I've dubbed this gorgeously rich, moist cake The Dark Knight, as it's a tall, glowering tower of chocolate intensity. A generous blast of dark roast coffee and a touch of milk makes for a gently bitter tone, while a smidge of cayenne adds mystique without turning up the heat. Packed with dates for extra tenderness, it's nearly impossible to ruin this cake unless you a seriously over bake it, or a) overmix it. Be watchful when baking and mixing, and you're sure to have a masterpiece on your hands.
This recipe calls for a helping of chocolate buttercream and another helping of chocolate ganache. I've linked to these recipes in the ingredients list. Feel free to make the icings the day before and keep them in the refrigerator, allowing them to come fully to room temperature before constructing the finished cake.
About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.
- Yield:Makes one tall 8-inch cake
- Active time: 35 minutes
- Total time:2 hours
- Butter for greasing
- 1 3/4 cups dates, pitted and chopped coarsely
- 3/4 cup hot, brewed dark roast coffee
- 1/2 cup hot milk
- 1 cup (about 5 ounces) flour
- 1/2 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa poweder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (about 3 1/2 ounce) sugar
- 1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups chocolate buttercream icing
- 2 cups chocolate ganache
- 3 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
Set oven rack to the middle and preheat to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans.
Set the dates in a bowl and cover with hot coffee and hot milk. Cover and let soak for 10 minutes. Add to a food processor and pulse until smooth.
In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa, cayenne, baking soda, and salt. Stir well.
Add the butter, sugar, and brown sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-low until light and airy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating each until incorporated. Add vanilla and beat until well mixed.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Add the dates to the batter and gently fold with a spatula, stopping as soon as the batter is uniform in texture. Scoop the batter into the prepared baking pans and bake for 40 minutes, or until the sides pull away from the pans. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the pans, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Slice each cake horizontally into two layers of equal thickness. Set the bottom layer of the cake aside; that will be the top of your stacked cake. Scoop 1/2 cup of chocolate buttercream onto one layer of cake and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon of espresso powder and set the next layer on top. Scoop another 1/2 cup of icing onto the layer and sprinkle with another 1 tablespoon of espresso powder. Repeat with the third layer and top the cake with the reserved bottom layer of cake. Crumb coat the sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream and set the cake to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Heat the ganache just to the point that it flows well but is not too thin or watery. Set the chilled cake on a cooling rack placed into a baking sheet and carefully pour the ganache over the entire cake, coating it in one smooth layer. Set the cake back in the refrigerator to chill for another 15 minutes to set the ganache. Serve at room temperature.