Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Cookie called me up a few days before the heat wave started and asked if there was a cake coming up that would be good for a potluck. I suggested the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache, because who doesn't like chocolate? Then the heat wave hit.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

August 15, 2010
Name of Cake: It Is Freaking Hot Out
Occasion: Cookie has a potluck, and HCB
Constituents: one 9 in layer chocolate butter cake filled and frosted with caramel ganache

When I saw the phrase "caramel ganache" I didn't immediately register there was chocolate, too. Then I read the recipe and remembered that ganache is, in and of itself, chocolate and cream. Plus, when you think about what a caramel ganache would be without chocolate, it would be caramel and cream, which is just caramel.

So anyway.

I prepped this cake along with prepping the Featherbed, and this was much quicker to prepare. Mainly because as a butter cake, it gets prepped and mixed in the standard RLB way, with the cocoa paste on standby, the dry ingredients in the mixer, the other liquids in a bowl and the butter waiting patiently. No eggs to separate, no chocolate to melt, just plain and simple.

The exciting departure in this cake from her standard chocolate butter cake is the substitution of a little bit of oil for butter. Rose says this keeps the cake soft and tender, and I found it to be a brilliant sub. The other difference is that this recipe makes only one 9 inch cake layer instead of the usual two cakes.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Rose's two stage method results in a cake that is mixed and poured into the pan in about 2 1/2 minutes. Awesome. The cake is baked for about 20 minutes at 350° F. In a hot kitchen, that was a bit of a bummer.

The caramel ganache starts out differently than most ganache, as unsweetened chocolate is called for in order to offset the sweetness of the caramel. You know what I found interesting? The unsweetened chocolate had not softened at all in the heat unlike the 60% chocolate I chopped up for the Featherbed. I used Scharffenberger in both cases and I wondered what it was about unsweetened chocolate that kept it untouched by the ambient heat in my kitchen. Do you guys know why?

On to the ganache.  First the caramel is made. After the sugar caramelizes a lot of hot cream is added. Rose warns the cream will bubble up, and as the cream bubbled up and over the rim of the pot I remembered Dorie Greenspan's instructions to add the hot cream to the caramel while the pot is in the sink. Wish I remembered that a little earlier.

I was a little alarmed by the appearance of the caramel for this ganache; there's a lot of cream in proportion to the caramel. It was really thin and pale.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

After the cream settles down the pot is put back on the stove to remelt any caramel that hardened. Once that is taken care of, a little butter is added and the thin caramel is added to the chopped chocolate. Now usually I do as Rose says and use the food processor to put the ganache together, but this night I threw caution to the wind and made the ganache the old fashioned way (pouring the hot liquid over finely chopped chocolate and stirring). Boy, it takes a lot longer with a lot of stirring! Eventually the ganache came together and looked lovely. I sneaked a taste and it was a strong chocolate velvety experience with a nice strong caramel punch at the end. Yum!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

The next morning I split the cake in two, filled and frosted with the caramel ganache, and sent it with Cookie to her potluck. I asked her to squirrel away a slice if possible so that I could taste it. That afternoon she came back with one slice on a plate with a fork and her reports on the cake.

Cookie thought the ganache on top was too rich but when sandwiched between the cake it became wonderful and fudgy. I asked her and Cabbage if they could taste the caramel in the frosting and they could. The cake plate came back clean, so the potluckers must have enjoyed it.

Later that evening I tried the cake. It was rich, but that caramel ganache is delicious. I would have preferred a good cold scoop of vanilla ice cream to counter the richness but I made my way through all right. The butter cake was very light and tender. I liked the substitution of a little bit of oil.

For me, this was a much better chocolate cake than the Featherbed. It had all the buttery cakey texture that I love with a surprise caramel flavor in the ganache. This cake definitely will be made again!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache


  1. I love the final pictures... my ganache did not come out as such as spreadable consistency... after the 3 hours of "waiting" period it was still more of a pouring and not spreadable - which was ticking me off. Even after an additional 1 hour in the refrigerator it was still pourable. I made do, but I wanted it to be thick... I was bumped out.

    Tasted it and I have to agree, very rich, love the ganache (Tom found it too sweet?) and I totally on board that with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it would be awesome!

  2. A lovely gooey chocolate cake! Looks like something I'd love to eat.
    I have made a chocolate cake with chocolate caramel ganache from Martha Stewart's programme about 2 years ago. It was a delicious ganache but in the layer cake it was, even for me, a bit too sweet. I think a little goes a long way in the case of chocolate caramel ganache!
    I would guess that the reason your unsweetened chocolate didn't melt was that there was very little cocoa butter in the unsweetened chocolate. Yes? No?

  3. Very pretty! Wonderful step by step commentary.

  4. Looks awesome! those swirls..!

  5. Love your descriptions, wish I could have tasted it! I love me some caramel in just about any form!


  6. Monica, I have to confess I was really surprised the ganache did thicken up to spreading consistency, but it was a bit softer than I would have preferred.

    Melinda, I didn't know Martha has a choc caramel ganache. Now I will have to compare.
    I had to look up the ingredients of unsweetened chocolate and it is made up of chocolate liquor, which is (according to wikipedia, so probably made up) 53% cocoa butter. So, according to the Ghirardelli website bittersweet chocolate contains milk solids in addition to the chocolate liquor, which must be the melty stuff. Yeah?

    Vicki, thanks!

    faithy, thank you!

    joelf, i wish you could have tasted it too! i think you would have liked it, even though it wasn't white/white.

    ps--eat your pistachios fool!

  7. Love that swirling fan thing of the top. You need to You Tube me some lessons!

    Looking forward to sampling this cake later tonight. Not looking forward to writing the backlog of blog posts quite so much ;)

  8. Your cake looks totally delicious. Makes me want to have a second piece.

  9. Nicola, I hope you like your cake! I always enjoy your posts, so even if they are short sweet it will be great.

    The swirling fan thing--all it takes really is a rotating cake stand!

    Raymond, thanks! I would love a You Tube on how to pipe like you!

  10. Funny how we both swirled our ganache on top :o) Beautiful cake!!

  11. Your description of the ganache is on the nose. LOVED the chocolate flavor with the caramel finish. I enjoyed the moist texture of the chocolate cake too. Gorgeous photo of your slice of cake. =)

  12. That is one gorgeous looking cake. Love the swirls.. the ganache looked so fresh and moist and begging for me to take a fresh strawberry and dip it in!
    And I didn't even like this ganache very much :).

  13. Hanaa, Nancy swirled her ganache too. It's my go-to frosting decoration!

    Shandy, thanks!

    Jenn, mmm, a fresh strawberry in the caramel ganache would be excellent!

  14. ב''ה

    Wow. Looks great!

  15. I just made the caramel ganache, and while it is yummy, I don't taste the caramel! Not sure if it is worth the extra effort of making caramel if I can't taste it. I also need a tutorial in how you make such pretty swirls! I don't think mine is going to look that nice when frosted.

    The milk solids, if they are present in bitter/semisweet chocolate (which they usually aren't, ghirardelli aside, apparently), are not the melty component. Unsweetened chocolate (liquor) is pure ground cocoa beans, which are approximately 55% fat. By chocolate specifications, chocolate liquor is 100% cacao and 50-60% cocoa butter. However, for semi/bittersweets, they often add more cocoa butter in addition to the sugar, so this is probably why it melts more readily. (Source: CIA Chocolates & Confections "textbook"). Your chocolate lesson of the day! :)


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