Chocolate Cake with Ganache and Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
Because I can’t – and don’t – do things half-way, I made two cakes for my husband’s birthday last week: a coconut-pineapple confectionery dream that was the most beautiful incarnation of that recipe yet (I credit the organic flaked coconut I toasted and scattered across its top), and a chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and frosted with salted caramel buttercream. What’s a birthday without lots of cake, right?! Plus, I wanted an excuse to make salted caramel buttercream because salted caramel buttercream. There’s not much else to say beyond that.
Thirteen of us devoured the coconut cake as the finale to a birthday lunch in Marin (not a scrap was left) and I tucked away a few slices of the chocolate cake to take with us on our wine country adventuring the next day. We ate it under the euculyptus trees in Jack London State Park after picnicking in the shade and tried to savor every bite (or in other words: “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”). I think JL would have approved. I thought of literary heroes long gone and felt the breeze warm on my face and remembered again how lucky we are to live in California. The trees sighed and the sun shone and there was no better place to be just then. Though I may have wished for a bit more cake. (Fortunately, there were leftovers.)
For the cake, from the Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters
4 ounces unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
Stick of butter (8 Tbsp), softened
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and dust the pan with a little cocoa powder. Shake out the excess.
Melt the chocolate. Set aside.
Whisk the dry ingredients together.
In a large bowl, cream butter. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix well to incorporate.
Stir in melted chocolate. Add half the dry ingredients and combine. Add the buttermilk and the rest of the dry ingredients and combine. Add the boiling water on low speed until just incorporated.
Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
For the ganache
(you’ll probably have leftovers)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream until just barely boiling and remove from heat and pour over the chips. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then whisk and stir to completely melt the chocolate into the cream. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool – the ganache will thicken as it cools. Tip: I stick the bowl in the fridge for a bit to speed up the process.
For the frosting
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (or more) powdered sugar
Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (make sure sugar is melted). Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and very slowly – mixture may froth up initially – add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Stir in the salt. Set aside until cool, about 25 minutes.
Then, cream the butter in a large bowl, beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add the caramel and powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.