Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake
Last month it was my husband's birthday. Of course I had to make him a cake. Usually he tells me what type of cake he wants, then I give him some options. However, this year, he told me to make what I felt like making, as long as there wasn't any cream cheese frosting. I'll tell you what, I was pretty excited to chose something that I have had in the back of my mind for a while, just never had an excuse to make it. Wait, what? Since when do you ever need an excuse to make cake?
Since he is a chocolate lover, I felt that this cake would be very fitting. Wow. This cake is unreal. Incredibly rich, so delicious and down right amazing. It definitely is time consuming, but so worth it. Without a doubt. The cake is moist, layered with a rich caramel buttercream frosting, then topped with a thick and creamy chocolate frosting. Superb. This cake would make any chocolate lover extremely happy.
Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake
For the cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons brewed coffee
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
For the filling
1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the frosting
12 oz. good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup very hot water
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
Fleur de sel, for finishing
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch baking pans, shaking out the excess. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. 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. Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely.
To make the caramel buttercream filling, place 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Mix in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt. Set aside and let cool.
Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer). Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated. Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.
To assemble the cake; place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter. Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer. Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel buttercream over that. Place the final cake layer on top. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula. If desired, use additional frosting to pipe decorative accents on the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.