I don’t know who you are, but I guarantee it’s at least one person’s birthday out there today.
I appreciate you! I really, really do. Thanks for making this blog a better place.
Oh wait, it’s not your birthday? I’m sorry. Want to see photos of the birthday cake I made yesterday anyway? It involves a lot of butter…and sugar…and other pencil skirt tightening things. But it’s really, really good! And sometime, I just know, you’ll need to make a triple layer cake and now you’ll know how! Genius.
I made these cake layers at night. I never bake at night. Mainly because it’s dark out…duh. However, some things just demand to be baked at night because when they are, the final product just turns out much better the next day. Such is the case with this cake! I mean, I’m sure you could bake and decorate the whole thing the day of, but if you have the time (heck, I had time!) you probably should make this cake in steps. Cake layers that have been refrigerated overnight are much easier to handle than cake layers right out of the oven.
The last thing you want is one of your lovely layers to break in half while icing. It’s such a mood kill. And I won’t even get into the time it caused me to smash an entire cake into the trash can at culinary school. It hurts too bad.
I smeared ganache in between my cake layers. Normally, I might do vanilla buttercream or even raspberry jam, but the friend that I was making this cake for loves chocolate so triple chocolate it was!
And let’s pause right now. If you’re reading this with disbelief in your eyes and a hanging jaw thinking “I could NEVER do ANYTHING like that!” think again my dear friend. You can! I know it sounds cliche, but if I can do it so can you. Things like this really take more practice than they do skill.
If it makes you feel better, I totally botched the middle layer of this cake by not pouring my batter evenly into my pans. Oops.
After you ganache the heck out of it, you need to apply a crumb coat! Think of a crumb coat like a base coat for your nails—it’s what gets them ready for the polish. Same thing goes with cake! You need to crumb coat a cake with a thin application of frosting so when you decorate, you will be crumb-free.
The best thing about crumb coats is that they don’t have to be perfect at all! Just smear it on there. Then stick it on the fridge and paint your nails. No, really!
Then, that turns into this!
I’m definitely not the world’s best decorator, and to be honest, I really don’t even like doing it that much. I’m scarred from one too many horrific frosting experiences in school. All you need though is a single star tip ($1.75 from Sur la Table) and either a plastic bag or a cloth pastry bag. Then, follow this easy tutorial!
You’ll be set in no time.
Triple Layer Chocolate Birthday Cake
3 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups flour
1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract), scraped
8 ounces reduced fat sour cream
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 ounces chocolate chips
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 T maple syrup
for chocolate frosting—
2 sticks butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 cup reserved ganache
3 T cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
To make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three nine-inch cake pans. Don’t just spray with cooking spray…it will not work.
Pour boiling water over cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. Mix well so there are no lumps and chocolate has melted. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat again.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in the sour cream to the chocolate. Add this to the butter mixture alternately with the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Batter might look like it’s “broken” but will come together in the end if you keep beating.
Divide batter amongst three pans evenly and bake cakes for 40 minutes, or until sides are beginning to pull away. Let cool then turn out cakes on wax paper and let cool completely. I recommend baking the cakes the night before you plan to serve it. The cakes are much easier to work with after they’ve been sitting in the fridge overnight (wrap each layer individually with foil or plastic wrap).
To make the ganache: Bring milk to a simmer on the stove. Pour over chocolate chips, add maple syrup and stir until incorporated and smooth. Let sit for 1 hour until thick. Place 1/2 cup ganache in a separate bowl or cup to use for frosting.
To make frosting: Cream together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla for 5 minutes on high speed. Add reserved ganache and cocoa powder and keep beating for another 8-10 minutes until very light, thick and fluffy. Set aside.
To assemble cake: Place one cake layer on a large plate (I like to do this on the plate I plan to serve on so I don’t have to attempt to move the cake later after it’s decorated). Spread an even layer of ganache all over the first layer then place the second layer on top. Repeat and top with the remaining layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place about one cup of frosting on top of cake. Work down the sides of the cake with a small offset spatula (available at Sur la Table) to crumb-coat the cake. When the entire cake is covered with a very thin (!) layer of frosting, place back in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up.
Now, place all remaining frosting on top of cake. You can always take extra off! Smooth frosting all over top of cake and down sides, scraping an extra back in the bowl. Place extra frosting in a plastic bag (or pastry bag) fitted with a large star tip. Pipe borders around the bottom and top of cake with extra frosting.
Serve at room temperature
**cake will keep fully decorated in the fridge overnight. If making cake layers the day before, be sure to cool each layer completely before wrapping tightly in tin foil or plastic wrap and placing in fridge.