My Favorite Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting

My Favorite Chocolate Cake

It’s that time of year. The days are longer, and summer is a little more than just an empty promise away. We vow to get more exercise, and eat better. We join the hordes of healthy people at the gym after work, don our running shoes, and enter the fray.

And then a co-worker has a birthday. And we make cake. And then there’s a cold snap. But there’s cake. And that’s good. And then it snows, and the temperatures plummet again, and the cake is the only thing that seems to get us through Mother Nature’s last bad April Fool’s joke.

I love cake. Before I made chocolates, I made cake. For me, it was the best vehicle for chocolate delivery. I loved the difference in textures between the light, springy pastry, and the creamy frosting. I’ve made an art of eating a slice—making sure that each bite contains the right frosting-to-cake ratio. I could draw a diagram, but that might seem crazy, so I’ll just tell you that it requires three layers. Two leaves room for too little filling; four requires too much.

It’s all about balance. Which is why, because it’s sunny, and the wind has dropped out a bit, I’ll lace up my running shoes, and flail around Back Cove Bay for an hour after work. And why I’ll go home and eat the brown rice and roasted vegetables I made for dinner. Because tomorrow, there’s cake.

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the ganache frosting:

  • 16 ounces heavy cream
  • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 2 ounces soft butter
  • Spirit of choice (optional)


Grease by hand, or spray with vegetable oil, three 9” round cake pans. For best results, line the pans with parchment paper. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine the vegetable and olive oils with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until combined and lightened in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until the sugar has dissolved. 

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately into the egg mixture. Beat well. 

In a heatproof measuring cup, stir together the boiling water and vanilla extract. With the beaters going, add the hot water to the cake batter in a slow, steady stream. Beat until fully incorporated. 

Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans and bake until the cake just begins to come away from the sides and is fully cooked in the middle, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes completely in the pans, and then release. 

While the cakes are cooling, make the ganache frosting. 

Heat the cream in a medium sauce pan until boiling. Place the chopped chocolate and soft butter in a heatproof bowl. When the cream boils, pour it all at once onto the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for a minute or two. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and the frosting is emulsified. Add spirit (rum, Kahlua, whatever) to taste. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. 

When the cakes are completely cooled, place one layer on a large platter, top with a dollop of frosting, and spread the frosting to the edges. Repeat with the next two layers. When all the layers are assembled and filled, spread a very thin coat of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until frosting is set. Then remove from the refrigerator, and cover the cake with another layer of frosting. 

Serve the cake at room temperature. 12 generous servings.

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