Makes 3 – 8″ layers
3/4 Cup Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 Cup boiling water
1-1/2 Cups unsalted butter (3 sticks)
2-1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 whole eggs beaten
3 Cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup milk
dash of salt
2-1/2 Cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar
1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 Tbsp), softened
9 oz bittersweet chocolate (Baker’s chocolate)
3/4 Cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line three – 8″ cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment-lined pans. Sift cocoa and whisk together with boiling water in a heatproof bowl until mixture is smooth and lump-free. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream the three sticks of butter on the lowest speed until it is light and “fluffy.” Gradually add the sugar to the butter while continuing to mix, and the vanilla, and then the eggs, one at a time, until all these ingredients are fully incorporated, about 3 – 4 min. Use a spatula to periodically scrape the mixture from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Alternating with the milk, add the flour mixture in several “batches” to the butter-sugar-egg mixing bowl, continuing to beat with the mixer. When ingredients are fully combined, use the spatula to gently fold the cooled cocoa batter into the rest of the cake batter.
Divide the batter so that it is distributed equally among the three prepared baking pans. Bake cake for 20-25 min, or until a toothpick, inserted into the middle of a pan, comes out clean.
Remove cakes from oven. Cool in the pan for about 15 min, then remove carefully from pans, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Make the frosting: Sift together the dry ingredients: the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and salt. In a small heavy saucepan, melt the bittersweet chocolate on the stove at the lowest heat setting. When the bittersweet chocolate is melted, turn off stove and allow chocolate to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat together the softened cream cheese and butter at medium-high speed. Add the sugar-cocoa mixture to the butter-cream cheese mixture, a little bit at a time, and continue to beat until all ingredients are combined. Fold in the melted bittersweet chocolate slowly and steadily. Stir gently until fully incorporated. Finally, add the creme fraiche, beat until combined.
Put the first layer of the cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Put about 1/4 of the frosting on the top of this layer, and spread icing evenly all the way to the edges. Repeat with second layer of cake, placed carefully on top of the first. Using remaining frosting, put third layer atop the other two, and frost sides and top of cake.
Serve to grateful guests.
Although there will probably not be any left over, you can cover the leftover cake and chill for up to several days.
Says Grandma Kate, “Ta Da.”