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Amazingly Rich Chocolate Cake with Salted Chocolate German Buttercream

Updated: May 28, 2020

This is for all of you who are chocolate lovers! I know I certainly am one. Whenever I want dessert, I always gravitate towards chocolate.



In particular, I absolutely LOVE a rich, decadent chocolate cake. It is just so satisfying.

This cake in particular is really rich, and it is my favourite chocolate cake to date. It consists of moist, rich dark chocolate cake slathered with salted chocolate German buttercream (aka the best buttercream you will ever eat).



I find that chocolate is perfect for any occasion. Celebrating a birthday? Make this chocolate cake. An anniversary for two? Halve the recipe and make a smaller but still decadent chocolate cake. Or how about Christmas, my favourite time of the year, which is in a week's time (I thus decorated the cake with sugared cranberries and rosemary to make it look more festive)? If you make this cake (and I urge you to do so), everyone will thank you because it will be incredibly delicious.



Furthermore, this chocolate cake is elevated by using salted chocolate German buttercream instead of just regular chocolate buttercream. I think this buttercream deserves special mention because it is so. good. Seriously. Imagine making a delectable sea salt chocolate pastry cream and then whipping it with more butter, thereby yielding the silkiest, creamiest, and most flavourful buttercream. Honestly, I had to restrain myself from eating the buttercream by the spoonful! Although it requires a bit more effort to make than traditional chocolate buttercream, I assure you that it will be well worth the effort, especially when you see and taste the final cake!



A few notes when making this cake:

  • Do plan ahead so that you won't stress yourself out! The good thing about this recipe is that you can make certain parts of it ahead of time and assemble the cake on the day you are planning to serve it. For me, I made the chocolate pastry cream (to be made into German buttercream later) the day before as pastry cream needs time to chill in the fridge. Then, on the day itself, I made the cake layers, the buttercream, and assembled the cake. You could even make the cake layers ahead of time, double wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and aluminium foil, and place them in the freezer (for up to 2 months!), and then make the buttercream on the day you want to assemble the cake.

  • When assembling a layer cake, I like to work with cake layers that are chilled as the cake layers would be sturdier. You could wrap the cake layers well and place them in the freezer (see above point), and then take them out for assembly the following day.



I hope you enjoy making and eating this cake as much as I did! It's a winner for sure.

 

Amazingly Rich Chocolate Cake with Salted Chocolate German Buttercream

Makes one 8-inch three-layer cake


Ingredients

For the salted chocolate German buttercream:

  • 480 ml (490 g or 2 cups) whole milk

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 large egg yolks 

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar

  • 32 g cornstarch

  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt

  • 28 g (2 Tbs) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 200 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), chopped finely

  • 430 g (approx. 2 cups minus 1 Tbs) unsalted butter, room temperature


For the chocolate cake:

  • 256 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 100 g (1 cup) dutch-processed cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 300 g (1 1/2 cups) brown sugar

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

  • 120 ml (113 g or 1/2 cup) vegetable oil or any other neutral-tasting oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 250 g buttermilk or full-fall Greek yogurt

  • 250 ml brewed coffee (1 cup water + 1 Tbs coffee granules), hot


Method

Part 1: Make the salted chocolate pastry cream

  1. In a large sauce pan, bring the milk and vanilla bean paste or extract to a simmer over medium-low heat. Do not boil the milk.

  2. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together egg, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt until smooth and there are no lumps.

  3. Using a ladle, scoop out a little bit of the hot milk and whisk it into the egg mixture. Then, pour the rest of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time. What you are doing here is that you are tempering the egg mixture. This prevents the eggs from scrambling as you are introducing hot liquid slowly.

  4. Transfer the egg/milk mixture back into the sauce pan. Continue to whisk over the medium heat until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble slowly. Cook it for another one minute to cook off the starchiness in the cornstarch.

  5. Remove from the heat and stir in 28 g of room temperature unsalted butter until incorporated. Then stir in the dark chocolate. The residual heat will melt the dark chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is incorporated into the pastry cream.

  6. Press the pastry cream through a sieve to get rid of any lumps and to ensure that your pastry cream is smooth. At this point, let the pastry cream cool completely at room temperature. Then, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and put it in the fridge to let it chill for a few hours or overnight.


Part 2: Make the chocolate cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and flour the sides of the pans.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Then, add sugars and salt. Stir to combine.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk or yogurt. Whisk together until combined. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir to incorporate.

  4. Slowly stream in the hot coffee and whisk until everything is just combined and lump-free. Do not over-mix.

  5. Divide the chocolate cake batter equally among the cake pans. Bake the cake layers one at a time for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

  6. Once the cake layers are baked, remove them from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then, unmold the cake layers and let them cool completely on a wire rack. To unmold the cake from the pan, using a cake spatula or small knife, gently run it along the edges to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then, swiftly, in one motion, flip the pan over on to a wire rack. The cake should pop right out if you have greased and floured it well.


Part 3: Make the buttercream and assemble the cake!

  1. Make the German buttercream once the pastry cream has cooled completely. Place 430 g of room temperature unsalted butter into a large bowl. Using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, whip the butter on high speed until it is pale and fluffy, for about 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Add the chocolate pastry cream unto the butter a spoonful at a time as the mixer continues whipping. Continue until all the pastry cream has been incorporated. You now have a rich, silky, decadent salted chocolate German buttercream. Try not to eat it all. You need to assemble the cake.

  3. To assemble the cake: Place a cake board or serving plate on a cake turntable. Place the first cake layer onto the cake board and put a dollop of buttercream onto the cake layer. Using an offset spatula, smooth out the buttercream until it is level. Then, put the next cake layer. Repeat until all three layers are stacked.

  4. Apply a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake and place the whole cake in the freezer for 30 minutes. It doesn't have to be a perfectly smooth layer of buttercream. This is the crumb coat, which would ensure a smooth finish on the buttercream coat later on.

  5. After 30 minutes, remove the cake from the freezer and decorate the cake using the remaining buttercream. You can pipe patterns using the buttercream, or do a simple rustic design like mine. You can even decorate it fruits (I used cranberries and rosemary for a Christmas vibe!) or leave it as it is. The important thing is, once you have finished assembling the cake, devour it and enjoy it with family and friends.


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