Chocolate layers with a hint of pumpkin in the frosting are delicious as is, but you could always add a slick of rich chocolate ganache to take it to the next level. Italian mascarpone has higher fat content than cream cheese — which you could sub in — but adds rich, creamy texture and flavor. If you have time, make this cake a day or two before serving for deeper chocolate flavor. Make sure to use the best chocolate you can find. Most supermarkets carry Lindt or Ghiradelli; for a real treat, seek out Valrhona or Callebaut.
Double-layer chocolate cake with ganache and pumpkin-mascarpone frosting
Makes 1 double-layer 9-inch round cake
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil such as grapeseed or avocado
1 1/2 cups cream or buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate ganache (optional - recipe below)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two 9- by 2-inch round cake pans with rounds of parchment paper; grease paper and sides of pan.
2. Stir chopped chocolate with hot espresso or water in a bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is smooth and melted. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), beat eggs — using an electric hand mixer if not using a stand mixer — until thickened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and the melted chocolate-espresso mixture, beating until well combined. Add sugar-flour mixture a little at a time and beat on medium speed until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and bake in middle of oven, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 65 minutes.
4. Cool layers in pans on cooling racks 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert cake onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool completely. Note: Cake layers can be made 1 day ahead and stored, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
5. Assemble cake: Place one cake layer on cake stand. Spread ganache over layer. If not using ganache, spread with a layer of frosting. Top with second cake layer. Frost top and sides with frosting. Note: Cake and frosting can be made and assembled, covered and stored in refrigerator 3 days before serving. Bring to room temperature before serving.
1 cup (8 ounces) dark chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup.
1. Combine chocolate, cream and corn syrup in a small bowl; microwave until melted. Chill, if needed, until spreadable.
2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, cool but not cold
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with whip attachment, whip together the mascarpone, butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in cream until there are soft to medium peaks. Add pumpkin purée, salt and vanilla; blend just until combined. If frosting is very soft, let chill about 15 minutes in refrigerator before using. Frosting can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let soften a bit before using.