Vanitas Chocolate Cake with Death Wish Coffee Ganache
If you’re looking for a frightfully good chocolate cake for your Halloween party, then look no further! Layers of chocolate cake are filled and frosted with Death Wish Coffee ganache, which will keep specters dancing until dawn. Botanical icing sheets and a gold-covered chocolate skull make this cake hauntingly beautiful.
1 1/2cupshot brewed Death Wish Coffee or hot water
2 1/2cupsall-purpose flour
1 1/2cupsunsweetened cocoa powdernot Dutch process
1 1/2cupsfull fat sour cream
2 1/2cupsheavy cream
1cupDeath Wish whole bean coffee
2cups24 oz. chopped chocolate
Skull Topper and Décors
Skull candy moldsee post for source
20oz.chocolate candy coatingmelted
Piping gel or corn syrup
Gold disco dust
8×10 floral frosting sheetsee post for sources
1/2lb.ready-made black fondant
Gold luster dust
Food safe greenery
8-10whole coffee beans
For the cakes: preheat oven to 300°F. Grease six 6-inch round pans with shortening. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease the paper.
Finely chop chocolate and combine it in a bowl with hot coffee or hot water. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Add oil, sour cream, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Divide batter between the pans and bake in the middle of the oven until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, approximately 40 minutes.
Cool layers in pans for 15 minutes on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto wire racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely. Level evenly with a serrated knife or cake leveler. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator.
For the ganache: heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add the coffee beans and remove from the heat. Let steep until the cream turns light brown. Re-heat the cream and strain into a 4 cup glass measure. You should have about 1 cup of coffee-infused heavy cream. If you have more, measure out 1 cup. If you have less, add a little heavy cream until you have one cup. Add the chocolate to the hot infused cream and let stand 1 minute. Whisk slowly until a shiny ganache forms. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is of spreading consistency (about 30 minutes). Fill the cake layers with thin layers of the ganache and frost the outside of the cake evenly. Refrigerate until firm.
For the skull topper: crumple two sheets of aluminum foil and place them on a baking pan. Balance a 3D skull mold (see post for sources) on top of the foil so that they stand evenly. Fill with the melted chocolate. Freeze the molds, uncovered, until solid. Bring the two pieces to room temperature before joining them. To join the skulls, use a chef’s torch or a heated nonstick pan to melt the flat side of the larger skull piece. Join the two pieces together and hold until set, about 2 minutes. Cover the assembled skull with corn syrup or piping gel and sprinkle with nontoxic gold disco dust. Let stand at room temperature overnight to set.
For the frosting sheet and fondant: Evenly brush piping gel on the set ganache, and place a single 8×10 icing sheet upright around one side of the cake. Use an X-acto knife with a new blade to trim the extra frosting sheet away from the top of the cake if necessary. Smooth the frosting sheet with your hands to achieve a wrinkle-free surface.
Measure the remaining uncovered portion of the cake and cut a rectangular template about 3 inches longer than your measurement using scissors and a sheet of parchment. Roll black fondant to 1/4-inch thickness and use the template and an X-acto knife to cut out the shape. Prep uncovered ganache on the cake with a light brushing of piping gel and then wrap the fondant around the cake. Use your hands or a fondant smoother to make the surface even. Use your fingers to pinch the edges of the fondant and roll them back slightly to make ruffled edges on either side of the icing sheet. Use a small art brush to dry brush gold luster dust to the edges of the ruffles.
Finish the cake: Position the skull on the top center of the cake. Wrap the stems of the food-safe greenery with plastic wrap and insert the stems into the cake behind the skull. Garnish with blackberries and lightly brush them with gold luster dust. Place coffee beans in a small cup with 1/4 teaspoon gold luster dust: shake to coat. Garnish the top of the cake with gold coffee beans. Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.