Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Duo of chocolate cakes, in time for Valentine's Day

These cakes were requested by the birthday girl a few weeks back when my good friend Megan turned 40. In planning her party, the two must-haves that rose to the top of the list were chocolate cheesecake and chocolate cake (well, and karaoke, but that's a whole 'nother story...).

I have made a birthday chocolate cheesecake for Megan a number of times over the years; her husband has picked up that tradition in recent years--what a great guy, eh?! The chocolate cake I chose (with Megan's approval) to make is an old favorite from Gale Gand, dessert queen extraordinaire. I first made it for a friend's birthday maybe almost a decade ago... but I have made it many times in the intervening years, always to "Yum!'s" and "Tasty!'s."

Either one (or both) would make a fabulous Valentine's Day treat for a dear one (or for yourself!).

Chocolate cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups hot coffee

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup cooled coffee
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 3 circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit the bottoms of the pans, then press them in.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix. Add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the hot coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 35 minutes. Halfway through the baking, quickly rotate the pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and mix. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix until well blended and fluffy. To frost the cake, use a spatula to cover 2 of the cake layers with frosting. Stack them together. Flip the third cake layer over and rest it on the top to create a very flat top for the cake. Frost on the sides and top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate cheesecake
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8-inch round springform pan that is at least 2 inches deep.

In a heavy pot, melt the chocolate with the water and liqueur. When melted, remove from the heat and let stand until cool.

In a large mixing bowl, using a handheld elecric mixer at medium speed, beat the eggs with the sugar until well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the cream cheese, 1/4 pound at a time, until the mixture is very smooth, 5 minutes. Beat in the cooled chocolate and the vanilla. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top edges of the cheesecake are puffed and golden brown, about 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to release the cheesecake from the sides (if they haven't already pulled away during the cooling process). Remove the sides of the springform, cover the cake with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Bring to room temperature before serving, unless it is a very hot day, in which case, take it out of the fridge at the last minute and enjoy it cold.

For some reason, the cheesecake recipe above doesn't include a crust. That didn't make much sense to me, so I added one. I don't really think it's cheesecake without the crust!

2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until finely crushed. Mix in a bowl with the sugar and melted butter until well combined. Pour into the sprayed or buttered springform pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350. Bring out, cool and proceed with the cheesecake.

Another change I made was adding a chocolate topping. I saw another cheesecake recipe that featured a topping, and it seemed like a way to "fancy it up" a bit.

3/4 cup whipping cream
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar

Stir cream, chocolate and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour.

I liked the effect of the topping, though it made cutting the cheesecake a tad more messy... but it's messing cutting a cheesecake anyway, so I say go for it and just keep your knife blade hot under running water and that makes all the difference!

If you are a chocolate fan, I say why wait for Valentine's or any other day? Make a cake today!

(And did you like how I used that oh-so-cheffy word "duo?" I learned that from Top Chef. Don't say watching TV isn't educational.)


  1. mmm, I like that it has coffee in it!

  2. Very lovely...working on my menu for Valentine's...think I will start the dinner with fondue and then move into the chocolate part of the meal. I think the tall cake will do. Looks wonderful! Sounds wonderful! Now, to make it wonderful.

  3. OMG, those look good! Especially the second one. Yummy.

  4. yummy. gonna have to try these recipes!


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