Sunday, November 17, 2013

Birthday cake

I hadn’t made my own birthday cake since 2010. It was a stunning triple chocolate mousse cake that became my favorite and that I made several times since. I made it for S’s birthday a couple of years ago and for other occasions that I needed to prepare something special, and every single time, it was greeted with enthusiasm and eaten greedily by all.

Last week was my birthday and I decided that it was again time for me to make my own birthday cake. This is the one I made; a four-layered chocolate fudge cake with a mascarpone-cream filling and a dark chocolate fudge frosting. And it was spectacular.

I wanted something different—for me this is different as in Greece or Holland these cakes are not common—and something chocolatey, because you all know by now what a huge chocoholic I am.

I have to say that I was hesitant about the result and the whole process since I’m not terribly used to making layered cakes like this, American-style, I’m more used to European/French-style cakes, but everything went smoothly and the cake was a huge success.

I used three different recipes to make this cake happen. An old one I have for fudge cake, a simple recipe for mascarpone-cream filling that I use for various cakes, and a frosting recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

It may seem difficult to make but it really is not. If you break it down and think of it as three different parts, then it’s simple. The sponge (cake) part is very straightforward as you mix all the ingredients together, empty them in two pans and bake them. The mascarpone filling is a cinch to make as all ingredients again go into the mixer and voilà, ready, and the frosting is a rather simple process as well.

The hardest part is assembling the cake and applying the frosting, something that’s tricky if you haven’t done it before or if you don’t have the right tools.

But do give it a try and you’ll certainly be rewarded in the end with a beautiful cake that has a rich, deep, chocolate flavor and a moist, fluffy texture, with a refreshing and light mascarpone and cream filling and a chocolatey, sweet and buttery frosting. The sprinkling of thick sea salt flakes on top enhances the flavor of the chocolate and brings the cake to life.

I don’t know if I will ever trade the chocolate mousse cake for this one as my favorite, but one thing’s for sure, there’s competition.

Chocolate Fudge Layered Cake with Mascarpone-Cream Filling and Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Make sure to use good quality cocoa powder and chocolate for the individual components of the cake for best results.

Ideally you should have a good, long straight spatula, a small offset spatula and a bench scraper (see photo further down) to smooth and apply the frosting, but a long straight spatula will do fine as well if you’re patient.

Yield: 1 layered cake / 12-14 slices


for the chocolate fudge cake
180 g all-purpose flour
90 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
300 g caster sugar
60 ml sunflower oil
190 ml hot espresso coffee
190 ml buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 medium-sized eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork

A little butter for greasing the pans

for the mascarpone-cream filling
250 g mascarpone
60 g icing sugar
220 ml cream, full-fat (35%)

for the chocolate fudge frosting
455 g good quality dark chocolate, 55%-60% cocoa solids, cut into small pieces
45 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
90 ml boiling water
340 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
65 g icing sugar
Pinch of salt

Sea salt flakes like Fleur de Sel or Maldon for sprinkling over the cake

Special equipment: two round 18cm springform baking pans, baking paper, stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer, fine sieve, large serrated knife, frosting spatulas (large straight and small offset), bench scraper (optional)


for the chocolate fudge cake
Butter the bottom and sides of two 18cm springform pans. Line the bottom with baking paper. See here how to make a baking paper circle.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 360 Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder, and add the sugar and salt. Then add the sunflower oil, the hot coffee, buttermilk, vanilla extract and the 2 beaten eggs. Mix, using the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), on medium speed for 2 minutes until you have a homogeneous mixture, and pour into the two prepared baking pans. I weigh the mixture and divide it in half between the two pans. If you don’t want to use a scale, eyeball it.

Place both pans on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or knife inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake otherwise the cakes will be dry.
Remove pans from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Then remove cakes from the pans and leave to cool on the wire rack completely.
Place them in the refrigerator, uncovered, and allow them to get cold. They need to be cold as this will make it easier for you to cut them in half, which is actually a little tricky if you haven’t done it before. The cakes need to be cut evenly in order for the finished cake to look good when you slice it.

While the cakes are in the fridge cooling, make the filling.

for the mascarpone-cream filling
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the mascarpone, icing sugar and cream and beat with the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip or the mixture will split.

Assembling the cake
Now it’s time to assemble the two parts of the cake.
Take the cold cakes out of the fridge and using a large and sharp serrated knife trim the top parts level. Then cut each cake into equal halves in order to have 4 equal cake layers.

Choose the plate, stand etc. where you’ll place your cake, cut four thick strips of baking paper and form a square outline on the plate. This will ensure that your plate or stand will not be covered with frosting when you apply it over your cake.

