Birthday cake, round two: weekend edition. To drag my birthday week out and end it on a high note, my friends and I had a great meal at Oddfellows on Saturday night. I highly recommend that place for any gathering — the service was great and the food and drinks were delicious!
Hello, party people!
I used to go there just for casual lunches and snacks when I still lived in that neighborhood, and it doesn’t hurt that Oddfellows is next to my favorite bookstore in the city, either. Work up an appetite browsing and purchasing new lovely things to read, then pop over next door for a meal — that’s the ideal weekend activity, if you ask me.
But I’m still of the mindset that anything calling itself a birthday celebration is incomplete without cake, so I made something I’ve been meaning to make for a long time: an intensely chocolate cake.
There are fewer cakes more absurdly decadent than a chocolate cake when it’s done well, and that is exactly what this is. I do want to point out that the photos of the interior of the cake are a bit misleading because those were taken the day after it was cut and served, and I… well, I did not store it properly so it did dry out. But I promise you that on the actual day it was being eaten, it was very much not dry.
You only need a small slice and it will be enough because of how rich it all is: four layers of moist, chocolate sponge with a layer of silky ganache in between each one, all enrobed in a fudgey frosting and topped with a semi-sweet chocolate glaze. For this actual cake, I found the frosting recipe I actually used a bit too dry, so I’ve provided the instructions to use the ganache filling to also frost the cake instead. I then topped that with some chopped up Thin Mint cookies because I just happened to have some on hand, but those are completely optional. Everything else, though, is entirely necessary to make this the most insanely chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted.
As one of my friends said, “It’s like eating a truffle, but it’s a cake.” Exactly.
Now that I’m 30, I’ve been doing a lot of leafing through old photo albums and thinking about how differently things have turned out than I thought they would — for both good and ill. In particular…..
10 Things I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then
- You should open a savings account like yesterday.
- Ditch the credit card that offers no real rewards and get an airline one that will let you earn miles. Yes, you can actually pay for flights with miles, why did I not learn this sooner.
- When you promise to make plans, actually make them.
- Then when you make plans, actually keep them. This will make you as rare among young adults and earn you the respect of adult-adults.
- Get AAA, but still learn how to change your own tires in case they’re like “okay we’ll be there in 5 hours” but you’re hungry now.
- Realize that just because you miss someone doesn’t mean they belong in your life.
- Politics matter — local, state, and national. The people you put into office — either through direct action or inaction — will influence your life and the life of your friends and family far more than you may realize right now. That said, you don’t have to know and care about everything. But you should find out what you do care about and work to make your impact there.
- Learn to enjoy being alone. Humans are social creatures, but you should also like your own company.
- Casually explore a new interest/hobby and keep at it. Even if you only invest a tiny amount of effort in it, as long as you remain consistently invested in it, it’s incredible how much your skill and knowledge can and will grow over time.
- Expensive shampoo is absolutely worth it, I don’t care what the TRESemmé commercials try to tell me.
If you could give the decade-younger version of yourself some advice, what would it be?
Barely adapted from the Tartine cookbook’s devil’s food layer cake
Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch cake
For the cake:
- 1 3/4 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 4 1/2 tbs cornstarch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups (115 g) undutched, unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 3/4 cups (570 g) sugar
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups full-fat buttermilk
For the ganache filling and frosting:
- 32 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- 4 cups heavy cream
For the semisweet chocolate glaze:
- 6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 8-inch cake pan(s)
Make the cake:
Preheat 350°F. Grease, line, and flour two 8-inch cake pans (or do two batches). Tap out the excess flour.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment of your mixer on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
With the mixer on the same speed, add in the eggs one at a time. Mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides.
With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. You should add the flour in 3 batches and the buttermilk in 2 batches. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for a few seconds before stopping the mixer again.
Divide equally into two cake pans. Smooth down the tops with an offset spatula, and then bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cools completely in their pans on a wire rack before turning them out.
Make the ganache filling:
Once the cakes are cooled, you can make the filling. Chop up the bittersweet chocolate and put it into a large, heatproof bowl.
Heat the heavy cream until it is steaming and just about to boil. Pour it over the bittersweet chocolate and let it sit for about 5 minutes so that the chocolate can melt.
Stir until the chocolate and cream combine and are silky smooth and let this sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to cool down before spreading.
Assemble the cake, part one:
Level and halve the cakes. Put the base layer down and spread about 1/4″ of ganache on it. If your ganache is still pretty runny, I recommend putting an acetate collar around your cake to keep it all contained until it sets up, or to wait longer until your ganache is firmer before filling the cake. Don’t worry, it will firm up!
Top this with another cake layer and repeat with the filling and another cake layer until you’ve got your four layers stacked. With a bit of the ganache, do a crumb coat around the outside of the cake and pop this into the fridge for about an hour to set up. Leave the rest of your ganache on the counter while you wait for the cake.
Make the semisweet chocolate glaze:
Put the chocolate, corn syrup, and heavy cream in a microwavable bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments until the cream is steaming. Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted.
Stir in the vanilla and salt.
Let the mixture cool until it is thicker and syrup-like.
Assemble the cake, part two:
Slowly pour the glaze over the top of the cake, using an offset spatula to push it to and over the edge of the cake so that it runs down. Top with your topping of choice.