I’m not a passionate cake baker. I mean, I’ll bake a cake, sure. And I bake a lot of birthday cakes here at King Arthur Flour, because how can you possibly work at a baking company and NOT have a candle-lit cake delivered to you, at your desk, on your birthday?
But cake doesn’t speak to me like bread. It doesn’t whisper in my ear, late at night, “What if you shaped those rolls around a chunk of cheddar?” I don’t suddenly drop everything I’m doing and decide to make chiffon cake, the way I sometimes do with pizza. A beautifully decorated cake—truly, a work of art, over which some soul has slaved for hours—doesn’t look half as good to me as a shapely baguette, or a golden loaf of sandwich bread.
But back to those King Arthur birthdays. I know most of my fellow workers pretty well. My e-o’s (short for employee-owners; King Arthur Flour is owned by us, the employees) are pretty reliably chocolate lovers, with the occasional fruit fanatic thrown in.
But every now and then, I’m not so sure… I know Janet likes peaches and Halley digs chocolate and Kelly is a lemon lover, but what does Jim like? He seems pretty omnivorous, happily sampling anything that comes his way. But if forced to choose the dessert for his final meal, would it be vanilla… or chocolate… or something I’d never consider?
Rather than ask and spoil the surprise, I’ve hit upon a compromise cake flavor: Choco-nilla. That would be chocolate and vanilla, of course. Two chocolate layers, two vanilla, sandwiched together with a darker-than-dark chocolate ganache.
This cake tastes great, the assertive chocolate playing off nicely against milder vanilla. It looks impressive. It’s surprisingly easy to make: both the chocolate and vanilla cakes are of the stir-together variety, no fussy creaming or whipping necessary. And the icing is simplicity itself, chocolate and cream melted together in the microwave.
So join me here in the King Arthur test kitchen as I make Choco-nilla Cake. And oh, by the way, my favorite birthday cake, the one my fellow e-o’s bring me every year? Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake, right out of the supermarket freezer case. Call it my hidden vice.
Now we’re going to make the ganache icing. For those of you who’ve seen me demonstrate ganache in this blog multiple times, you can skip down a few pictures. For those who’ve never seen this—you’re going to learn how to make the best, easiest, most chocolate-y icing ever. First, combine heavy cream and chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave till the cream is very hot and beginning to foam just a bit.
Place a vanilla or chocolate layer on a serving plate. If you’re worried about messy drips, tear some strips of parchment, and slide them under the edges of the cake. They’ll catch any extra icing, and you can easily remove the parchment when you’re done.
Continue with the other three layers, alternating vanilla and chocolate layers. When you’re done, anchor the layers together with cake testers, broom straws, bamboo skewers, or something else long and skinny. This will keep them centered atop one another till the ganache hardens.
And, by the way: Jim said it was the best cake he’s ever eaten.
Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Choco-nilla Cake.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Supermarket bakeshop iced single-layer chocolate cake, 44¢/ounce
Bake at home: Four-layer Choco-nilla Cake, 20¢/ounce