Valentine’s Day Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake

This post is in partnership with KitchenAid and Le Creuset. Both companies have agreed to partner with the blog as I document my baking adventures. This particular recipe was modified from the book Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt. Instead of homemade caramel, I used store bought La Lechera, and there’s no shame in that. I learned how to bake bread with Tartine and own three Tartine books. This edition goes through different pastries and cakes and I would highly recommend it to bakers who prefer making sweet delicacies over hearty loaves of bread. 

I have been wanting to make this Devil’s Food Chocolate Layer Cake for a while. Something about the elegance and simplicity of this cake really drew my attention to it. It stands alone well with cake crumbs coating the exterior, or for icing lovers out there, perhaps a thicker layer of chocolate ganache would do. It is rich without being overly sweet, romantic without being exaggeratedly extravagant. The definition of delectable!

If you are looking for something to do this COVID Valentine’s Day, why not gather your loved ones and work together on baking this cake? If you’ve got little ones without the patience to sit through the steps of icing and layering a cake, the cake itself tastes like a good batch of brownies and this recipe makes two batches worth when using square 8″ x 8″ pans like these gorgeous ruby red Le Creuset pans. (Right now, if you spend $200, you will receive two free heart ramekins for the Valentine holiday.) You can skip the caramel and whip up the chocolate ganache in minutes, icing the top of your brownies with chocolate. One for you, one for the kids. It’s perfect.

The original recipe calls for homemade caramel but for the sake of time, I simply bought a can of La Lechera. The chocolate ganache was easy to make and I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate chips and heavy cream. Any bittersweet chocolate works in this recipe. Lastly, I had market flowers that were due to wilt, which I cut and placed into the cake. I like to cover the stems with parchment paper so as not to mar the cake.

This cake is super easy to make. With the help of a Kitchen Aid mixer, I was able to mix the cake within ten minutes. It cooks for forty five minutes, during which I was washing dishes and prepping the chocolate ganache. I would recommend waiting until the cake has cooled completely before assembling the layers. I let it cook in their pans for half an hour prior to removing the cake from their molds. Then I place it in the fridge to help firm up the cake prior to icing. Meanwhile, the cake tops are tossed into the oven to dry out. After I assemble the layers, I throw the cake in the freezer for thirty minutes prior to icing the exterior, just to make sure it is set and the layers don’t move around. The most fun part is getting the cake crumbs on the sides of the cake. I found that the original recommendation to tilt the cake isn’t the best, after all my work nearly sliding off the stand and into the sink. I prefer to take a spoon and chuck the crumbs on the sides of the cake, creating a beautiful mess, but nothing my Dyson can’t handle.

If you are looking to this cake as a romantic gesture, I would pair with a glass of red wine and some roses on the side. Candy heart messages optional. It’s going to be a winner, I promise. Other cake recipes this way.

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Ingredients

  • 1.25 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 0.5 cups Spelt flour
  • 4.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.25 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2.25 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • 20 oz Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 can of La Lechera caramel (about 3/4 cup)

The Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray two 9″ cake pans with coconut oil spray or butter them and lightly flour so the cakes do not stick. An alternative is to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper to make removing of the cake rounds easier.
  3. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Attach the paddle attachment to your Kitchen Aid stand mixer and beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy.
  5. Add the sugar a little at a time, continuing to beat on the same speed until light in color and fluffy.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until full incorportaion before adding the next egg. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition with a rubber spatula.
  7. With the Kitchen Aid mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 equal batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. In other words, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and finishing with the rest of the flour mixture.
  8. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula, then mix again for another few seconds. This ensures full incorporation.
  9. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans and bake until the top springs back (about 45 minutes).
  10. Cool cakes completely in the pans on wire racks.
  11. When the cakes are cool, turn them out by inverting the pans. Turn cakes right side up on the wire pans with the mounds on top. Use a serrated knife to cut off the mounded tops (leaving behind two flat rounds) and stick the tops on a sheet tray back into the oven at 250 degrees F. Let them bake for about 45 minutes to an hour to dry them out. These will turn into your crumb coat.
  12. As for the two cake rounds, I stick them into the fridge sitting on wire racks for 10 minutes to completely cool.
  13. Meanwhile, I make the ganache by placing the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl. I heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate into the bowl. Do not stir right away. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is partially melted. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Open the can of La Lechera, as we will assemble the cake layers next.
  14. Remove the cake from the fridge. Use the serrated knife to cut each round in half, resulting in four rounds. Place one round on a plate or cake stand. Spread 3 tablespoons of caramel over the cake, followed by a 1/4 inch thick layer of chocolate ganache. Place the second round on top of the chocolate. Repeat the process until you place the fourth round of cake on top.
  15. Place the newly assembled cake into the freezer for 15 minutes to set the icing. You can also refrigerate the cake until firm for 1-2 hours if you need more time. If you are letting the cake set in the fridge, I would cover the chocolate ganache with plastic wrap to prevent it from air exposure. Keep that out at room temperature.
  16. Meanwhile, the cake tops should be nice and toasty. Remove them from the oven and place in a food processor. Run the food processor until the cake tops are broken up into tiny crumb pieces. Strain the crumbs through a medium-mesh sieve. You don’t want a fine mesh, otherwise your crumbs won’t go through. Set aside the bowl of sifted crumbs for later.
  17. Remove the cake from the freezer (or fridge) and ice the outside with chocolate ganache using an off-set spatula. If decorating with came crumbs, you only need a thin layer. If you prefer to do just the icing, I would double the icing.
  18. After the cake is iced on the top and sides, sprinkle cake crumbs over the top of the cake. The original instruction says to tilt the cake left and right to let the crumbs fall over the edges but that didn’t work too well for me. I had to take a spoon and fling the crumbs at the sides of the cake instead. You can try either, just be careful not to tilt too much lest the cake starts to slip off the plate!
  19. I decorated the top of the cake with flowers from the Farmer’s Market, but this cake is seriously just as beautiful without any decorations at all. If you wish, you can place a dollop of left-over chocolate ganache in a glob at the center of the cake and stick two Sweetheart candy messages on there, calling it a day.

Note: This cake is best served at room temperature. Let it sit on the counter as you prep the rest of dinner. You can also serve this with berries and red wine. To store, keep covered and in a cool place for up to four days. Refrigeration will dry out the cake.

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day.

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