Place the bottom half of the first cake (cut side up) onto the pieces of baking paper and add 1/3 of the filling on top. Spread the filling over the top of the cake, smoothing it out with the help of a small offset spatula (or a regular spatula). Be careful not to spread too close to the edges, leave some space for the filling to spread out when you add each layer on top. Carefully place the top half of the first cake on top (cut side down) and press down gently to secure. Add another 1/3 of filling, spreading and smoothing it like before. Then place the top half of the second cake on top (cut side up) and again press gently to secure. Add the remaining filling, spreading and smoothing it like before. Finally, add the bottom half of the second cake on top (cut side down) and again press down gently to secure.
Put the cake in the fridge in order for the filling and cake to firm up and be ready for the application of the frosting. Leave in the fridge for 10 minutes and make the fudge frosting.

for the chocolate fudge frosting
Place the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not come in contact with the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove bowl from the top of the pan and allow the chocolate to cool.

In a small bowl, add the cocoa powder, pour the 90 ml of boiling water on top and whisk until the cocoa has dissolved and you have a smooth paste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add butter, icing sugar and salt, and beat with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, for about 5 minutes. Add the melted and cooled chocolate, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on low speed until combined. Add the cocoa mixture and beat until it is well incorporated. You will now have a smooth, creamy and thick frosting.
Time to frost the cake.

Frosting the cake
The frosting thickens and hardens (resembling a thick mousse) as time passes (especially during winter and in a cold kitchen) so it is best that you frost the cake shortly after you have made the frosting so it is more pliable and spreadable. In case it hardens too much before you get the chance to frost the cake, beat it again on low speed until smooth and soft.

Take the cake out of the refrigerator and apply a crumb coating using a long, straight spatula for the sides and a small offset spatula for the top. The crumb coating is a thin layer of frosting that is being applied on the top and sides of the cake in order to fill any holes, seal in the crumbs and create a smooth surface for the final frosting. (See photos below). You don’t need to be neat with this as it will be covered with the final layer of frosting.

Put the cake back in the fridge for 10 minutes or until the crumb coating has set, and then apply the frosting. Use a small offset spatula for the top and a long, straight spatula for the sides. If you have a bench scraper, use it to finish off smoothing the frosting on the sides of the cake, holding it at 90° against the side of the cake.
Remove the baking paper from around the bottom of the cake carefully, and place it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle some sea salt flakes on top, and your cake is ready to serve, cut into thin slices because the cake is pretty high and filling.

You can keep the cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It tastes better after a few hours to a day in the fridge. Beware that after several hours in the fridge, the frosting of the cake will be quite hard which makes it a bit difficult to cut without breaking. You need therefore to take the cake out of the fridge about half an hour before serving.
The secret to slicing the cake while the frosting is still hard, or slightly hard, is this: Take a thin, long, sharp knife and run it under hot water to heat the blade and then carefully cut the cake. The heat of the blade will smoothly cut through the frosting like butter, without breaking it.


  1. Happy bday Magda!!!! And what a lovely cake you have there. I will give it a try but as a two-layer cake (yes, I'm very, very lazy, lol!!!)

  2. Na ta ekatostisis Magda!! Xronia sou pola me igia, xara, kai agapi!!

  3. If you are now a fan of big-layered cakes, you should try the Momofuku Milk Bar book. The recipes are complicated but the results are amazing,

  4. I always get the urge to cook when I visit your site! This cake looks fantastic and reminds me I haven't celebrated my B-day yet; Happy Birthday and congrats on the Saveur nomination! Glad they noticed you! :)

  5. Thanks for you wishes all! You're the sweetest!

    Joumana, what Saveur nomination? As far as I know, I haven't been nominated for anything.

  6. You know how much I love chocolate too... and since my daughter asked me to bake her cake for her birthday again (after the success of my second layer cake for her birthday last year), I think I will attempt this. Love the mascarpone filling!

  7. Happy belated birthday! Looks like it was a good one, judging from this cake! I am especially enamored with the mascarpone filling. Sounds delicious!

  8. I am drooling!!! I am going to try this in the futyre for sure! For now I am pinning!

  9. First of all, Happy Birthday! Secondly, this is one of the most beautiful cakes I have come across lately. Loving chocolate as well and hardly ever making a cake for myself I am inspired by you to make a cake for my upcoming birthday in January! Thanks so very much for sharing your story and life.

  10. Thank you all! You're so kind!

  11. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. cakes in los angeles

  12. "I enjoy reading your post guys,,, just keep posting. Birthday Wishes