Valentine’s Day is coming and I have just the cake for the occasion.
For years this decadent chocolate cake was known simply as Lizzie’s Birthday Cake. The recipe comes from the Barrington Brewery and Restaurant in Great Barrington, MA.
Back then, it was a tall and skinny cake made with three 8-inch cake pans. It feeds from 12-15 people — it is so rich that I typically serve thin slices.
This week, in the wee hours of the morning, I had an idea to make a heart-shaped version of the cake for a Valentine’s Day party with many guests. I used a cake construction technique I learned when I was ten and constantly creating all types of confections for my many brothers and their friends. I used an 8-inch square pan and an 8-inch round pan to make this heart shape.
I added a second layer for the Valentine’s day version by using two round and two square cake pans.
I made a rich ganache frosting. Ganache is a chocolate filling made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. Depending on the ratio of chocolate to cream used, the consistency of the end product can be either a dipping sauce, like for strawberries (1 part chocolate: 1½ parts cream); or a thick creamy cake frosting (1 part chocolate: 1 part cream); or a solid confection, like for truffles (2 parts chocolate: 1 part cream). I had to increase the frosting recipe by half to cover this more expansive version of the cake.
I usually make the frosting before making the cakes to allow time for it to cool down and thicken.
Let’s Get Started!
Ingredients for Cake and Frosting:
TO MAKE THE FROSTING
We will make the frosting first and set it aside to cool while making the cake.
Ingredients for basic three-layer cake:
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 pound (2½ cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Ingredients for the wider heart-shaped cake:
3 cups heavy or whipping cream
1½ pounds (3¾) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heat cream in a medium-sized, uncovered, heavy-bottomed saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and allow it to melt without stirring for three minutes.
Using a whisk, stir the ingredients together. Do not let any water (for example, thru covering the pot, which could create condensate) get in the ganache. It is an emulsion, and as such, it could “seize” and turn the chocolate into a grainy liquid. Set aside and allow to cool.
TO MAKE THE CAKES
2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups (18 ounces) all-purpose flour
4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1⅓ cups sour cream
Preheat oven to 350º.
Prepare the four lined cake pans, two 8-inch squares, and two 8-inch rounds.
Grease all four pans with butter. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. To make liners, stack two sheets of parchment paper. Use a marker to trace the cake pan outlines onto paper. Cut the images, and place them in the bottom of the cake pans. Set aside.
Bring stout and butter to a simmer in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Remove pan from heat. Add cocoa powder through a fine-mesh sieve and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Add eggs and sour cream to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until well-blended, about a minute.
You should now have three bowls of ingredients. It’s time to mix them together.
Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the blended sour cream and eggs. Beat briefly on slow speed for one minute. Scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat briefly until just mixed. Remove paddle and stir batter up from the bottom with a spatula and fold until completely combined. Divide equally between the four prepared pans
Notice how thick and deluxe the batter is. The cake will be equally deluxe!
Bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You’ll notice the edges of the cake start to pull away from the sides of the pan when they are done. Be sure to do the knife check on each cake as the cakes in the back (where the oven is hottest) tend to cook a little faster. Let cool for 10 minutes on wire racks and then invert the pans, remove paper liners, and allow cakes to finish cooling. They must be completely cooled before frosting the cakes.
FROSTING THE CAKE
Place the square cake on a large sheet of parchment paper. Cut the round cake and place the halves on two sides of the square, as shown.
This next step is optional: to make a fluffier frosting, pour the cooled frosting into a mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes. This extra step gives the cake extra height.
I trimmed off the visible parchment paper.
I used a pizza paddle to transfer the cake to my friend Kate’s silver tray. Her husband picked rosemary, and we added chocolate-covered ginger pieces for final adornments.
My friend Renée made the same recipe for the party and adorned hers beautifully with a dusting of cocoa powder and flowers.
OTHER FUN CAKES
How about an Easter bunny cake? Old-Timey Vanilla Bunny Cake
Or a red velvet cake? Lily’s Red Velvet Cake
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