The Universe's Best Chocolate Cake

The universe here means all the potential people on the planet who use the Internet and peruse the worlds most award-winning website, Epicurious. According to its amazing editor-in-chief, Tanya Wenman Steel, millions of dedicated home cooks look for recipes each and every day.  That really cuts down on the page turns that the Joy of Cooking (or one of my books!) might once have gotten, but the future has made itself clear.  More than 20 years ago, I predicted that someday there would be only one cookbook that encompassed all the world's great (and not so great) recipes.  I realized the speed at which we were sharing information (even back then) and envisioned such a virtual experience. Now the number of recipe sites are increasing exponentially and you, the cook, have become the ruler of the kitchen kingdom.  According to Ms. Steel, the five most searched ingredient terms during the reign of 2010, were chicken, salmon, chili, pork tenderloin, and shrimp.  But hands down, the star of the hit parade was... Double-Chocolate Layer Cake.  There are 1400 thoughtful and interesting reviews to prove it.  The recipe for this very credible cake comes from a 1999 issue of Gourmet magazine.  If millions of people get their recipes from Epicurious, and this is the most reviewed recipe on the site, then some fancy algorithm can predict how many slices (12 per cake) have been eaten since then.  Mind-boggling.  I know I will be trying it soon.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

For cake layers

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting

  • 1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Special equipment

  • two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans
Preparation Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting: Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.