You see, there are chocolate cakes. Ones that boast multiple layers of I-guess-it's-chocolate-if-it's-brown cake piled high with fluffy and super sweet buttercream and icing roses, balloons, and words of celebration. And then there are chocolate cakes. Topped with rich and shiny chocolate ganache. Not for the faint of heart. This is that chocolate cake.
(You know it's serious when the chocolate glaze need not even grace the sides of the cake.)
So what's the special occasion, you ask? Let's back up a bit...
In these rough economic times, when jobs are scarce and job seekers are plentiful, I have a bit of advice for those of you still employed -- start baking. It's no secret that the results of many of my baking experiments end up at work, for my colleagues (and myself) to enjoy. It's not that I don't love what I make -- I really really do -- it's that I simply can't afford to keep three dozen cookies or a 9-inch cake in my apartment all to myself. I have no willpower. Knowing that if I really want something sweet, I have to wait at least 45 minutes to an hour to make it myself is a rather reliable deterrent. I'd eat chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until there was no more. So, by taking said dessert to work, I get to learn from the process and sample a bit while still bringing joy to others by sharing. Win win.
The first thing I ever took to work was a batch of my favorite oatmeal raisin cookies. And, don't you know, that was the first time Matt and I really spoke. He liked the cookies and came to my office to thank me. The rest is history. Further proof that the way to anyone's heart is through his (or her) stomach. If that's not reason enough for you single folks to start baking, I don't know what is! :) In order to keep him visiting me, various cookies started appearing in the office kitchen more frequently. Eventually, my other coworkers took notice. My bosses have even introduced me to new employees as "the baker." And, I'm pretty sure one even mentioned that my baking was reason enough to keep me around for the long haul. You know, I could've chimed in that it's my unparalleled work ethic and quality of projects that makes me invaluable. Instead, I just smiled and said thank you. What a team player I am.
This cake would make an excellent dessert course and outshine previous courses, leaving your guests (and coworkers!) raving and begging for more. But, more importantly, this is the kind of cake that will call to you from the kitchen, late at night, after everyone has gone. Where you can enjoy it just the way it's meant to be enjoyed: alone, with an uninhibited appetite, and a trusty fork.
Glazed Chocolate Cake
(adapted, just barely, from Gourmet)
-makes one 9-inch cake
A few notes: For such a "serious" chocolate cake, you'd think the addition of whimsical sprinkles might deter true chocoholics. On the contrary, I've found that it signals eaters to tune out all distractions and focus all of their energy enjoying every last bite of the cake. That being said, even a tiny decoration isn't necessary to this intense chocolate journey, so omit if you wish. Oh, and while keeping this all to yourself is totally acceptable, job security can only be expected if shared.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate (no more than 60% cocoa, if marked), finely chopped
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Colorful sprinkles, if using [optional]
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter bottom and side of 9-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla, scraping down sides as needed, until well combined. Reduce speed to medium low; add half of the flour, milk, and remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Mixture may appear curdled -- don't panic.
Transfer batter to prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula, and baking 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Invert pan and cool cake completely on wire rack, parchment side up, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Gently whisk until smooth, then stir in corn syrup. Cool completely, gently stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Carefully peel parchment off cake. Pour glaze onto center of cake and spread over top with offset spatula. Decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cake can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.