On a warm summer evening just last week, I came home from a wonderful, wine-soaked reunion with good friends only to stumble upon an even merrier sight in my own living room. My roommate was entertaining some equally good friends and the tantalizing aroma of the shrimp tacos she made still hung in the air.
Jenny is an excellent cook and our apartment is a lovely, delicious place to be if I do say so myself. Coming home to a party-in-progress after a few glasses of wine elicited quite a pleasant response from the people gathered around our table and only lead to more glasses of wine being poured. The relaxed atmosphere was enhanced by our continued grazing on the tasty scraps from Jenny’s meal — a few left behind bites of shrimp, slices of fresh radish, salsa verde, and blue corn tortilla chips — while standing in the kitchen, laughing, telling stories, a sloshing wine all over the place. What, you might ask, does this have to do with the luscious specimen of raspberry-chocolate awesomeness featured above? I’ll get to that…
At one point in our super-sized evening I began to prattle on (as I’m known to do when it comes to the ideas for yet-to-be-created confections I’ve got swirling around in my brain) about the cake I intend to make for my cousin’s upcoming birthday celebration. Jenny pointed out that her birthday came and went without such a treat being made for her. I don’t know how I let such a travesty occur and I immediately began drafting up a plan to remedy the situation. In my inebriated state, I grabbed my most elaborate dessert cookbook and flipped through until I landed on an enticing chocolate and raspberry beauty that served as my inspiration for Jenny’s belated birthday cake.
I pulled a few ideas from several recipes for similar cakes and formed my own version of a chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling and a rich, chocolatey glaze. Topped with fresh raspberries to boot. And yes, the above photo is a prime example as to why you should dust your cake pans with cocoa powder instead of flour when making a chocolate cake. I used Martha’s recipe for One Bowl Chocolate cupcakes, but adapted it to suit my beautifully straight and sturdy Williams-Sonoma cake pans. These pans are the greatest. I actually treated myself to them upon completing my tax return this past spring. Nerdy, I realize this, but still the best self-indulgence ever. Cakes baked in these magical pans turn out perfectly and always maintain their professionally straight sides throughout all manners of decoration and frosting application. My first attempt to slice two separate cake layers in half turned out quite well. Despite most recommendations to measure the halfway point and insert tooth picks all around as a guide, I decided to eyeball it. Risky, right? Well I’m just a risk-taking cake baker then.
The now multiplied layers of soft, fluffy cake were immediately stacked and slathered with copious amounts of seedless red raspberry jam. By this point, I was pretty much ready to stick my face in it, but there was still a chocolate ganache glaze yet to be poured on top. I decided to hold out.
There are an infinite number of fantastic chocolate combinations (ie. chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and caramel, chocolate and mint, chocolate and vanilla [duh], chocolate and, well, chocolate, etc.) but raspberry — for lack of a better phrase — takes the cake in this scenario. The dark richness of the chocolate cake and glaze is off-set by the sweet tartness of the jam and fresh berries. My glaze turned out a little thin, probably because I made it up as I went along and made do without the ever-essential ingredient that is heavy cream. The thinness of the glaze resulted in more of the cake soaking it up rather than sitting prettily on top and forming a solid, sheen chocolate blanket, as I’d originally intended.
But the flavors were definitely all present — the chocolate and raspberry mingling amicably on your tongue. And the thin glaze gave each of the four layers of cake a chance to shine through, creating a more rustic, natural finish to the cake. Only two months late, but I think I’m back in the good graces of my formerly birthday cake-less roomie.