Chocolate cake for R.

"I don't want people to take two bites and be done. I want them to enjoy the whole piece," explained R. "But I still want it to be chocolate."

That was the major takeaway from our cake consultation in late July. Valid request. I don't want people to abandon my cake either. The thing is the second you start stacking chocolate on chocolate in multiple layers, the RQ—that's richness quotient—compounds quickly. See: my mom's chocolate salted caramel birthday cake.

But then I remembered a tasty little whipped frosting that was in regular rotation back in the days of the cupcake craze. It's just as rich as a ganache, but it's light on the tongue—and that's enough to fool most people (including the birthday boy in question).

Chocolate on Chocolate Birthday Cake
The frosting recipe below makes more than enough for a generous coating between cake layers and the decorative piping you see in the photo above. Cut it in half and you'll probably still have enough for a thin coat.

85 grams (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

170 grams (6 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely 
5 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream, at room temperature

Begin by preparing the cake. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease three 20.5-cm (8-inch) pans and line the bottoms with parchment circles.

Place the finely chopped chocolate in a small bowl and pour the hot coffee on top. Let the mixture stand for several minutes, then whisk until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a second large bowl, beat the eggs until thick and pale yellow (about 3 minutes). Add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate, beating well between each addition. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the three prepared pans. Bake in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (about 60-70 minutes).

Move the pans to a rack and let them cool completely before attempting to flip the cakes out. For easy decorating (and fewer tears), wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Next, turn your attention to the frosting. Begin by melting the finely chopped chocolate slowly over a double boiler. Stir until smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add the butter and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Mix in the melted chocolate. Add the vanilla and cream, then beat on medium speed until light and creamy (about 3 minutes).

Several hours before serving, construct the cake using the chilled layers and freshly whipped frosting. Store the frosted cake covered at room temperature.

Sources: Double chocolate layer cake from, originally published in Gourmet in March 1999. Chocolate buttercream frosting from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans, published by Chronicle Books.