Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Cake
It’s December 1st and this makes me EXTREMELY happy. Normally, the first of December marks the day I finally allow myself to start listening to Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies, eating Advent calendar chocolates, and baking Christmas cookies…. But I was slightly impatient this year and started all that two weeks ago… I’m going to have to come up with a good excuse as to why Tony is missing December 1st, 8th, and 13th on his Advent calendar…
Since Thanksgiving isn’t too big of a deal in Italy (surpriiiise!) they kind of skipped over that part of the year that America holds so dear and jumped right into Christmas… Every storefront in the center of Florence is covered in garland and snowflakes and the streets have been ablaze with Christmas lights since Halloween ended… So obviously… I had to join in on the fun a little earlier than normal!
Unfortunately, I didn’t really get the “crafty” or “artistic” gene so my attempt at turning my house into a Winter Wonderland looks like a bunch of eight-year-olds ate too much cake and then tried to decorate… I have fake snow smeared across my windows, snowflakes dangling from the ceiling, and lots of bright, glittery ornaments hanging from the tree… It looked a lot better on my Pinterest “Holiday Things” board… at least Louie had fun watching me risk my life while climbing the most janky ladder I happened to find abandoned in the attic.
I did do one thing right though, I made this cake when my friend Laura came over last Wednesday for a Baking Day Extravaganza. I met Laura at good ole CrossFit… She’s from Germany, but is studying in Florence and is just about the smartest person I’ve ever met…Thankfully, she speaks English along with SEVEN other languages. Can I just ask WHO speaks eight languages unless they’re absolutely brilliant? It baffles me. I can barely speak a sentence of Italian without butchering one… or seven… words.
Anyhow, we planned on baking a bunch of cakes and desserts, but this cake ended up taking the majority of the time so we didn’t get around to baking anything else… I’m not complaining either because this cake was BOMB. It’s inspired by Bon Appetit’s Salted Caramel Ding Dong Cake, but since the holidays are near, we turned it into a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Cake instead. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any better…
Two layers of chocolate cake layered with caramel ganache and marshmallow filling, covered in chocolate buttercream, drizzled with more of that caramel ganache goodness, and topped with toasted Swiss meringue puffs. Yeah. I know. I’m currently sitting in front of the computer screen with my second slice of cake and a carton of milk by my side. It’s reaaaaaal gooood. Just make sure you have a glass or a carton of milk ready. I foresee a “Got Milk?” commercial in the making with a slice of this cake.
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Cake inspired by Bon Appetit:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup hot strong coffee
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 ¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups chilled heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 ½ cups butter, room temperature
¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
3 ¾ cup powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the cake, preheat oven to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment-paper rounds; coat paper.
- Place cocoa powder and chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Pour hot coffee over. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside. Whisk cake flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with chocolate mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
- Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes (cakes will deflate slightly). Run a knife around pans to loosen cakes; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and let cakes cool completely. Turn cakes over. If needed, use a long serrated knife to cut off bumps or trim dome from top of each cake to create a flat, even surface.
- To make the caramel ganache, place chocolate and salt in a medium bowl. Stir sugar and ¼ cup water in a medium deep saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar is deep amber, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over medium heat until caramel bits dissolve. Pour over chocolate in bowl. Add vanilla; stir until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly.
- To assemble, place 1 cake layer in springform pan. Pour 1 cup ganache over and sprinkle with sea salt. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Cover remaining ganache and let stand at room temperature.
- To make the marshmallow filling, place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small heatproof glass or metal bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.
- Pour water to a depth of ½ inch into a small skillet set over medium heat. Transfer bowl with gelatin to skillet; stir until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from skillet. Set aside.
- Place cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Using an electric mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add gelatin; beat filling until firm peaks form.
- Spoon filling over chilled ganache on cake layer in pan; smooth top. Gently place second cake layer on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cream layer is set, at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Remove sides from spring-form pan. Using a knife or offset spatula, scrape off any filling that may have leaked out from between cakes to form smooth sides. Transfer cake to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- To make chocolate buttercream, cream butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer on moderately high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add cocoa powder and powdered sugar until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla and heavy cream and continue to beat on high speed until the mixture is pale and very fluffy.
- To assemble, cover entire cake with a crumb coat (thin layer of chocolate buttercream) and return cake to freezer to set, about 5-10 minutes.
- Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the remaining chocolate buttercream and return cake to freezer to set, about 5-10 minutes.
- While the cake is setting, rewarm remaining ganache until just pourable (microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, or set a metal bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water until just warm, not hot.) Pour ganache over the edge of the cake, occasionally tilting cake as needed to allow ganache to drip down sides. Chill until ganache is set, about 1 hour.
- To make the Swiss meringue, mix egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk with a hand whisk continuously until the mixture reaches 65°C (149°F). Remove from heat and place egg and sugar mixture in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat on high speed until the meringue is shiny, glossy, and stiff.
- Transfer to a pastry bag with a round-tip attachment and pipe rounds on top of the cake.
- Use a creme brûlée blowtorch to brown the meringue and serve immediately. Put the cake back in the fridge if not serving right away.