Recipes & Advice
Chocolate Layer Cake

Serves 12 to 16

(Adapted from Chocolate Passion (John Wiley & Sons, 2000) by Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarity)

This impressive cake is moist and rich and fit for a special celebration. Measure carefully, have all ingredients at room temperature and follow the detailed instructions in the recipe.

Expand/Collapse Ingredient Details


For the Cake

  • 6 ounces SCHARFFEN BERGER 99% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 2 cups sifted (before measuring) cake flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, baker's superfine sugar preferred
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 generous cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature

For the Frosting

Special Equipment

  • Three 9-inch round cake pans, greased and lined on the bottom with parchment paper


To Make the Cake Layers
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl placed over hot, but not boiling, water. Let the chocolate cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. Sift the combination into a bowl or onto waxed paper. Set aside.

Break two of the eggs into a small bowl, Separate the remaining two eggs, adding the yolks to the whole eggs, and the whites to a separate clean dry mixing bowl.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and continue beating until well blended. Gradually, 2 tablespoons at a time, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar. This should take about 6 minutes. The mixture will be very light in both color and texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Whisk the whole eggs and yolks until frothy and beat them gradually into the butter/sugar mixture. Add the sour cream and beat just until blended. Beat in the, cooled chocolate. Beating on low speed, mix in one third of the flour mixture followed by half of the milk mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour followed by the remaining milk. Finally mix in the rest of the flour. After each addition, mix only until the ingredients are blended into the batter.

With a hand held or a heavy-duty mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy. Increase the speed and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, one teaspoon at a time. Continue beating until the whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold the egg whites into the batter. Be sure there are no white lumps.

Divide the batter equally among the three prepared pans and spread it evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pans from upper to lower racks and front to back for even baking. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly touched and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool on wire racks completely. Then turn out and remove the parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering but not boiling water.

Put the evaporated milk, butter and 2 tablespoons of the Tia Maria in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chocolate and process until the frosting is thick and creamy. Use immediately to frost the cake. If the frosting is not thick enough to frost the cake immediately, refrigerate it for half an hour or let stand at room temperature for one hour until it is sufficiently thick. Then frost the cake.

To Assemble the Cake
Unmold the cake layers from their pans. Peel off the parchment paper. Place one layer on serving platter. Sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of Tia Maria. Spread the layer with generously with frosting. Place the second cake layer on top. Sprinkle the layer with the remaining Tia Maria and spread with frosting. Top with the third layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

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