If all you ate on Valentine's Day was this cake, you'd think it was a perfect day! This is the best looking cake I've ever made, one of the best I've tasted, and best of all, since I actually made it for my dad's birthday, he loved it too. This cake takes some time to make, the steps are easy, but you need to cool the cake completely before icing. Remember how I said you'd be happy if this is all you ate--just remember that, it's truly worth every minute it takes! (Also, I have very shaky hands, if I can make this cake look decent, so can you!)
This chocolate shadow cake pairs a wonderfully moist, chocolate layer cake with seven-minute icing, which is very much like the fluffiest marshmallow you've ever tasted. When you think that's enough, you top the icing with a chocolate glaze that makes the cake shiny, and tastes delightful.
I hope this gorgeous chocolate cake finds its way onto your dessert menu, whether it be on Valentine's Day, or any other special occasion. Enjoy!
Chocolate Shadow Cake recipe from Cook's Country | October/November 2008; Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake recipe from America's Test Kitchen
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
FOR THE CAKE:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), very soft, plus extra for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (3/4 ounce), plus extra for dusting pans
1/2 cup hot water
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
FOR THE ICING:
4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE GLAZE:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (we prefer milk chocolate, that's what I used)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Step 2: Prepare Pans and Cake Batter
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease three 8-inch-round cake pans with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. (I greased the pans with a baking spray, lined them with parchment, re-sprayed the pans, then dusted with cocoa powder.)
Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment.
Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.
Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans (I weighed the batter to be precise, if you don't have a scale try to divide batter as evenly as possible); smooth batter to edges of pan with spatula. (I will now look away so you can lick the spatula and bowl in private.)
Step 3: Bake and Cool Cakes
Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Remove parchment, then flip back over onto another rack so the tops are facing upwards again.
Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.
Step 4: Make Frosting
Whisk egg whites, water, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in large heat-resistant bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water).
With hand-held mixer (I used my immersion blender with whisk attachment) on medium-high speed, carefully beat egg white mixture to stiff peaks, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat, add vanilla, and continue to beat (I switched to my stand mixer with whisk attachment and let it do the rest of the work) until icing is very thick and stiff and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
Step 5: Make Glaze
Place chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in large heat-resistant bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). Stir until melted and smooth, then remove bowl from heat and let cool 5 minutes.
Step 6: Assemble Cake and Enjoy
I prepared my cake holder with three parchment strips placed a couple inches under the cake, in a triangle shape, so they would catch excess icing and glaze, when finished glazing, gently pull out the strips and discard (by discard I mean feel free to enjoy what's on them--cook's treat).
Using an offset spatula, spread 1 cup icing on bottom cake layer. Repeat with second cake layer and additional 1 cup icing. Top with final cake layer and spread top and sides with remaining icing. (Try to use the most level cake layer for the top.)
Cook's Country showed this as a completely smooth cake, it looks very elegant that way, but I decided to use a swirling motion with a spoon to add some texture (since the icing is so fluffy I thought it looked like clouds). I took a spoon and used a short side to side motion in rows over the top and down the sides of the cake, I wiped off the spoon between rows.
For the glaze: Spoon ¼ cup chocolate mixture over top of cake and then drizzle remaining glaze along top edge of cake, allowing it to drip about halfway down the sides. On top of the cake I did the same swirling motion I used for the icing, using a light hand so it doesn't go too deep into the icing, with the glaze.
Cut (marvel at your masterpiece) and serve.
Covered and stored in the refrigerator, this cake keeps well up to 2 days. (I prefer to let it come to room temperature before serving.)