Chocolate Layer Cake
Recipe Type: Dessert, Cake, Baking
This was the very first recipe we created for The Chocolate Room. We decided that if we wanted to open a restaurant dedicated to chocolate, we needed to serve the best chocolate cake we had ever tasted. Our first chef, Margaret Kyle, tested every classic American chocolate cake possible, and every few days we’d meet at our apartment to try the results, gathering around the kitchen table to taste and refine our ideas. Was the cake moist enough? Was the flavor rich enough? Did the whole thing slide off the fork just so? It took weeks of experimenting, but one day Margaret presented us with the most perfect cake we’d ever had. With three towering layers of rich, moist cake, a thick filling of blackout pudding, and creamy frosting—which together boast three different kinds of chocolate—the cake was a showstopper.
Chocolate Cake
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter,
  • at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 3½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 1½ cups sour cream
  • 1½ cups cold coffee or water
Blackout Cake Filling
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 cup water
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into
  • small pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To Assemble
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • Chocolate Frosting (page 31 or below)
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans
  • and cocoa nibs (optional)
Chocolate Frosting
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 60% cacao),
  • coarsely chopped
  • 3½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • (preferably 100% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 5 extra-large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Make the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut circles of parchment paper to fit the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans. Lightly butter the pans, line them with the parchment circles, and butter the parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Sift the cocoa powder into another smal bowl, breaking up any chunks. Sift together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture and continue mixing on medium-low until the mixture just comes together, about 30 seconds. Stop the
  4. mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any unmixed ingredients, then beat on medium for 30 seconds more, until there are no lumps or unmixed ingredients.
  5. Add the cocoa powder and beat on low until incorporated, covering the bowl with the plastic guard or a towel to keep the cocoa from flying out of the mixer.
  6. Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and add half the sour cream. Mix on low until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom. Repeat with another third of the dry ingredients and the remaining sour cream, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the remaining flour mixture, mix until just incorporated, and scrape down the bowl again.
  7. With the mixer running on low, pour the coffee into the batter in a thin stream, then mix on low until the batter is uniform, about 20 seconds.
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish mixing by hand, using a rubber spatula in a beating motion and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated and that the batter is completely smooth and lump-free.
  9. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 45 to 50 minutes, until they spring back when pressed lightly with your fingers and a paring knife inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool to room temperature, then remove them from the pans, pull off the parchment paper, wrap each layer of cake in two layers of plastic wrap, and put them in the refrigerator or freezer to chill.
Make the Filling
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the water; set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup water, the sugar, and the corn syrup. Use a wet paper towel to wipe down the sides of the pot and have a cup of water with a pastry brush nearby. Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil over high heat. If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, brush them down with the wet pastry brush. Add the cocoa, whisk it in, and allow the mixture to return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to keep the mixture from bubbling over.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of the cocoa mixture to the cornstarch mixture to warm it up. Whisk the
  4. cornstarch mixture to make sure it isn’t adhering to the bottom of the bowl, then add it the pan with the rest of the cocoa mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, whisking continuously and scraping the bottom of the pot, until it becomes thick and pudding-like.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Use an immersion blender to
  6. make sure the filling is smooth and there are no remaining pockets of cocoa. (Alternatively, you can wait for the pudding to cool, then blend it in a blender.) Set the filling aside to cool with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against its surface to prevent a skin from forming. When the filling has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until very cold.
Assemble the Cake
  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved; set the simple syrup aside.
  2. Remove the cake layers from the refrigerator or freezer. If they’re frozen, let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. With a bread knife, cut the dome and any raised edges off each cake layer, taking off as much as necessary to create a flat, even surface.
  3. Set one layer on a cake stand or flat plate. With a pastry brush, coat the top of the cake with ¼ cup of simple syrup and let it soak in for a minute. Top the cake layer with about half the blackout pudding, spreading it evenly and leaving a ½-inch border bare around the edge of the cake. Take a second cake layer, turn it upside down, and set it on top of the filling. Brush more simple syrup onto this layer and top it with the remaining filling. Top the filling with the last cake layer, placing it upside down, and brush on more simple syrup. Wrap the entire cake in two layers of plastic wrap and set it in the fridge to firm up for at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight.
  4. Unwrap the cake and apply the chocolate frosting evenly over the top and sides. (See page 24 for our favorite frosting technique.) If you like, you can decorate the top of the cake with little clusters of chocolate-covered espresso beans and cocoa nibs.
  1. Melt the dark chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter together in the top of a double boiler,
  2. stirring to keep the chocolate from burning, or microwave them together for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. Whisk the butter and chocolate briskly until they have combined; set aside.
  3. Break the eggs into a medium saucepan and whisk them to break them up. Add the sugar, water, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously with a whisk and applying slight pressure to the sides and bottom of the pan so the mixture doesn’t stick and overcook. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and cook, stirring with the whisk, until the mixture has reached 160°F.
  4. Strain the egg mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove any bits of overcooked egg, then whisk it into the chocolate mixture. Use an immersion blender to blend the frosting until completely smooth; alternatively, let the mixture cool, then blend it in a countertop blender, stopping
  5. to scrape the sides of the blender frequently. Let the frosting cool a bit, then refrigerate it until cool and fairly stiff.
Recipe by Honest Cooking at