One of the great things about having a blog is that it makes it easy to keep track of key life events and the associated recipes. If I can't remember that great pie we had for Thanksgiving last year, or what my friend Julia liked to eat when she was pregnant, or what my friends and I were snacking on when Sandra Bullock won her Oscar, it's all within the click of a button.
The problem is that it's also easy to see when you're fallen into a rut. Two years ago, I made my friend Leah these strawberry cupcakes for her birthday. Last year, it was devil's food cupcakes with raspberry cream filling. And this year, chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream and chocolate ganache. Are you sensing a bit of a pattern here? Apparently Leah's birthday means berry-flavored buttercream to me. But one look at this cake, and it's easy to see why she didn't mind the repetition.
It's so pretty that we almost didn't want to cut into it, but I am oh so glad we did. In addition to being exceedingly cute, this cake is also exceedingly delicious. Light chocolate layers are spread with a bright strawberry buttercream, and the whole thing is topped with a rich chocolate ganache. If you're going to be in a rut, this one comes highly recommended.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake
For the Chocolate Cake Layers (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the bottoms of 3 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and water and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake for around 25-30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Place the cake pans on wire racks and let them cool there for about 1o minutes. Turn the cakes out of their pans, and allow them to finish cooling directly on the racks.
For the Strawberry Buttercream (Adapted from Sprinkles)
2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of kosher salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed
Pure the strawberries in a blender or food processor and set aside. Beat the butter and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, and beat until smooth. Add the strawberry puree and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave or over a double boiler. Whisk in the corn syrup and remove from the heat. Add in the heavy cream, a little bit at a time, whisking until it's incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a glass measuring cup, and use while still warm.
To Assemble the Cake
Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake board, plate, or cake stand (whatever you are going to use for serving your cake). I like to pop my cake layers (well wrapped in plastic) into the freezer to firm up a bit before frosting them--this makes them easier to work with. Spread a thin layer of strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake layer, and top with the second layer. Spread a thin layer of strawberry buttercream over the top of the second layer, and top with the third cake layer. Spread a very thin layer of strawberry buttercream over the top and sides of the cake, using a offset spatula, if you have one. Do not use all of the buttercream. This is your crumb coating, or a very thin layer of icing in which all of the cake crumbs will be suspended so that they are not visible on the finished cake. Don't skip this step--it's especially important when you're dealing with a dark cake and a light icing so that you don't see chocolate cake crumbs in your strawberry frosting.
After you have spread the cake with the crumb coating, chill it for about 20 minutes so that the frosting has time to firm up. Then spread your cake with the rest of the buttercream. After the cake is fully frosted, it's a good idea to chill it again before topping it with the chocolate ganache--this will help you achieve artful drips down the sides. (I refrigerated my cake overnight inside of a cake dome and applied the ganache the next morning). When you are ready to apply the ganache, pour the ganache onto the top of the cake, and use an offset spatula to spread it just over the edges so that it drips artfully down the sides. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to firm up. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.