Monday, August 30, 2010

The Great Wall of Chocolate Cake! (P.F. Chang's Copycat Version)

Alex is getting excited about his Uncle Ben's cake!

It was my husband's birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday Ben, wooh!), so what better way to honor his advancement in age than an amazing chocolate cake!

I love straight up chocolate cake, but I like to mix it up with some other flavors so that the chocolate's not too overwhelming (for others, that is. You all know I can take on any amount of chocolate any day of the week. But I try to think of others, I really do try). 

So, I chose to go along the lines of the famous "Great Wall of Chocolate" from P.F. Chang's. Basically it's a towering cake packed with chocolately goodness inside and out, with berry touches.

I've dabbled around with this in the past with different chocolate cake recipes. And really, my suggestion is find one that suits your cake tastes and make it. The beauty is, if you don't want to spend a lot of time making the actual cake, go pick up a cake mix. Here's some links to a couple of different recipes that I have liked for the cake: Devil's Food Cake from Food Network, Chocolate Cake from Epicurious. If you're going full on traditional layer cake, bake in two 9" rounds (line bottom with wax paper, butter, and flour). If you truly want to have a WALL of chocolate, you can double the recipe, and do a four layer! I wasn't that adventurous yesterday, but that would be cool..... I've also done a cupcake variation which turned out quite nicely.

PS - I almost never follow a recipe to the exactness. I just can't. It's just me. So seriously, with your chocolate cake, be creative! Throw in some melted chocolate, chocolate chips, or chopped choco chunks to the batter. You can also mix in some sort of extra flavor just depending on how you're complimenting it (in this case, fruity raspberry undertones would be delish!)

For the Frosting:

Being in the berry spirit, I found a great chocolate raspberry ganache to frost this baby, and it really turned out great! 

I only did about 2/3rds of this recipe, and it was still plenty for my cake. Just depends how thick you like to smear it on.

18 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or if you prefer sweeter, that's fine, too)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (you will definitely want seedless to keep the smooth texture)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a saucepan, whisk together the heavy cream and raspberry jam. Put in the cubed butter and salt, and bring just to a boil (stirring often to make sure nothing sticks).

So, this is the most random thing, but when I started making this raspberry cream mixture, it totally reminded me of a Schwann's raspberry push-up pop. That was like the coveted treat at my friend's house back in the day. Yum.

Ok back to the recipe. Bring just to a boil. Then pour mixture over the chopped chocolate in the bowl and let it stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth then mix in the vanilla extract.

You'll want to cover this with plastic wrap so that it will not get a weird film on top. If you actually plan ahead you can make this in advance and let the frosting thicken overnight. If you're like me, you will make it two hours ahead of when you need and put it in the fridge to set (you'll only want to leave it in there 1 to 1 1/2 hours so that it is still easy to spread).

Simple Raspberry Sauce:
Seriously, I play this one by ear. Get some fresh raspberries (I did a 6 oz container yesterday) and blend in a food processor. Thin out with a little water. Put in a small saucepan. Add sugar to sweeten to your preference. Bring just to a boil. Let boil for about one minute. If you want a little thicker, whisk in a little bit of cornstarch.

If you don't have fresh raspberries, I bet you could take some  seedless raspberry jam and thin it out a bit.  Just probably don't add any sugar.

Lastly, get your berries ready. Fresh strawberries - wash, core, and slice. Fresh raspberries - wash. Fresh blueberries - wash. Wash them all, okay? I just want to make sure we're being sanitary :) Anyway, I just throw 'em all together in a bowl and garnish one piece at a time as I serve. If you really want to impress, you could probably throw some fruit ensemble on top of the cake and on the platter before you serve so it's picture perfect.

Okay, time to put this baby together! It's really quite simple.

Get the two rounds. Layer with ganache in-between. Stack, and frost outside with remainder.

Oops, someone snuck an early piece :)

Decorate edges with chocolate chips, mini chips, chocolate shavings, chocolate chunks, however you want!  I was a little lazy yesterday and in a rush, so I just did a ring of choco chips along the top, but you can seriously go all out with this to make it simply beautiful! Throw on any other deco such as fresh fruit. 

That's it! It turned out simply delicious. And even the non-chocolate lovers at the party tried it, which made me happy :) The only warning: the second piece may just do you in. I learned that firsthand. And here I am, always bragging that I can handle my chocolate.....

If this cake is a little too much to handle, just make a chocolate cake, and serve with the simple raspberry sauce. That's also quite excellent.


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