While the chocolate laden Valentine’s holiday may be over, no reason to stop indulging in the occasional dessert! My birthday is 4 days after Valentine’s day, and my husband’s follows 5 days after that so February is a month of celebration and sweets. I am not one of those people that doesn’t want to be reminded of their birthday. Yes, I may now be exactly in the middle of my 30s, but oh well. I love birthdays: presents, cake and well wishes from friends and family. What is not to like?
I actually enjoy making my own birthday cake. This year I decided to revamp a recipe my mom used when I was a kid. We called it Wacky Cocoa Cake, and it was chocolatey heaven! The wacky part came from the addition of vinegar, which seems like a strange ingredient for cake. But the vinegar would react with the baking soda in the recipe and give the cake some volume.
I decided to make the cake into a 3 layer one (cause why not?) and punched up the flavor with the addition of espresso powder and root beer extract; which nicely rounded out the chocolate flavor and color.
A quick lesson on cocoa powder: Regular cocoa is basically the powdered form of roasted cacao beans once the cocoa butter is removed. It adds delicious chocolate flavor to baked goods without all the fat. Now, chocolate is acidic and regular cocoa powder will have a sharp, almost citrus taste. Dutch-processed cocoa is cocoa that is washed with a potassium carbonate solution to reduce the acidity level. Dutch-processed cocoa is darker in color and has a smoother, deeper, and more balanced chocolate flavor. Black cocoa (aka double-Dutched) is cocoa powder that has been “Dutched” even more, further reducing the acidity level and creating an intensely rich chocolate flavor. Like the name suggests, it is almost black in color. Since Dutch-processed cocoa and black cocoa aren’t very acidic, they don’t react well with alkaline leaveners such as baking soda. Hence the vinegar in the following recipe and the wackiness! I used a cocoa blend of all three in this recipe, but you can also just use Dutch-processed. I wouldn’t recommend using just regular cocoa because the chocolate flavor will be lacking. The opposite goes for black cocoa. Whenever I use it, I combine it with Dutch-processed; otherwise the chocolate flavor can be a bit over the top.
Since my husband is not a fan of frosting, I went with a super simple “mousse” for frosting. Chocolate mousse usually has eggs in it but I wanted a lighter frosting so I basically just folded melted, cooled chocolate into whipped cream. A little bit of raspberry jam and fresh berries brought it all together and created the perfect chocolate birthday cake.
I have included instructions for both a whole grain and gluten-free version. While I am a big believer in whole grains and I understand that some people have gluten allergies, this cake is way better with white flour and white sugar.
Click HERE for instructions on assembling and using the double whisk bowl for the Ankarsrum.
Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (or a blend of Dutch-processed, regular and black)
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. white or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. root beer extract (or more vanilla extract)
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. coffee liquor or coffee
3 tablespoons sugar
12 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
fresh raspberries for garnish and serving
For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans.
Set up your Ankarsrum mixer with the plastic whisking bowl and the single wire whisks. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Turn on the lowest speed (12 o’clock position) and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed (3 o’clock) until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake layers cool for 10 minutes in the pans, and then remove from the cake pans and finish cooling on a wire rack.
For the Filling/Frosting:
Fill a medium saucepan halfway full of water and place on medium-high heat. Place a heatproof bowl on top, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Pour the chocolate into the bowl and heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Take the bowl off the saucepan and set aside to cool.
Set up your Ankarsrum mixer with the plastic whisking bowl and the balloon wire whisks. Add the heavy cream and coffee liquor or coffee and begin whisking on medium-low speed (2 o’clock). Slowly add the sugar and increase the speed to medium (4 o’clock). Beat until stiff peaks form. Drizzle in the cooled melted chocolate and whisk on lowest speed until just combined. Do not overbeat the mousse.
To assemble the cake:
Place one cooled cake layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup of raspberry jam on top of the cake and then 3/4 cup of chocolate mousse. Top with the second cake layer and spread the remaining jam on top followed by another 3/4 cup of chocolate mousse. Place the final layer on top and frost the cake using the remaining mousse. Garnish and serve with fresh raspberries.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Whole-Grain Version: Replace the all-purpose flour with equal parts of whole wheat pastry flour or soft white wheat if you mill at home. Replace the sugar with honey granules (aka sucanat with honey).
Gluten-Free Version: Replace the all-purpose flour with 2 1/4 cups sorghum flour, 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brown rice flour, 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. tapioca flour, and 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of potato starch. You can also replace the all-purpose flour with equal parts multi-purpose gluten-free flour (found in the baking aisle of grocery stores).