This past weekend one of my baking buddies (and overall good friend) got married to his best friend, Levi. They’re the type of people who are honestly friends with everyone, so the wedding was a huge assortment of friends and family from all over the country. It was casual, yet so personal, and Christian was sweet enough to ask me to bake their rehearsal dinner cake.
The request was chocolate on chocolate with a strawberry filling, and big enough to feed 40 people. I had made layer cakes before, but never a cake that fed more than probably 25 people. I also was hit with the horror that I didn’t have a go-to chocolate cake recipe. It’s an odd thing since I love chocolate cake, but the only chocolate cake recipe I use over and over is for Funeral Cake. While delicious, it isn’t meant to be made into a layered cake and smeared with icing.
I asked numerous foodie friends for suggestions, and so many people pointed me to Sweetapolita’s recipe for dark chocolate cake. WOW. I have now baked a full recipe of this cake four times (one to test the taste, one to practice the construction, and two for the actual cake), and can safely say that I will continue to make this cake for years to come. Deep chocolate flavor, moist texture, firm consistency for stacking, and light in crumb. It really is perfect.
For my wedding cake to serve 40, I made a three layer 8″ round cake as the base, followed by a four layer 6″ cake on top, along with 12 cupcakes (just to be sure it fed 40! – it really depends on who is cutting the cake and how big they make the slices). This took two full recipes of cake. I also used big smoothie straws cut to the height of the bottom cake to support the top cake that sat on a piece of foam core cut to the same size as the cake.
For frosting, I tried the delicious chocolate buttercream frosting from Joy the Baker, and while delicious and amazingly chocolate milk-like, I just worried about how it would hold up since it is so light and fluffy. In the end I used my basic Buttercream Frosting recipe for it’s sturdiness and tendency to crust (making the cake stronger), and I subbed some powdered sugar for cocoa powder to make it chocolate.
Last off is the strawberry filling. Though people love fresh strawberries, they don’t do very well in cakes. They bleed into cake layers, losing water and becoming mushy, and ultimately turn brown and tasteless – nothing we want. Instead, a simple strawberry compote brings enough sweetness to the berries while keeping them fresher tasting and looking prettier. Leaving the strawberries in small chunks allows people to know they’re eating the real deal, and not just jelly, which I particularly like. If you like a smoother consistency, take my recipe and blend it up.
The Best Chocolate Cake - derived from Sweetapolita's Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe
2 1/4 cups Flour
2 1/4 cups Sugar
1 cup Cocoa Powder
1 Tbs. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 cup Hot Coffee
3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tsp. Vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper or baking cups. For a 3 layer 8″ cake, use a full recipe. For a 4 layer 6″ cake, use 2/3 recipe (I used 2 tall sided 6″ pans and cut the cake layers in half after baking). For 36 cupcakes, use a full recipe.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, oil, vanilla, and eggs.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fully combine. Pour the cake mix into your pans and bake according to the times listed, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean:
24 minutes for three 8″ cakes
45 minutes for two 6″ cakes
18 minutes for 36 cupcakes
5. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Once partially cool, turn the cakes out and fully cool on the wire rack.
Cakes can be stored in the freezer for a week before assembly.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks of Butter
3 cups Powdered Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup Ovaltine Powder
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Salt
3-4 Tbs. Milk
1. Cream room temperature butter with the salt and vanilla on high until whipped and smooth.
2. Gradually add in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and Ovaltine powder, adding milk as necessary to thin out the frosting. The end texture should be smooth, but thick enough to hold peaks and not slide off the beater.
1 lb. Strawberries
1/2 cup Sugar
3 Tbs. Cornstarch
Chop up the strawberries into small pieces. Add the strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch to a saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbling. Continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool completely.
The strawberry filling can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Chocolate Wedding Cake with Strawberry Filling
2 recipes of The Best Chocolate Cake – 3 8″ cakes, 2 double thick 6″ cakes, 12 cupcakes
2 recipes of Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
2 recipes of Strawberry Filling
1/2 lb. Strawberries for decoration
A piece of cardboard cut slightly larger than an 8″ circle
A piece of cardboard cut to a 6″ circle
2 Smoothie Straws cut in half
1. Start by stacking one 8″ cake on to the piece of cardboard slightly larger than an 8″ circle. Using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe a circle around the edge of the cake. Spoon some of the strawberry filling into the middle of the frosting ring. Continue stacking cakes on top of one another until you have all three 8″ cakes stacked, placing the last cake on top upside down so that it is perfectly flat.
2. To frost the outside of the 8″ cake, pipe a swirl of frosting on to the top of the cake. Use a spreader to smooth the frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, adding more frosting to the sides as needed. To help with frosting, it is recommended to place the cake on to a lazy susan to turn it as you go. Use a bench scraper to perfectly smooth out the sides, and then lightly pull the frosting away from the top corners into the center of the cake to get perfect edges. Place this cake in the refrigerator to set.
3. Take your two 6″ cakes and cut them in half so that you have four 6″ cake layers. Stack the cake layers on top of the 6″ cardboard circle as you stacked the 8″ cakes with frosting and strawberry filling in the middles. Again frost the cake in the same manor as the 8″ cake, covering the entirety of the sides of the cake and the cardboard with frosting.
4. To assemble both cakes together, start by cutting the smoothie straws to the exact height of the 8″ cake. Push them into the cake so that you have four supports below where the 6″ cake will sit. Slide a metal spatula below the 6″ cake and use it to carefully place the 6″ cake on top of the 8″ cake.
5. Finish the cake by cutting up the strawberries into halves and quarters and placing them around the top, middle, and bottom of the cake.
6. To assemble the cupcakes, hollow out the insides of the cupcakes with a knife to make a slot for the filling. Spoon filling into each cupcake. Use a piping bag fit with a large round tip to swirl frosting on to the top of each, covering the hole made for the filling. Top with extra strawberries or pearl sprinkles.