer down, and spread about 4 tablespoons of the chocolate ganache over the top.  Place the cake layer in the fridge for about 20 minutes to set the ganache.  Take it back out, top with another 9-inch layer, and cover with another portion of the ganache. 

Repeat for the other 2, 9-inch layers.  (Remember we had 2 9-inch cakes, which we cut in half, so now we have 4, 9-inch layers)

At this point, you will have 4, 9-inch layers, with chocolate ganache in between each layer. 

Chill for 20 minutes, and then cover the whole thing with a crumb coat of the buttercream frosting.  A crumb coat is a very thin layer that just seals the cake and any loose crumbs.  (Keep the buttercream covered in between uses so it doesn't dry out).

Place back in the fridge for 20 minutes to set it, and then cover the cake with a thicker layer of buttercream frosting, and press the chocolate sprinkles into the sides.  If you do this over a rimmed sheet pan, it will catch any sprinkles that fall...which you can gather up and reuse.  I did this to up the chocolate factor and cover any imperfections in the frosting.  Chill the cake one more time to set the frosting.  

At this point, you need to stabilize the cake with wooden dowels.  Here's the article my friend sent me...and it really helped.  Follow the directions in the article to stabilize the first tier. 

After you stack the first tier, prepare the 8-inch cakes the same way you did the 9-inch layers.  Dowel the 8-inch cake and top with a cardboard round.  Don't forget to use a dollop of frosting on the cardboard round to secure the first 8-inch cake layer, and chill the cake for 20-30 minutes in between applications of the ganache.  Then prepare the 6-inch cake in the same manner as the 9 and 8-inch cakes. 

I used a long bamboo skewer to stablize the whole cake but a sharpened wooden dowel (per the article directions), will work just fine.

Now for the last part!  Place the remaining chocolate buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Here's a previous post about preparing a frosting bag if you need more detailed instructions. 

Use the buttercream to pipe a row of stars along the bottom of the cake and in between each tier.  You'll see in the pictures I forgot to put stars on the bottom tier...oh well!  If you fancy anything else, go for it...stars are about the only thing I can do.  By now, Joshua was home, and I helped him pipe the stars on the top tier. 

Joshua had decided to make a candy topper for the cake in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, which is the emblem of the Boy Scouts.  We used a cookie cutter as our mold and white chocolate bar to make the fleur-de-lis. 

I did grease and flour the cookie cutter to make sure it would release easily.  And I used a little bit of buttercream to secure it to the top of the cake.  The "Webelos Rule" wording was Joshua's second choice after we told him his first choice of "Boys Rule" would not be appropriate. ;-) 


This baby wasn't terribly heavy, but I wouldn't allow anyone else to transport to the Cub Scout meeting except myself.  I was confident it wouldn't collapse (that's why we used that dollop of frosting on the cardboard rounds to make sure the cake layers wouldn't shift, and the dowels).  Joshua won the trophy for "Most Chocolatey," which he was going for, and our cake went for the highest bid. 

I realize $15 isn't a whole lot, but if your cake didn't get any bids, you had to take it home...and I sure didn't want to take ours home.  I didn't want to see chocolate cake for at least a month after making this monster!  I posted pics of the other cakes on my other blog, be sure to check 'em out!

Here's our proud Cub Scout with the cake and his trophy. :-)

I was happy for Joshua...and I got a foot massage after we got home and put the kids to bed.  Ahhh! 

If you love someone who's a chocoholic, make them this cake...even one tier will do.  They will be singing your praises forever more!

God bless your table tonight!

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