Never Too Late to Celebrate: Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha Milk Chocolate Frosting

For the past few years I've worked in a very small office at my agency with only six other people. Because there are so few people, everyone gets his or her own birthday cake. But I recently started working with a different paralegal and I kept forgetting to ask him when his birthday was. When I finally got around to it, it turns out I had just missed it by two days. What a fail on my part! I felt terrible about missing his birthday and promised we would still celebrate belatedly -- with cake, of course. But I felt extra pressure to make sure that the cake was good.

I have a compilation of chocolate recipes from Fine Cooking called Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to Indulge. An Alice Medrich recipe for an "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha Milk Chocolate Frosting" caught my eye and the thing that cinched my decision to make the cake was that the frosting requires a pound and a half of milk chocolate. It sounded so decadent, and it also so happened that I had just a little bit more than a pound and a half of milk chocolate left over from the 5 kilograms of Cacao Barry Lactée Supérieure I bought a few months ago.

To make the cake batter, you beat room temperature butter with sugar until light; gradually add lightly beaten eggs; and alternately add the sifted dry ingredients (cake flour, baking soda, and salt) and the liquid ingredients (natural cocoa powder that has been dissolved in boiling water, cooled, and combined with cool water, plain yogurt and vanilla; I used Fage Total 5% Greek yogurt). You divide the batter between three 9-inch parchment-lined cake pans and bake.
The frosting is essentially a whipped ganache. You pour boiling cream over a mixture of milk chocolate, butter, instant espresso powder, and salt; stir until smooth; and add vanilla. You chill the mixture for a few hours until firm, and then beat it until it lightens in color and reaches a spreadable consistency. I kept this cake at room temperature overnight, under a dome -- I didn't want to risk having the ganache becoming too hard if I put it in the fridge. Still, when I served it the following morning, the frosting was quite stiff. I had to wipe the knife clean after every cut, and with each press of the blade, the frosting pulled on the very delicate cake underneath. You can see that the slice of cake in the photo above is missing some of the frosting on top, which was torn off when it got stuck to the knife.

But this is a minor complaint. The actual cake is one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever made. It was light as air, very bouncy, and super chocolate-y. The frosting was quite thick and heavy, but my tasters were not complaining in the slightest. The flavor combination of milk chocolate and espresso powder was so dang good. For me personally, I might have preferred a lighter and silkier Italian meringue buttercream frosting -- but the pairing of a tender and delicate cake with a fudgy frosting absolutely works here. Every crumb and errant smear of frosting was quickly consumed. Timely or not, this cake was something to celebrate.

Recipe: "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha Milk Chocolate Frosting" by Alice Medrich, from Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to Indulge; recipe available here at Fine Cooking.

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