November 18, 2011

A special birthday - with chocolate cloud cake

Happy Birthday to my husband!!  He is my best friend and confidant.  He also doubles as my therapist and occasional life coach. 
For the birthday boy, it's Chocolate Cloud Cake with cocoa whipped cream

My husband knows how I feel about him so I won't get all mushy and wordy again here.  I'll just wish him countless more years of good health and happiness.  May your life be filled with joy, laughter, good fortune, hugs and kisses (from people you know and love, of course).  May all the movies you watch be action packed and gory the way you like it.

My husband and I have celebrated many birthdays together.  He always goes out of his way to do up my birthday.  We are always jokingly celebrating my birthday "week" or referring to August as my birthday "month."  So I hope he doesn't mind my meager offerings of a meal, cake, and small gift on his special day.  I know he doesn't; we both appreciate the little things in life and realize how lucky we are.
We're celebrating this birthday with what I'm calling "chocolate cloud cake".  I found a version of this cake months ago on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and filed it away for this occasion.  It's a flourless chocolate cake,  one of my husband's favorites.  The texture is super light and airy and made me think of clouds, hence, the name I've tagged on to it.  It's called "lighter-than-air chocolate cake" on Smitten Kitchen - also very appropriate!  This cake is far lighter than the Gotham Bar & Grill chocolate cake (also another flourless cake) and more along the lines of the basic flourless chocolate cake I often make without any filling.  I think this cake is the perfect "dressed up" flourless chocolate cake.  We liked having a bit of chocolate shavings on top, which adds extra chocolate and a little bit of crunch.
While the cake tastes ever so light, it's full of chocolate flavor.   I made a 2-layer cake here but you can do it up and make 3 or 4 layers for a larger crowd.  Since  the cake and cocoa whipped cream are so light, smooth, and silky, it goes down ever so easily and  you end up packing it away (in your tummy) rather quickly.  It was a little bit of a risk making something new for a birthday celebration but this cake really met our expectations; we'll be making it over and over again in our house, special occasion or not!

The cake layers:

To make this fine cake, start with the chocolate.  I went with semi-sweet chocolate from Scharffen Berger (62% cacao).  Chop 6 oz. and place in a bowl, along with espresso powder and 3 tablespoons of water, over a pot of simmering water.  Melt together and set aside to cool.  
In a stand mixer, beat 6 eggs, 1/3 cup of sugar, and salt until thick and pale.  This takes about 3 minutes.  
Fold in the melted chocolate. 
If you're like me and only have one bowl for your stand mixer, you'll need to transfer the mixture to a large bowl and wash and dry the mixer bowl thoroughly to whip the egg whites next.  Use the whisk attachment and whip the whites until soft peaks before adding 1/3 cup of sugar gradually.  It's done when you reach stiff peaks.
Take 1/3 of the whites and add it to the chocolate-egg yolk mixture to lighten it up.  Then add the remaining whites and fold in gently.
Divide the batter as evenly as possible into two 9-inch cake pans that's been greased and lined with parchment paper at the bottom.  Bake for about 15-18 minutes until the cake is puffed and the tops are dry to the touch.
Run a knife around the edge of the pans.  I let it cool for about 10 minutes before dusting the tops of the cakes with cocoa powder.  Then place a piece of wax or parchment paper over a baking sheet or plate and invert the cakes over, removing the parchement round lining.  Freeze the layers for about an hour until firm enough to handle.  This makes assembly super easy.

Cocoa whipped cream filling:

To make the filling, you need a cup of heavy cream, 3 tablespoons of sifted confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Beat the cold cream and slowly add the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder.  Add vanilla and beat until stiff peaks.

Assembling the cake:

Take the layers out of the freezer and place one layer on a plate, cocoa side down.  Spread half the filling on the layer.  Place second layer, cocoa side down again, on top and spread remaining filling.  Deb from Smitten Kitchen warned that the cake layers tend to sink a little in the middle.  I didn't have much of a problem with this but the whipped cream filling takes care of that even if they are a little uneven.

Garnish with extra shaved chocolate and place cake back in the refrigerator for about two hours so the layers thaw.  Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for about half an hour beforehand.
The result is a marvelous birthday (or any/no occasion necessary) cake.
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the cake sliced!  Very cleanly and beautiful, in my opinion.  It would be really magnificent in 4 layers but that would be a significantly more complicated project.

Happy Birthday to my husband!  XOXO


Chocolate Cloud Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream Filling
Adapted (ever so slightly) from Smitten Kitchen, who traces it to Gourmet Magazine

- Makes one 2 layer cake (easily adjusts to make 3 or 4 layers)-

For the 2 cake layers:
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
3 tablespoons water (or coffee, in which case omit the espresso powder)
6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Extra chocolate for shavings as garnish

For Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Making the cake layers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.  Grease parchment paper. 

Melt chocolate by placing it with the water and espresso powder in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Once melted and smooth, set aside to cool.

Beat yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and salt in an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 3-4 minutes.  Fold in melted chocolate.  Transfer to a large bowl if you do not have an extra bowl for your stand mixer.

Unless you have an extra bowl for the stand mixer, thoroughly clean and dry the one you just used.  Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks.  Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar to the whites and beat until stiff peaks form. 

Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten.  Then gently fold in the remaining whites. 

Spread batter evenly into the 2 prepared pans.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cakes are puffed and the top is dry to the touch.  Transfer the pans to cooling racks and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. 

After about 10 minutes, sift cocoa powder over the cakes.  Place a piece of wax paper over the top of the pans.  Put a baking sheet (or some kind of flat plate or cardboard that will fit in your freezer) over the wax paper and invert the cake onto it, gently peeling off the parchment lining.  Put cake layers in the freezer for an hour or so until they are firm enough to be moved without breaking.

2. The filling

Start beating cold cream in a stand mixer.  Add the confectioners' sugar and then the cocoa powder gradually.  Add vanilla extract and beat until stiff peaks.

3. Putting cake together

Remove cake layers from the freezer.  Place one of the layers, cocoa side down, on to a plate.  Spread half the whipped cream filling over the top.  Stack the second layer, cocoa side down again, and spread the rest of the filling on top.  Use a vegetable peeler and shave some chocolate over the top of the cake as a garnish.  Place cake in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow layers to thaw.  Let cake sit for about half an hour at room temperature before serving.

A note on storage

Keep cake in the refrigerator.  Given the whipped cream filling, it's best to make the cake just a few hours before you're ready to serve it.  I actually made the cake the night before and was concerned about the whipped cream "melting" and making the cake soggy.  Luckily, the cake and filling stayed very well intact and separate in my experience.  Maybe it's thanks to a very cold refrigerator and the cool temps in general.  If you plan to do the same, you might consider dusting some unsweetened cocoa powder over both sides of the cake layers so there's some insulation between the cake and filling.  Once you serve it, the cake is so light and good that there won't be much leftovers to be concerned about.


  1. Yum, this cake looks amazing - love the idea of chocolate whipped cream, yum! :)

  2. Thanks so much, Sara. We really like it. It takes a little effort with freezing & assembling the layers but it's so light and delicious that it's well worth it. : )



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