This chocolate espresso fudge cake by famous American chef Marcel Desaulniers makes failure virtually impossible. Rich, moist, elegant and simply delicious, this recipe is easy to make thanks to chef Desaulniers' explicit directions. He knows how to turn an ordinary cook into a pastry chef, and his technical tips along the way help you become a better pastry connoisseur all together. If you follow the directions exactly, you will produce a dessert that looks like it was made in the finest pastry shop.
If you don't like the coffee flavor or want to lower the caffeine impact, you can leave out the espresso. But whatever you do, use good-quality chocolate, not chips or candy coating. This beautiful cake is perfect for birthdays or any special occasion.
This recipe appears in Desaulniers' book "Death by Chocolate," and although it has many steps, it's very simple to follow and is divided into sections to make it even easier to accomplish.
- For the Chocolate Cake:
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (broken into 1/2-ounce pieces)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons melted unsalted butter (for greasing the pans)
- 2 1/8 cups cake flour (divided)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups light brown sugar (tightly packed)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sour cream
- For the Espresso Ganache:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (broken into 1/2-ounce pieces)
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- For the Chocolate Espresso Buttercream:
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (broken into 1/2-ounce pieces)
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (broken into 1/2-ounce pieces)
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1 pound unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.
Make the Cake
Gather the cake ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate in the top half of the double boiler. Cover the top with plastic wrap, very tightly, and allow the mixture to heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth.
Lightly coat the insides of two 9 x 1 1/2-inch cake pans with melted butter. Take 2 teaspoons out of the flour and dust each pan with 1 teaspoon each, shaking out the excess.
Combine in a sifter 2 cups of flour, baking soda, and salt. Sift onto wax paper and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the brown sugar and 8 tablespoons soft butter. Beat on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat again on high for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat on high for another 1 1/2 minutes.
One at a time, add the 4 eggs to the butter mixture, beating on high for 30 seconds after adding each egg. Scrape down every time, and beat on high for 2 more minutes. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl.
While you work on the mixer, use a 1 1/2-quart saucepan to bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
Set the mixer with the butter and egg mixture on low. First, add 1/3 of the sifted flour and 1/2 cup sour cream and allow it to mix for 30 seconds. Secondly, add another third of the flour and the remaining sour cream and mix for another 30 seconds. Finally, add the remaining sifted flour and the boiling water. Mix for an additional 30 seconds before removing the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, spreading it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool still in the pans for 15 minutes at room temperature. Invert onto cardboard cake circles and refrigerate, uncovered, until needed.
Make the Ganache
To make the ganache, heat the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil.
In a stainless-steel bowl place 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon of instant espresso powder. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and espresso. Tightly cover the top with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Keep your ganache at room temperature until ready to use.
Make the Buttercream
Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. In the top half, place 8 ounces of semisweet chocolate, 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, and 2 teaspoons espresso powder. Tightly cover the top with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to heat up for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a stainless-steel bowl, stir until smooth, and set aside until needed.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, place 1 pound of butter and beat it on low for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium for 3 minutes. Beat on high until light and fluffy, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the butter to a large stainless-steel bowl. Set aside until needed.
Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 5 egg whites and 1 cup sugar in the top half and gently whisk the egg whites until they reach a temperature of 120 F or about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the heated egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the previously melted chocolate into the whipped butter. Finally, fold in the whipped egg whites. Reserve your buttercream.
Assemble the Cake
Remove cakes from the refrigerator and turn them over so the top side is facing up. Using a slicer, trim off just enough of the top of each cake to make an even surface. Slice each cake horizontally into two equal layers. Place the top layer of a cake onto the bottom of a closed springform pan. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream over the cake in the springform pan. Place the bottom layer of the first cake onto the buttercream and gently press into place. Pour 1 1/4 cups of ganache over the cake layer, spreading the ganache evenly to the edges. Refrigerate the remaining ganache.
Place the top layer of the second cake on top of the ganache and press it into place. Spread 1 1/2 cups buttercream evenly over this layer. Place the remaining bottom cake layer, cut side down, onto the buttercream and gently press into place. Cover the entire cake and pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour.
To make sure you have enough to decorate the cake later on, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large-sized star tip with 1 1/2 cups of buttercream and reserve. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized star tip with remaining ganache and reserve. You'll be using what's left of the buttercream in the next step.
Run a table knife around the edges next to the pan to release the cake from the springform pan. Remove the collar. Transfer the cake to a pretty serving plate with four pieces of wax paper at the edges of the plate (12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions) to catch any drips. They will be taken out from under the cake when done decorating. Using a cake spatula, evenly spread what is left of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour.
Decorate the Cake
Using the pastry bags you've previously filled with ganache and buttercream, pipe a ring of the buttercream stars around the outside edge of the top of the cake. Then pipe a circle of ganache stars, each star touching the next, inside the ring of buttercream. Alternate the rings of buttercream stars and circles of ganache stars until the entire top of the cake is covered. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before cutting and serving.
Serve the Cake
When ready to serve, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the wax paper with the drippings, if any. Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water and thoroughly dry it before cutting the cake in slices. Serve and let the slices sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.