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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chocolate Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Buttercream


Every year, I manage to ruin Stephen's birthday cake.

The first year we lived together, I decided to throw him a "surprise party". His family never made a big deal about his birthday when he was younger, so I wanted to give him the birthday party he never had. But, it wasn't really a party. It was just me, an apartment decorated with streamers and balloons, and a birthday cake.

I don't remember for sure, but I'm guessing Betty Crocker had more of a hand in making the cake than I did. What I do remember for sure is that I didn't level the cake layers. And because the bottom layer was so domed, the top layer broke into four pieces and began sliding down the sides of the cake. At that point I didn't really have time for a backup plan, so I stuck some candles on it and resigned myself to moping. Stephen thought it was hilarious.

I don't recall what happened the next year, but I'm sure it was horrifying. Probably so much so that I've completely blocked it from my memory.

By the third year we lived together, Betty and I had gone our separate ways. The cake I made from scratch was absolutely delicious. But by no means did that prevent me from promptly throwing it in the trash and buying a cake at Safeway when the top layer slid halfway off the bottom layer and wouldn't go back. (This time too-thin frosting was the culprit). The perfectionist in me couldn't bare to look at it.


Last year, I tried to prevent disaster by making a single-layer rectangular cake. And for the most part, I did. Except that the recipe called for finely chopped unsweetened baking chocolate. And since I neither had a food processor nor a decent knife, the cake ended up being speckled with little flakes of chocolate that I didn't chop well enough. Not a complete disaster, but not a success either.

This year, I took every possible precaution in order to guarantee my success. I lined the cake pans with parchment paper. I refrigerated the cake layers before assembling the cake. I made sure the frosting was the right consistency. I leveled each layer of cake. I refrigerated the cake again after applying a crumb coat. Most importantly, I was patient.

I'm generally a very patient person, but when it comes to baking I'm uncharacteristically impatient. I don't want to wait for things to chill for 30 minutes or cool completely or rise until doubled in volume. I just want to get to the part where I can eat it!

But this year I learned from my mistakes, and Stephen finally got the birthday cake he deserved. The layers stayed together. The frosting didn't have crumbs in it. The cake and frosting recipes were well-executed. (Although, I did almost forget to add the sugar when I was mixing the cake batter!). Best of all, Stephen claims it's the best cake he's ever had. In fact, after taking the first bite, he paused for several moments before asking me, "Have you ever eaten something so good it changed your life?"


As they say, patience is a virtue.

Chocolate Layer Cake
Adapted from Hershey's

2 cups sugar
1 & 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Spray each pan again and coat with a thin layer of flour.

2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the boiling water; the batter will be very thin.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Make the cream cheese filling and chocolate buttercream (see recipes below). When you're ready to assemble the cake, remove the layers from the refrigerator. If needed, level each layer with a serrated knife or cake leveler.

5. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate. Evenly spread about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese filling over the cake, leaving about 1/2 inch margin around the edges. Top with the second layer and repeat. Finally, top with the third layer. Apply a thin layer of chocolate buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. This is only a crumb coat, so it doesn't need to be perfect. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.

6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and apply a final layer of chocolate buttercream, as well as any desired embellishments.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup cream cheese
3/4 cup butter
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed for about one minute. Add the vanilla and beat one minute more. Reduce the mixing speed to low, and add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. Once the sugar is completely incorporated, beat at medium speed for about two minutes or until fluffy.

Chocolate Buttercream

1 cup butter (8 ounces)
1 & 3/4 cups cocoa powder (5 ounces)
6 cups powdered sugar (25 ounces)
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed for about one minute. Reduce the mixing speed to low, and add the sugar/cocoa mixture about 1/2 cup at a time. Halfway through this process, add the milk and vanilla. Once all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, beat at medium speed for about two minutes or until fluffy.

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108 comments:

  1. CONGRATULATIONS on breaking the tradition and congratulations to stephen for the cake! I agree with him, i find the breaking to 4 pieces thing so hilarious and cute... :) I'd say the way you were wasn't so bad (we need cute people like you)! but this cake looks amazing! If you don't mind, i'm adding you to my blog roll... Love your writing style :D

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  2. Thanks Jesica! You're so sweet :) I checked out your blog, and I have to say that old-fashioned chocolate cake looks delicious! I wish I was as brave as you are when it comes to adapting recipes! I'm always scared I'll mess it up :)

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  3. I love the story :) The cake looks delicious. Great job!

