Monday, November 10, 2008

Death By TALL Cake

I've had a few requests for the recipe(s) I used for the chocolate tall cake I made for my 40th birthday party. Don't 'comment' me on how counter productive this is to weight loss. If you only eat it on your 40th birthday it's not an issue.

For a 4-layer (and I don’t mean two layers sliced in half…) TALL cake and 24 cupcakes:

Use 2 Duncan Hines (the best in my opinion…) Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mixes.

Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to each mix, prepare just like the box says and bake in prepared* 8-inch cake pans. I only have 3 8-inch cake pans, so I had to mix and bake these two mixes one at a time – getting the cupcakes from the second batch (just in case something happens to one of the first cakes - like being overcome by a chocolate attack.)

*Grease pans, cut a parchment paper circle to fit the bottom of each pan, grease the paper circle and then lightly flour each pan. Avoid using dark cake pans or lightweight aluminum pans. Choose instead the heavy aluminum pans with the rolled edge. You can get these in the cake decorating section of a department store – Wilton brand is trustworthy.

After the cakes have baked, you’ll want to remove them from the baking pans fairly quickly – you don’t want the moisture to condensate and collect in the bottom of the pan creating a soggy bottom. Nobody likes a soggy bottom…

Once the cakes have all cooled and you’ve carefully peeled off the parchment paper, you’ll need to trim the rounded top of the cakes to be fairly level. There’s a special tool you can get for this, but I just use a long serrated bread knife. Have a glass of cold milk standing by…cuz you’ll be rewarded for your patience in not eating one of the layers from the first batch.) DON’T over trim… This is a tall cake – if it looks fairly flat that’s good – quit trimming and nibbling, trimming and nibbling, trimming and nibbling…

At this point I like to freeze the cake overnight. This makes it much easier to ice and my mom says it deepens the flavor a little. Just lightly wrap each layer in parchment paper or waxed paper, put them in gallon size zip top bags, release the extra air and put them flat in a freezer. When you take them out, gently brush the crumbs off.

Now you’re ready to ice or frost it. I’m not really sure of the difference between icing and frosting… maybe frosting isn’t as “neat and tidy” looking. I have a suspicion it’s just one of those “language” things.

I used two different frostings/icings. (Recipes at the end) Between the layers and on the top is a chocolate whipped cream and the side is frosted with a chocolate buttercream. Also – get some Heath candy bars and pound them into small chunks and sprinkle the crushed bits between the layers on top of the chocolate whipped cream. You could buy the Heath bits in the chocolate chip aisle – but they don’t have the chocolate coating like the bars do. Use the bars.

When I put my cake together I didn’t want the candy bars right on top of the chocolate whipped cream. First I covered the top of the layer already on the cake plate and sprinkled on the bar bits. Then I put a light layer of chocolate whipped cream on the BOTTOM of the layer that went on next. This sandwiches the candy bar bits between chocolate whipped cream. Decadent, no? Just aim carefully. Sticking out your tongue may help get the layer centered.

You’ll need something to stabilize a cake this tall – I used 5 bamboo ka-bob skewers. Just push them through the cake after you get all the layers stacked. You can trim them with kitchen shears to the height you need. Don’t put one in the direct center and when you photograph your finished cut cake you won’t see a skewer in the middle. Plus someone will get a fun surprise in his or her piece!

For the sides, I used the chocolate buttercream frosting (Recipe at the end). I used two batches – the first to seal in the crumbs and the second a little thicker.

Refrigerate the frosted/iced cake about 30 minutes between the two “coats” of icing. I had to remove a shelf and most of the contents of my refrigerator to do so. Of course, after you’re done icing it you’ll need to refrigerate it too - Especially if you use the whipped cream filling.

To “decorate” the top of this cake I used chocolate curls. These are pretty easy to make – just buy a bar of good quality milk chocolate (or dark if that’s what you like.) I prefer the Cadbury milk chocolate bars. Hershey Symphony will do in a pinch. Incidentally – the same is true for my chocolate covered strawberries. Cadbury all the way… Anyway – just use a potato peeler to slowly and carefully cut the curls from room temp or slightly warmer chocolate. Move the curls with toothpicks so you don’t break them.

I also piped some of the whipped chocolate cream around the top and bottom edges with a large star tip. You could use the chocolate butter cream, but I like the contrast of the whipped cream.

You really have to capitalize on the gargantuan height of this cake by exploiting it with a tall cake plate and the tallest candles you can find, assuming you’re using candles. I got these candles at Target in the party section – but I’ve seen tall thin tapers in lots of places. This is NOT the time to use those short stubby things you buy in the grocery store next to the rock hard Scooby Doo and Barbie decorations.

Because this cake is so TALL you’ll have more servings – double actually, since each slice is like two average cakes tall. This is something to remember when choosing a plate to serve it on…this one hangs off a standard dessert plate. If you’re guests won’t mind the top of their cake looking a little messy, you can just cut the slices in half. Make the separation between the bottom of the second layer and the whipped cream filling on top of the third layer.

If you want to avoid hurt feelings, just give them the whole giant slice (preferred method. :0) Of course – if you’re just eating it by yourself by the light of the open refrigerator door, there’s no need to worry about the size of your plates (but maybe the size of your backside...)

You will note that this recipe isn’t in the “weight loss” sub category. You figure it out…

Chocolate Cream Filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1 ½ cups cold whipping cream
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a small mixer bowl, combine sugar and cocoa. Add whipping cream and vanilla; beat on low speed of electric mixer until blended. Beat on medium speed until stiff. (Yields about 3 cups filling.)

One-Bowl Buttercream Frosting
6 Tablespoons butter softened
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup Hershey’s Cocoa or Hershey’s European Style Cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

In small mixer bowl, beat butter. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (additional milk may be needed). Blend in vanilla.
(Yields about 2 cups frosting. I used 2 batches)


  1. That cake kept me awake for three days! (but I'd still eat it again-yummy!) Lisa~

  2. Sounds yummy except I would love to use walnuts instead of the candy bar, wonder if whip cream would work all over instead of buttercream.....looks BEAUTIFUL though!!!!

  3. You watch WAY too much Alton Brown!!!

  4. You say that likes it's a bad thing... ;0) I truly did take some advice from AB - the advice about the soggy bottom and the heavy aluminum pans. (Though I really already knew that stuff - but felt it important to pass along.)

    I will say that my Jacob decided to include 4 "Good Eats" DVD's in his permissable "check outs" at the public library last week... The kid's a freak... More on that later.


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