Here’s some happy news to brighten your day: It’s berry season! Raspberries, in particular, are looking plump and juicy right about now. Which is why I love to use them as the finishing touch on this showcase dessert. What we have here is a chocolate layer cake wrapped in a band of solid chocolate and topped with fresh raspberries. The prep and assembly require a bit of effort, no doubt, but it’s well worth it. And if you love the combination of chocolate and raspberries (ummm… how could you not?!), then this is the dessert for you.
Oh — and while we’re on the subject of the berries, let me just point out my own little food styling misjudgment: In the photo (if you look closely… really closely… zoom in if you have to) you can see that I dusted the berries with a bit of powdered sugar. But… you know what? I don’t really like that idea. Fresh berries are beautiful just as they are. I say, resist the temptation to dust them or drizzle them or do whatever it is you are thinking of doing to them. Just leave them be.
Before you begin, you might want to read about making the chocolate band enclosure in “Valentine’s Chocolate Ruffle Cake.” It’s messy but fun! And I’m telling you, once you learn how to do this you will want to wrap everything in chocolate.
Make the Cake Layers:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two eight-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until fully whipped and light in color. (This will take 3-5 minutes.) Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture in alternating 1/3 batches, starting with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter until fully blended.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the centers spring back when pressed lightly. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then remove from pans and allow to finish cooling.
Make the Buttercream:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound unsalted butter, cool room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
Chop the chocolates and melt in a bowl over simmering water until smooth. Allow to cool.
Mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Heat the egg whites in the bowl over simmering water until they are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is cool and holds a stiff peak.
Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add the chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and rum and mix for 1 minute or until the chocolate is completely blended in. If the buttercream seems very soft, allow it to cool and beat it again.
Assemble the Cake:
Divide each cake into two layers horizontally using a sharp serrated knife. Attach the bottom layer to an 8-inch cardboard round with a dollop of buttercream. Spread more buttercream over the top of the base layer, then top with another cake layer. Continue until all four cake layers are stacked evenly. Spread buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.
To wrap the cake in a chocolate band (as pictured) follow the directions here for “Valentine’s Chocolate Ruffle Cake.” Be sure your chocolate band is at least 1/4 inch taller than the height of the finished cake.
Finish the cake with a layer of fresh raspberries, arranging the berries in concentric circles starting at the outside edge of the cake.
Note, you may also wish to use raspberries between the cake layers, but only if you are serving the cake on the same day. Otherwise, the berries may break down and become soggy inside the cake. Raspberries are very fragile!