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Double-Deep-Chocolate Hanukkah Layer Cake

Makes10 to 12 servings
  • Active time: 40 min
    Total time: 3 1/2 hr (includes cooling)
A supermoist chocolate cake encased between layers of rich chocolate frosting is at once both a decadent treat and one of life’s simple pleasures. And "simple" is an important descriptor here. Because it’s an oil-based cake—like carrot cake—it doesn’t involve equipment any more complicated than a whisk and a bowl.

Two stealth ingredients make this dessert different: unsweetened coconut milk and instant espresso powder. The former is amazing in its ability to add richness to the cake and stand in for cream in the ganache without overwhelming the dessert with coconut flavor. Espresso powder in the frosting magically highlights the depth of the chocolate.

Because this cake happens to be dairy-free, it’s perfect for Hanukkah, and a godsend for anyone dealing with lactose intolerance. But the cake is so incredibly delicious, no one will notice the lack of cream and butter. They’ll be too busy asking for seconds and thirds.

Published in Gourmet Live 12.21.11

INGREDIENTS:

For Cake:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for greasing pans
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process) plus more for dusting pans
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in shell in warm water 5 minutes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

For Ganache Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 24 ounces (4 cups) semisweet chocolate chips (see Cooks’ Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

EQUIPMENT:

  • 2 (9-inch) round cake pans (2 inches deep); parchment paper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Bake Cake Layers:

  • Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Oil pans and line bottoms with rounds of parchment, then dust sides only with cocoa powder, knocking out excess.
  • Whisk together water, coconut milk, 3/4 cup oil, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl until well blended and smooth.
  • Sift together flour, sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  • Divide batter between pans, and bake until a tester comes out clean and layers just begin to pull away from side of pans, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Cool cake layers in pans on a rack 30 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pans and invert cakes onto rack. Remove parchment and cool completely.

Make Frosting:

  • Combine coconut milk, chocolate chips, and espresso powder in a heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and heat, whisking occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  • Remove bowl from pan and whisk in corn syrup and vanilla.
  • Chill frosting, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 2 hours. (To quick-chill, place bowl in the freezer and stir occasionally until chocolate mixture is thickened and spreadable, 20 to 30 minutes.)

Assemble Cake:

  • Spread frosting generously between cake layers and over top and sides.

COOKS’ NOTES:

  • If you want to keep the cake completely dairy-free, use chocolate chips that are labeled dairy-free, such as Chocolate Dream or Sunspire. You can find them in natural foods stores and in the health foods section of some supermarkets; Trader Joe’s also sells their own brand of dairy-free chocolate chips.
  • If by chance the chocolate frosting chills for too long and becomes too thick to work with, melt it again over a pan of barely simmering water, then chill for less time.
  • Cake layers improve in flavor if made ahead. Keep chilled between layers of parchment and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 day, or freeze 1 week. Frost while layers are still cold, or thaw slightly if frozen.
  • Frosted cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Leftovers keep—if you are lucky enough to have any—covered and chilled, for several days.
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