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 Filling, Sweet and Salty Cake, Chocolate Spice Bread
One Year Ago: Roasted Asparagus with a Poached Egg
Giant Chocolate Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
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.)