Everyone needs a go-to chocolate cake recipe, one that is guaranteed to work every time and is perfect for any celebration, this one is mine. Three layers of rich, moist, intensely chocolaty cake smothered with smooth chocolate ganache. Obviously what constitutes the 'ultimate' chocolate cake is fairly subjective and not everyone will agree; but I think that this one is pretty perfect.
In my opinion the best chocolate layer cake should have a very moist crumb, a deep chocolate flavor and be smothered in rich chocolate ganache; this cake fulfills all those requirements magnificently. The strong chocolate flavor is achieved by using a combination of both cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate in the cake batter, the addition of coffee helps to further enhance the flavor but don't worry if you don't like coffee – you can't taste it, it just deepens the chocolate taste. If you are really worried about being able to taste it you can just use hot water instead.
Buttermilk and soft brown sugar ensure that the cake is perfectly soft and moist, it almost melts in your mouth! I iced the cake with a delicious chocolate ganache made using a mixture of milk and dark chocolates and double cream; using part milk chocolate rather than all dark makes sure that the ganache isn't overly rich (so you can manage a larger slice!).
I didn't decorate this cake as the recipe is about the cake itself rather than any decoration. However, it would both look and taste wonderful topped with an overflowing pile of fresh berries. Or if you want to go all-out chocolatey then a scattering of chocolate curls, truffles or chopped up chocolate bars (or all three!) would be perfect.
I originally made this chocolate layer cake for DIYs, check them out for some awesome craft and recipe ideas.
My Favourite Chocolate Cake
- 110 g (3.8oz) dark chocolate chopped
- 240 ml (1 cup) hot coffee
- 45 g (5 tbsp) cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
- 180 ml (¾ cup) buttermilk
- 280 g (2 + ¼ cups) plain flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ½ tsp salt
- 110 g (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
- 330 g (1 + ¾ cups) light brown soft sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 100 g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate chopped
- 300 g (10.5 oz) milk chocolate chopped
- 475 ml (2 cups) double (heavy) cream
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease three 18-20cm/7-8in round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
- Melt the dark chocolate, either in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in short bursts in the microwave, set aside to cool slightly.
- Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot coffee until smooth then whisk in the buttermilk, set aside. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until smooth and light. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, whisking really well after each addition, then whisk in the melted chocolate.
- Fold in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mix. Fold in another third of the flour, then the remaining buttermilk, then the rest of the flour.
- Divide the batter evenly between the tins (I use a scale to get them exactly even) and level the surface. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack, peel off the baking parchment and leave to cool completely.
- To make the ganache, place the dark and milk chocolates into a large bowl. Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until it is just boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to sit for a couple of minutes then stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
- Set aside until the ganache has cooled and become thick and spreadable, stirring it every now and again. This can take a while so don't leave it till the last minute! You can pop the bowl in the fridge to speed it up if you like but make sure that you keep a close eye on it and stir it regularly.
- To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread over one third of the ganache. Top with another cake layer and another third of ganache then repeat for the final layer and serve!