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Chocolate Layer Cakes

by Pam Williams

Old fashioned chocolate layer cakes are one of my passions but regrettably left over from my childhood forays into the kitchen to bake, I still really love those made with store bought devils food cake mixes. I know it is aberrant behavior for one so dedicated to using only the best chocolate and ingredients, but once a year or so, I secretly buy Duncan Hines moist deluxe Devil's Food chocolate cake mix. After the layers have baked and cooled, I slather them with a rich home made chocolate buttercream icing. Ok, you can use the canned icing in a pinch but buttercream icing is pretty easy to make and you can control the chocolate flavor. When assembled, I cut a thick slice of cake, top it with the best vanilla ice cream I can find and enjoy.

Since the recipe for the cake on the box and a chocolate buttercream icing recipe can be found in most dessert cookbooks that you already have on the shelf, I will borrow a couple of favorite "other" chocolate cake recipes for your enjoyment.

The first combines two of my favorite cakes in one -- chocolate and gingerbread. Its a heavenly combination that only needs a dollop of flavored whipped cream. Leave that off and you have a light but satisfying dessert. The other cake recipe needs no introduction -- chocolate cheesecake a la Manhattan.


Chocolate Gingerbread

Yield: 16 servings
from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook, Ten Speed Press, 1995

3/4 cup Butter, softened
1 cup Granulated sugar
3 Eggs
1/3 cup Molasses
3 cups Flour
3/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa or your favorite cocoa powder
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1 tsp Ground ginger
1 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup Buttermilk

1 cup Heavy (whipping) cream
3 tbsp Confectioners (icing) sugar
1 tbsp Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa or your favorite cocoa powder
1/2 tsp Pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the molasses. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground chocolate or cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Alternatively, add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl and the beaters with a rubber spatula after each addition. Spread batter in the prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the gingerbread. Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the topping, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar, ground chocolate and vanilla extract. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar mixture to the cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Cut gingerbread into squares and serve with a dollop of topping.


Park Avenue Chocolate Cheesecake

makes 1 cheesecake
from The Chocolate Book by Sara Perry, Chronicle Books, 1992

3/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup Chocolate wafer crumbs
2 tbsp Granulated Sugar
3 tbsp Butter, melted
8 ounces Semisweet Chocolate
3 tbsp Heavy (whipping) cream
1 1/2 lb. Cream Cheese, softened
2 cups Granulated sugar
3 Large eggs
1 cup Sour cream
1/4 cup Dark Rum
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Almond extract

3/4 cup Sour cream
3/4 cup Powdered (Icing) sugar
3/4 tsp Vanilla
Garnish with grated chocolate or edible flowers

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F

In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, wafer crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Firmly press in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

To prepare filling, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream in a double boiler. Blend with a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and the sour cream. Add the rum, cinnamon and almond extract and beat the mixture until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 1 hour until the center is firm. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Loosen the edge of the cheesecake with a knife before removing the sides of the pan. If the top is uneven, you can trim it with a knife.

To prepare topping, combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla and blend until smooth. Spread over the slightly cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the cake for 6 hours or overnight. To protect the cheesecake while it's being chilled, replace the sides of the springform pan. This also makes it easier to cove the top with foil or plastic wrap.

Serve in small wedges and garnish as desired.

Pam Williams is founder and lead instructor of Ecole Chocolat Professional Chocolatier School of Chocolate Arts.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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