Midnight Sin Chocolate Cake

The cake is quite easy to make. No fussing over the crucial creaming step that is so important to butter cakes (and so difficult in hot kitchens). Best of all: No cake flour required! I know this will please those of you who cannot get your hands on the stuff.

546g (2 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
4.5g (3/4 teaspoon) salt
69g (3/4 cup) dutch processed cocoa powder
5g (1 teaspoon) baking soda
237ml (1 cup) boiling water
237ml (1 cup) canola oil
10ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
2g (2 teaspoons) instant expresso powder or crystals
218 grams (1 3/4 cups, spooned and leveled) bleached all purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk

non-stick spray

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and set a baking stone on it. (The stone helps the cake bake evenly and prevents humped tops. If you don’t have a stone, the cake will survive don’t worry. Just be prepared to trim any uneven tops and make sure the cake gets an adequate amount of time in the oven to fully cook.)

You’ll need two 9″ or two 8″cake pans for this cake. Spray the pans with non-stick spray oil and then line them with parchment (sides and bottom–this is a sticky cake) then spray the parchment with even more non-stick spray.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, dutch processed cocoa, salt and baking soda. Stir with a whisk until combined and then slowly add the boiling water while whisking. This will bubble up a bit while the baking soda reacts with any remaining acidity in the dutch processed cocoa. Once throughly mixed, place the sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring back to a boil. Then remove from heat and allow to stand for a minimum of 10 minutes. This step makes the dutch processed cocoa even more alkaline, so our cake will be nearly black.

While waiting on the chocolate mixture, get your mise en place goin’ on! Measure out the flour, buttermilk (no weird substitutions, folks. We need the acidity), and separate the eggs. (If you’re odd like me, you’ll remove the stringy white chalaza from the yolks. Sometimes they show up as white scrambled egg bits maring my otherwise perfect black cake.) Add the oil and vanilla to the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment (this can also be done by hand with a wooden spoon).

When the chocolate mixture is ready, stir in the instant espresso powder. (This won’t make the cake taste like coffee, rather it enhances the chocolate flavor of the cake. Dutch processed cocoa has great color but it isn’t quite as flavorful as it’s light-colored acidic cousin, natural cocoa.) Add the chocolate mixture to your stand mixer and mix on low speed for about 20 seconds. Add the flour and continue to mix on low until combined. With a minimum amount of beating, add the egg yolks, eggs, vanilla and butter milk. The batter will be very thin.

Divide the batter between your two pans and place in the oven on your baking stone. Bake for 25-30 minutes (for 9″ rounds. Add 5-7 more minutes for 8″ rounds) until the center of the cake springs back when you touch it. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake to loosen and invert onto a flat dish lined with parchment.

Allow to cool completely then wrap the rounds individually in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill before assembling.
Chocolate Mousse Filling
You can use it as is, with the frangelico for a hazelnut chocolate mousse or substitute cold coffee or water for a simpler chocolate mousse. The chocolate can range anywhere from 35% cacao to 66%, depending on how dark you want the mousse. Allow the mousse to chill for a minimum of 4 hours before using.

Assemble your cake by placing one round onto your serving platter. Reserving 3/4 cup for garnish (keep chilled), spread the mousse to form an even layer on top of the cake. Top with the second cake round, touching up the sides with an offset spatula if necessary. Place the cake in the refrigerator to keep cool and prepare the ganache.

175g (1 cup) bitter-sweet chocolate chips, chopped (don’t judge me foodies, I’m low on valrhona)
1/3 cup heavy cream (40%+ milk fat is ideal)
1 tablespoon butter (salted or unsalted is fine)

Measure out the chocolate into a bowl. Bring the butter and heavy cream to a low boil over medium-high heat and pour over the chocolate. Give the chocolate a shake to submerge and allow to stand for 5 minutes without stirring. When the time has passed, then you may gently stir the ganache until smooth.

Pour the ganache onto the cake, smoothing over the top with an offset spatula. Return the cake to the fridge and allow the ganache to cool.

When cool, you can put the finishing touches on the cake. Take the reserved chocolate mouse and fill a piping bag, fitted with a large star tip. Drop 6-8 splotches of mousse around the perimeter of the cake and top with chocolate covered coffee beans or malted milk balls.

Keep the cake chilled until ready to serve. Then allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Store the cake in the refrigerator, covered to keep it from absorbing odors, for up to 5 days.


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