Giant Chocolate Cake

May 20, 2010

I’m not sure how this happened, but the last “treat” I posted was 2 weeks ago.  There have been lots of savory things in May but not many sweet.  Time to remedy that.

What do you do when you need a cake to feed a lot of people?  You can make a big fat layer cake which requires filling of some kind and often a buttercream frosting.  Or you can go easy on yourself and make a one-layer 12-inch dense chocolate cake with a ganache frosting.  You can serve 25 people easily with this baby.  Thankfully, I had a cake conversation with my friend and neighbor Julie before I made it.  She advised me to cut it like a wedding cake – that is, cut a smaller circle in the middle, cut the outer circle into wedges and the inner circle as you would a regular smaller cake.  That would not have occurred to me and my poor friends would have been trying to eat massive wedges of cake – not that there is anything wrong with that.

I realize not everyone has a 12-inch cake pan lying around.  The only reason I have one is that I made my own 3-tier wedding cake 7½ years ago, but I haven’t used the pan since then.  I hung on to it through moves to four different residences and am so happy that I did – this is definitely a cake that I will be repeating.  It was easy to make and even easier to eat.  It is perfect for those times when all you really want is chocolate with no other competing flavors.  Truth be told, I often feel that way and in those moments, what I crave is a brownie.  Think of this as a sophisticated brownie with just the perfect amount of over-the-top frosting.  The oohs and aahs when you bring out a giant cake are pretty nice too.

If you want to buy a large pan, I highly recommend buying what is called a cheesecake pan.  When I bought the pans for my wedding cake, I sought the advice of the somewhat cranky but incredibly knowledgeable woman who owns a local cake decorating supply store.  If you tried to bake a large cake in a simple cake pan, it would be difficult to get it out without wrecking the cake.  The cheesecake pan has a false bottom, much as fluted tart pans do, so you can just push the cake out of the pan without having to turn it upside down.

OR, if you don’t want to make a one-use purchase, you can get a little tricky and use alternate pan sizes.  It is a testament to how good this cake is that I got involved with a bit of math and figured out things like volume and inches.  Using Bing of course – not Google (we are a Microsoft household, wink wink), I found that the volume of a 12-inch round pan is 15 cups.  A 13-x-9 inch pan has the same capacity so you could make this same cake in a rectangular pan.  If you have two 8-inch square pans lying around or two 9-inch round ones, you could also make it in those.  The cakes will be a little flatter because the proportions aren’t exactly right.  The chocolate lovers won’t care.  Trust me.

Chocolate Cake Previously on Dana Treat:  (this is a little embarrassing) Milk Chocolate Layer Cake, Double Baked Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel FillingSweet and Salty Cake, Chocolate Spice Bread

One Year Ago:  Roasted Asparagus with a Poached Egg

Giant Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
From Gourmet
24 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (½ stick) chilled butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
¾ cup sugar
Edible flowers for decoration (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray 12-inch round cake pan with 2-inch high sides with nonstick spray.  Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round.  Spray parchment paper with nonstick spray.  Dust pan with flour, tapping out excess.  Sift 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl.  Sift cocoa into another medium bowl.   Pour 1 cup boiling water over cocoa; whisk to blend.  Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add butter to egg mixture and beat until blended.  Beat in cocoa mixture.  Add buttermilk and vanilla; beat on low just to blend.  Add dry ingredients and beat on low just to blend.  Transfer  batter to prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 38 minutes.  Cool cake completely in pan on rack.  (Do ahead:  Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Place chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Bring cream and sugar to boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Carefully pour hot cream mixture into bowl with chocolate.  Let stand 1 minute.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  Chill ganache until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Carefully invert cake onto large cake plate.  Gently remove parchment paper.  Spread ganache over top and sides of cake and allow ganache to set, about 1 hour.  (Do ahead:  Cake can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.  Allow to come to room temperature before decorating with flowers.)


  1. That sure is a mighty chocolate cake! I love the flowers, they really pop on the deep, dark chocolate. Lovely!

    Comment by Maria — May 20, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  2. Not to echo the above to closely but really stunning shot. Also, kudos to you for making your own wedding cake!

