I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Chocolate Celebration Cake

At least 16 servings


A cake baked in a 13 by 9 inch pan is cut in half the long way, then each half is split horizontally. The four layers are sprinkled with a bit of black raspberry liqueur (optional, but good), then sandwiched and frosted with white chocolate whipped cream. The long sides and top are then covered with chocolate shavings. This is a big cake that looks like a party.

You'll need a serving platter or board at least 14 inches long by about 6 inches wide; the platter should not be black, as the dark chocolate shavings won't allow for much color contrast if it is. The finished cake must be stored in the refrigerator, but it will keep for at least 3 days, if stored airtight; leftovers can be frozen (defrost in the refrigerator, still in wrappings), but I don't think they're quite as good after freezing.


2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup nonalkalized (non-Dutch process)
   unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, graded "large"
1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Optional Liqueur:
About 1/4 cup black raspberry
   or other liqueur (see Notes)

White Chocolate Whipped Cream:
7-1/2 ounces best-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup plus 1-3/4 cups heavy cream, divided

Dark Chocolate Shavings:
About 5 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate,
   shaved with a vegetable peeler (see Notes)


For Cake:
Adjust rack one-third up from bottom of oven; preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan with solid vegetable shortening. Line the bottom with a rectangle of wax paper cut to fit, grease the paper, and dust the entire inside of the pan lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set pan aside. Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, cream softened butter, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed for three minutes, stopping mixer once halfway through to scrape down bowl and beater(s). At a low speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating after each until incorporated. When all eggs have been added, scrape bowl and beater(s), then beat at medium speed for one minute. Batter may look curdled--OK.

At lowest speed, add sifted dry ingredients in thirds and buttermilk (gradually) in halves, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and beating after each addition just until incorporated. Scrape bowl and beater(s) as necessary for thorough blending. You may need to increase the speed very slightly to get all of the ingredients blended in. This batter often looks curdled when it is completed--unusual, I know, but it will bake up fine.

Turn batter into prepared pan. Spread level, then run batter slightly higher up edges of pan and into corners. Bake in preheated oven 28 to 33 minutes, switching from back-to-front about halfway through baking time. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center emerges with only a few moist crumbs still clinging to it. Do not overbake.

Cool cake on cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently loosen edges of cake from pan; invert onto cooling rack. Remove pan and gently peel wax paper from bottom of cake. Re-invert to cool right side up. Cool completely before frosting.

Before starting the Frosting, have ready your serving platter and the chocolate shavings.

For Frosting:
Chill a large bowl and beater(s) from a sturdy, hand-held electric mixer. Place finely chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. In small saucepan over low heat, heat 2/3 cup cream (reserve remainder) until very hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Pour about half of hot cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. If necessary, place over warm water on low heat; stir often just until melted and smooth, then remove from heat and hot water. Stir or whisk in remaining hot cream. Note: White chocolate can be stubborn about melting. If yours has tiny lumps in it, turn it into the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process briefly just until smooth (you can also smooth it out with an immersion blender).

Cool the white chocolate mixture completely, whisking or stirring occasionally, until it is at room temperature. If it is at all warm when added to the remaining cream, it will deflate it. If you wish to speed the cooling process, you can place the white chocolate mixture in the refrigerator--do not forget about it! Check it frequently, and whisk it often. Alternatively, you can place it in a larger, shallower pan half full of ice and water. Again, check it frequently and whisk it often; do not allow it to set up. Meanwhile, using a large, sharp, serrated knife, trim the top of the cooled cake so it is flat (if necessary). Split the cake in half the long way (this will give you two rectangles, each about 13 inches long by 4-1/2 inches wide). Split each rectangle in half horizontally, to make four thin layers in total. Carefully place one thin layer, cut side up, on the serving platter (these thin layers are fragile, but if they break they can be patched together with frosting). Drizzle or spray about one-quarter of the optional liqueur on the top surface of this thin layer. Cover this layer, then cover the other three thin layers so that nothing dries out.

When the white chocolate mixture has cooled completely (test a bit on the inside of your wrist to be sure), you can proceed. Place the reserved 1-3/4 cups heavy cream into the chilled large bowl. Beat at high speed just until you can see traces of beater marks in the cream. All at once, add the cooled white chocolate, then beat at high speed to stiff peaks. Do not overbeat, or the cream will become grainy. If your cream reaches stiff peaks before the white chocolate has been incorporated completely, don't worry; just fold the white chocolate in gently with a large rubber spatula. The white chocolate whipped cream will stiffen somewhat as it chills.

Frost the thin layer on the serving platter with the white chocolate whipped cream, then carefully place another thin layer on top of that. Drizzle or spray another quarter or so of the liqueur on top of this second thin layer, then frost the top of it (do not use too much frosting in between the layers, or you won't have enough for the top and sides). Repeat the procedure until all four layers are stacked, and the top layer has been drizzled/sprayed with the last of the liqueur.

If necessary, press very gently on the top of the cake to even it. Also, if required, use both hands to very gently straighten the sides of the cake as much as possible. Now, frost the long sides with a thin layer of frosting (that will seal in any crumbs), then apply a more generous layer of frosting. Do not frost the short ends! Finally, frost the top.

Take a small amount of chocolate shavings on the fingers of one slightly cupped hand; press them gently into the frosted sides of the cake. Some will fall onto the serving platter--OK. Just pick them up and re-apply them. Repeat this procedure until the long sides and the top are covered with chocolate shavings. The short ends will look messy--OK, as they'll be trimmed later. with a damp paper towel, wipe off the serving platter around the completed cake.

Carefully pick up the serving platter (the cake will be heavy) and transfer it to the refrigerator. Chill for about two hours, then remove from refrigerator. If necessary, use both hands to gently straighten the cake sides again. Using a large, very sharp knife, trim about one-half to three-quarters of an inch from each short end. Carefully cover the cake with plastic wrap. Return to refrigerator for at least two more hours before serving.

To serve, cut slices with the large, sharp knife. Make the slices on the thin side; this is rich! Refrigerate any leftovers, covered, for up to three days or freeze.


Regarding the liqueur, you have a lot of choices. Just make sure you use a flavor that goes well with chocolate. I drizzle on the liqueur with a spoon, but it seems to me that one of those olive oil sprayers (I think they're called "Misto") would work really well here, provided you used one that was new and kept it just for spraying liqueurs. If you use a sprayer, you'll probably need less than 1/4 cup of liqueur.

For the chocolate shavings, I use a large block/bar of semisweet chocolate. I fold a paper towel into quarters, and I hold the chocolate with that, which protects it slightly from the heat of my hand. Draw a vegetable peeler straight down an edge of the bar. If the bar or the room is warm, you may get chocolate curls, which look beautiful; otherwise, you'll likely get chocolate shavings, which will work perfectly well and are far less trouble.


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This page created November 1999