Whew, what a name. What started as a simple request for chocolate birthday cake turned into chocolate cake with whiskey caramel buttercream frosting and dark chocolate ganache frosting, one of the best cakes I have ever made.
I have said it before, but I’m not a huge cake fan. It is really the frostings that make me want to try the cake. I feel like most cakes are very similar, often lacking in flavor and the frostings really enhance them and make them stand out. I have tried a lot of chocolate cake recipes and they usually take more effort than they are worth. I used to make boxed chocolate cakes and top them with homemade frostings – no one knew they weren’t entirely homemade. Sure, they were airier than I would have liked and lacked a super chocolatey flavor, but they were a lot easier than busting out 5 separate bowls just to make the cake layers.
This chocolate cake changed all of that. One bowl, two steps and the batter is done. It is so easy and so much better than boxed cake. Adding coffee to the batter enhances the chocolate for a richer and deeper flavor. The cake is dense enough to easily slice without collapsing, but tender enough to easily break apart at the touch of a fork.
The frostings are the real stars of the show here. I have such a hard time deciding which one is my favorite because they are both so amazingly delicious. The best part of the cake are the edges between layers, where you get a little dark chocolate ganache frosting, a little whiskey caramel buttercream frosting and a little chocolate cake all in the same bite. It is melt-in-your-mouth goodness on a fork. The whiskey caramel buttercream is super smooth, light and fluffy, with a subtle whiskey and caramel flavors while the chocolate ganache frosting is thick, dense and rich. They pair perfectly and the chocolate cake breaks them up just enough.
To make the whiskey caramel buttercream you first need to make whiskey caramel sauce. This is as easy as melting sugar, butter and cream together but will highly impress your friends. Save any leftovers – we will do something fun with it in a few weeks ;)
I am not one to reach for a cake as my dessert choice, but I would grab this one again and again and again. The combination of flavors and textures is unbelievable and will leave guests asking for the recipe (this has been proven). Make it. You won’t regret it.
Chocolate Cake with Whiskey Caramel Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache Frosting
2 ¼ cups flour
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tablespoons
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 -4 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (depending on how strong of a flavor you want), optional
Whiskey Caramel Buttercream Frosting
¾ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
4 egg whites
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
½ cup whiskey caramel (recipe above)
Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting
12 ounces (2 cups) good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
¼ cup boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
pinch of sea salt (omit if using salted butter)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch round baking pans with non-stick spray. Cut parchment paper into 8-inch rounds and line the bottoms of the pans with them. Coat the parchment paper bottoms with non-stick spray and lightly coat each pan with flour, shaking out any excess.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed to blend everything together. Add the vegetable oil, milk, coffee, eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until all of the wet ingredients are completely incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
In a small bowl, heat the cream in the microwave until warm (30 seconds worked for me, but this will depend on the strength of your microwave).
In a small saucepan, heat the sugar on medium high until it starts to melt around the edges. Gently swirl the sugar with a spatula until it has completely melted.
Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, constantly stirring until it is fully melted. Carefully and slowly add the warm cream little by little to the sugar-butter mixture. The mixture will bubble violently when the cream comes in contact with it – just keep stirring.
Pour the caramel into a jar and let it cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir in the salt and whiskey until they are fully incorporated into the caramel. Add more of either to taste. Allow the caramel to cool for at least 15 more minutes before adding it to the frosting.
Store leftover caramel in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Whiskey Caramel Buttercream Frosting
In a heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my electric mixer) gently stir together the egg whites and sugar.
Over medium heat, simmer a small amount of water in a saucepan. Place the egg white and sugar bowl on top of the simmering water so that it is resting on the saucepan but not touching the water (you don’t want the egg to cook!). Whisk the sugar and eggs constantly until the mixture reaches 140-150 degrees F. If you are not using a candy thermometer you can tell because the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is hot to the touch.
Remove the bowl from the heat and pour the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer, if it isn’t already there. Using the paddle attachment beat the egg whites and melted sugar on high speed until white, fluffy, stiff peaks form and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch. This usually takes me about 8 minutes, but can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mixture may get curdled and soupy if your butter was not warm enough – just keep beating and the mixture will become smooth again. Add the caramel and beat until it is fully incorporated and the frosting is smooth.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Place the chocolate in a small bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir and microwave in 10-second increments, stirring between each heating, until fully melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and, with the mixer still running, gradually add in the melted chocolate. Mix until well incorporated. Add in the cocoa powder-water mixture and beat until smooth.
Wrap the cooled layer cakes in plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove the now firm layers, cut them with a serrated knife to level, if necessary, and carefully slice each one horizontally to create four layers total. This step is optional, but will give you more layers.
Place one layer on your serving dish of choice and spread a thick layer of whiskey caramel frosting evenly across the top. Place another layer on top of the frosting and repeat. Repeat the process again with the next layer, ending with one unfrosted layer on the top.
Cover the cake in a very thin layer of chocolate frosting (to seal in the crumbs) and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Cover the chilled cake with the rest of the chocolate frosting. Serve at room temperature.
I used all of the filling and frosting when making my cake, but if you make a two-layer cake you may not. Place any extra frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 2 months. To use, bring the frosting back to room temperature and rewhip until the frosting is a smooth consistency again.