    Comment by To Kiss the Cook — May 20, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  3. Just to clarify: at what point do you add the flour mixture to the eggs/cocoa? I don’t see that in the instructions…

    Comment by chocoholic — May 20, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  4. Gah! That is beautiful. Love the flowers. And the cake looks dark and moist and perfect. Wish I had made that for my birthday.

    Comment by kickpleat — May 20, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  5. What a great, big, beautiful cake! I finally got caught up on your latest posts, and there was a lot of delicious stuff there. Now, I have a new dip and potato salad I have to try, and the cake pan math here is great info!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — May 20, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  6. Do we have to share? Hmm, I also happen to have a 12 inch cake pan because I made my own three tier wedding cake 7 1/2 years ago…

    Comment by Kate @ Savour Fare — May 20, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  7. I just baked a chocolate cake and decorated it with pansies!
    How funny…..your cake is prettier than mine, though.
    Save me a slice!

    Comment by stacey snacks — May 21, 2010 @ 12:30 am

  8. Oh my! That looks over the top awesome! And how pretty it turned out.

    Comment by peabody — May 21, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  9. May seems like a much better month now that I’ve encountered this. Chocolate = heaven. Ganache = even more heaven. A twelve inch cake = the most heaven.

    Comment by Joanne — May 21, 2010 @ 12:53 am

  10. cake looks really yummy and moist… very nice

    Comment by Cassie — May 21, 2010 @ 2:24 am

  11. Look how perfectly you cut that inner circle! Good job. Love your chocolate cake obsession.

    Comment by The Leftoverist — May 21, 2010 @ 5:40 am

  12. Hi there!

    I’m so sorry if the cake recipe is unclear. Unfortunately I was away all day yesterday and now our computer has been taken apart because we are getting a new desk today. It’s too hard for me to fix with my iPhone. I know the recipe is up on if you need it today. I will fix as soon as I am back online. Sorry!


    Comment by dana — May 21, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  13. You know I’ll be borrowing your 12″ cake pan so I can make this!

    Comment by Julie — May 21, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

  14. Looks really yummy and chocolaty!! :)

    Comment by Cherine — May 22, 2010 @ 8:08 am

  15. Aha! I already have the pan, which I use for a Greek nut cake recipe, maybe once a year. Now I have another reason to use it. This looks delightfully sinful!

    Comment by Penny — May 22, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  16. Again, sorry for the omission in the recipe! I just went back in and changed it. Thanks for letting me know! Happy baking.


    Comment by dana — May 22, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

  17. Beautiful! I love the flowers on top. And I’m most intrigued with how you sliced up the cake! I thought the cake in the second picture looked a bit small. And that’s a great tip about buying larger size pans. The biggest I have is 9″ now but maybe I’ll buy bigger ones in the future.

    Comment by Ashley — May 31, 2010 @ 1:52 am

  18. Hi!
    I’m planning to make a chocolate cake this weekend, and this recipe sounds absolutely perfect. My only concern is that it isn’t for any special occasion where I can have any kind of guarantee that it will all be eaten. Do you know how well this cake freezes?

    Comment by Jessica — February 3, 2011 @ 1:45 am

  19. I just wanted to let you know that I made the cake, and not only was it delicious, but it does in fact freeze and reheat beautifully! I’m actually eating the last piece right now, warm from the microwave. Great recipe! Here’s a link to my post about it:

    Comment by Jessica — March 16, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  20. Hi Dana-
    This looks delicious! I am baking it for a coworkers birthday and am wondering, if I don’t have a 12-inch pan, and wanted to bake it in two 9 inch pans (a round cake feels more festive than (x13, somehow!), would you recommend making this as a layer cake stacked upon one another, or is it so rich and dense (the request was “chocolate!”) that one layer is more than enough?
    Thanks so much!!

    Comment by Steph — May 16, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  21. Hi when you say a cup of this what size cup do you mean as i do not want to get this wrong. thank you for your time. yours Linda

    Comment by linda — January 21, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  22. I made your cake and it is delicious! I used 2, 9 inch round cake pans and filled the middle with a Chocolate Cream Cheese filling using butter. unsweetened chocolate, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla & sour cream. And then iced it with your ganache, thickened with a little more powdered sugar. Surrounded the cake with sugared berries. It was a hit. I’ll make it again. Very fudgy!

    Comment by Barbara Hollis — December 17, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

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