Chocolate Layer Cake
Chocolate Layer Cake

I was asked once what my last meal would be. I simply said, “Chocolate cake. The whole cake.” I meant every word of it.

I love the delicate, dark crumb and robust flavor of a chocolate cake. Everything about it feels luxurious and decadent to me. Serve it alongside a steaming cup of coffee or tall glass of milk, and I’m in heaven.

With this recipe, I wanted to make a celebration cake. Something I would give to a friend, make for a birthday party, or place at a holiday table. Layer cakes just scream “special” to me in a way that a sheet cake doesn’t. (Not that I wouldn’t take down a sheet cake bite by bite in my final moments.)

I used Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream to frost this tender chocolate cake. I like Swiss meringue buttercream because it’s stable at room temperature, pipe-able, not as sweet as American buttercream, and the texture is nothing short of silk. It’s my favorite!

HOW TO MAKE A MOIST CAKE

Cakes can be dry for many reasons, but most frequently it’s because they’re over-baked, baked at too high a temperature, or they don’t have enough moisture to begin with. No need to worry about that with this cake.

I use a combination of oil, buttermilk, and coffee:

  • The oil adds moisture and helps provide structure when mixed with flour.
  • The buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to make the cake tender and give it lift.
  • Finally, the coffee adds moisture and additional acid to help with that rise.

All of these ingredients contribute to creating a tender cake with a definitive chocolate flavor.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T LIKE COFFEE?

The true purpose of the coffee in this cake is to deepen the flavor of the chocolate. You can’t really taste the coffee. If you’re worried about caffeine, feel free to use decaffeinated coffee. If you still aren’t sold, feel free to use hot water instead.

TOOLS NEEDED TO MAKE A LAYER CAKE

I used two 9-inch rounds to make this cake, but you could also bake it in a 9×13-inch pan. It obviously wouldn’t be a layer cake then, but the batter will fit and make a lovely cake.

You don’t need a stand or hand mixer to make this cake. Just a couple of bowls, a sturdy whisk, and a spatula.

I’m also a big fan of lining cake pans with parchment paper. It helps the cakes release from the pan.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream is used to pipe designs on this chocolate layer cake.

HOW TO FROST THIS CAKE

A few tricks can help make frosting a layer cake easier. To frost the cake, it’s helpful to have a rotating cake stand and an offset spatula. Both tools make smoothing the top and sides of the cake so much easier. If you don’t have a rotating cake stand, a lazy Susan could work as a stand-in, or you can just make do without one.

You can also make frosting this cake as decorative or as simple as you want.

For an easy frosted cake: Spread on a thick layer of frosting, then use the back of a spoon to make a large swooping texture on the tops and sides of the cake. It gives this cake a rustic, but still festive and beautiful appearance. Plus, it takes a lot less time than piping the frosting.

For a fancy frosted cake, as I did for the photos, follow these steps:

  • Make sure your cakes are completely cool before frosting them. Cool cakes are less likely to tear, and the frosting won’t melt.
  • Put frosting between the two layers, then apply a crumb coat, which is just a thin layer of frosting across the top and around the outside of the cake. The purpose of the crumb coat is to catch the cake crumbs so your final frosting coat is smooth and crumb-free.
  • Once the crumb coat is on, chill the cake in the refrigerator for an hour. This will keep the crumbs out of your second coat.
  • Apply your final coat by piling the frosting on top of the cake and pushing it out and over the edges of the cake. Then, slowly smooth the frosting down the sides of the cake.
  • Smooth the top by drawing your offset spatula back up and over the top of the cake.
  • To make the swirl on the top of the cake, hold the tip of the offset spatula at a slight angle and rotate the cake stand. (You can only do this with a rotating cake stand.)
  • To pipe the textured dots on top, I used a Wilton Large 2D Drop Flower Piping Tip.
  • To add the final special touch, I topped a few of the dots with edible silver pearls, then dusted the edges with powdered sugar.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS FOR CHOCOLATE CAKE

You can make this whole cake, frosted and decorated, up to two days before you want to eat it, and keep it in the fridge. Just set it out two hours before serving to bring it to room temperature.

You can also make the cake rounds ahead of time. Wrap them well in plastic wrap, and store them in the fridge for up to two days, then frost your cake the day you plan to serve it.

STORING AND FREEZING CHOCOLATE CAKE

Once baked and frosted, keep this cake in the refrigerator for up to five days for leftovers. The leftovers will dry out some, but it’s still chocolate cake just waiting for you to eat it. That’s never a bad thing.

  • Like all cakes, this one is best served at room temperature, so give it two hours to come up to room temperature before serving.
  • Once sliced, just place plastic wrap or parchment against the cut side of the cake to keep it from drying out.

To freeze the unfrosted cake: Wrap each cooled cake round individually in plastic wrap, then foil and freeze the cakes for up to three months.

To freeze a frosted cake: Yes, you can freeze cakes frosted with Swiss meringue buttercream or ganache. I’ve done it with both. To freeze a frosted cake, let the cake rounds cool. Place one round on a cake board; top with the swiss meringue buttercream; spread it out, and place the next round on top. Frost the whole cake with a thin layer of frosting. This is your crumb coat.

Put the frosted cake in the refrigerator to harden, then wrap the whole cake in multiple layers of plastic wrap and foil. Freeze it for up to one month frosted. When you need the cake, simply remove it from the freezer, unwrap it, and let it thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Then decorate it as you wish.

NEED MORE CAKE IN YOUR LIFE? TRY THESE!

  • Chocolate Bourbon Cake
  • Homemade Vanilla Cake
  • Angel Food Cake
  • German Chocolate Snack Cake
  • Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
  • Chocolate Guinness Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (260 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (270g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups (75g) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup organic canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup piping hot coffee or hot water

For the frosting:

  • Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Special equipment:

  • Two 9-inch round cake pans
  • Parchment paper
  • Fine mesh sieve for dusting the frosting with powdered sugar

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