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Mocha Chocolate Cake

This cake is sheer chocolate perfection. The cake itself is deeply, darkly chocolate and incredibly moist. The mocha frosting is light, yet rich coffee-tinged chocolate decadence, topped by perfectly luscious, seductive drips of ganache. This was a birthday cake for my aunt; I am so happy to be the family baker. It gives me an excuse to test cake recipes all the time!

I wanted an elegant, classy cake for my aunt. This cake is sparsely decorated with smooth edges and artfully placed chocolate drips, which achieves a beautiful, austere beauty, I think. The flavor is not complex, but it is perfection. Be sure to purchase chocolate that you would eat in hand, and really good Dutch-processed cocoa powder. I bought Guittard this time but Valrhona is a very famous and excellent brand as well. The better the chocolate, the better the cake!

Be patient with the Swiss meringue; do NOT add the butter until the meringue is thoroughly cooled or else you will have a soupy mess. I speak from sad experience. Also, make sure the chocolate is cooled enough to not melt the frosting when you pour it in. Again, experience. Finally, do be sure to allow the ganache to thicken. If you pour it when it is too thin, you will not achieve lovely drips but… a soupy mess. (Experience again!)

If you take your time, you will create a real showstopper of a cake that is as delicious as it looks. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee; hot
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Mocha Buttercream:
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks butter room temperature, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
3 ounces dark chocolate chopped, melted, and cooled
1 cup powdered sugar 
3 ounces dark chocolate
3 ounces heavy whipping cream

Chocolate Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter three 6 inch round baking pans and dust with cocoa powder. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds.

Place all dry ingredients into and sieve and sift over a bowl. This will catch any lumps from the cocoa powder. Whisk to finish combining.

In a medium bowl, beat together all the wet ingredients except the hot coffee. (oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla bean paste). Once combined, pour in the hot coffee slowly while whisking to not scramble the eggs. 

Add wet ingredients into the dry and beat together until fully combined, about 3 minutes. This batter will be very thin. 

Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the edges of the pan, abut 30 to 35 minutes. 

Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert on wire racks. Cool completely. 
Mocha Buttercream:
Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk until frothy.

Place bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk with a handheld electric mixer constantly until the mixture is no longer grainy to the touch (about 3 minutes).

Return your bowl to your stand mixer. Whisk on medium high until the meringue is stiff and cooled, about 10 minutes. The bowl must be cool to the touch. 

Once cooled, slowly add the cubed butter and mix until smooth. Add vanilla, cooled melted chocolate, powdered sugar and espresso powder. Whip until smooth.

Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 2/3 cup of frosting and spread evenly. Repeat with remaining layers. Trim the cake if necessary, then apply a thin coat of frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes.
Frost the cake thickly, smoothing the sides and edges with an offset spatula and bench scraper as needed to achieve a smooth effect. Return the cake to the fridge and chill overnight before adding the ganache.

Finely chop the chocolate and place into a bowl. Bring cream just barely to a simmer either in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour over the chocolate and let stand 2 minutes. Stir with a spatula until well-combined and lusciously smooth. Allow to chill and thicken slightly before applying to the cake. 

Using a small spoon, place dollops of ganache around the top edges of the chilled cake, allowing some to drip down. Fill in the top of the cake with more ganache and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Allow to set for an hour then slice and serve! Enjoy!


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