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  4. Mouth watering... am dying here.. the cake looks so delicious, care to share a bite :) nice pic

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  5. Thanks for the tips!!! My son's birthday is today, so I am gonna try this cake. It looks delicious!!!

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  6. Great cake! But holy buckets -- I had twice as much frosting as I needed. Delicious problem to have though.

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  7. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I tend to err on the side of too much frosting because most of the cake recipes I've tried don't yield enough frosting to fill and frost the cake. Maybe I just like frosting more than the average person :)

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  8. I am going to make this for my sons 6th birthday part next week. He was VERY specific when I asked him what type of cake he would like. He said "Chocolate cake, strawberry cream cheese frosting in the middle and Chocolate frosting on the outside" I am going to try a sheet cake. Do you have any tips for me and do you think I'd be successful slicing through it to place the CC frosting? Also, do you thuink I should use strawberry cream cheese or shall I incorporate strawberry preserves into the frosting? Thanks for your help and BTW- Your cake is gorgeous! This is what I chose after an 1 1/2hr search and looking at 100's of cakes!

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  9. Hi Jill! First of all, thanks for your kind words! I always get excited when I hear that people are actually making the recipes I post.

    As far as making this as a sheet cake, I think it's definitely doable! Make sure you cool the cake completely before trying to slice it; you might even want to wrap it and freeze it for 30 minutes or so to prevent it from cracking. I'd also recommend using a cake leveler to slice it so that you get an even cut. Another way you could go about it would be to double the cake recipe, divide the batter between two sheet pans, and stack the layers like I did.

    For the strawberry cream cheese frosting, I think either option would be delicious, but the strawberry preserves would probably give you a stronger flavor. I'd start with about 1/4 cup and increase from there if needed.

    I hope this helps! Let me know how it turns out :) -Allix

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  10. I want this more than sex!

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  11. I am baking the cakes as we speak!! Yay! I am not a very patient person, with baking or anything else, so I am taking a page from your book and making myself be patient with this cake. Cross your fingers for me!!

    Also, thank you so much for sharing!!

    Kimberly

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    1. I hope the cake turned out great for you, Kimberly!

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  12. This just sounds so yummy and except for "waiting time" it doesn't seem too difficult. Luckily we have a cake leveler which hasn't been used yet. Thanks for the yum yum

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  13. Am I reading right? 6 cups! Of powdered sugar? I've never seen a recipe call for so much powdered sugar.

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  14. Okay so just after posting I realized that even tho it says cups I was processing pounds in my mind. Oops. Makes sense now.

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  15. Gorgeous looking cake - I plan on making it for no good reason at all very soon!
    My question - What's the white frosting you have around the outside edge of the finished cake? Is that the cream cheese frosting?
    I love the idea of the chocolate chips on top also!

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    1. Hi Jay! Yes, the white frosting around the edge is the cream cheese frosting. I hope you love it as much as we did :)

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  16. Please please tell me, what is a 'cake leveler'? Is it that thing that looks like a wire cheese slicer but larger? And no, I don't cook or bake - but my guy asked for lasagna and chocolate cake for his birthday. He LOVES cream cheese so I'm going to make this one (with crushed skor bars on the top for fun). Oh god - wish me luck!

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    1. Cake leveler
      http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=415-815

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  17. I made this cake this past weekend for my guy and it was AMAZING!! The only thing I did differently was dust the cake pan with cocoa instead of flour, but everything else TO THE T, and it was FAB!! I wish I could post a picture, it looked JUST like yours. You'll have to forgive my excitement but I am NOT a cook or baker and it actually worked!! Even my kids were impressed with me.
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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    1. You're so welcome, Suzie! Thank YOU for giving it a try :) I'm thrilled to hear that it was a success!

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  18. I'm soooo trying this for my 18th birthday 22nd March!

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  19. This cake recipe has been my go-to for a few years now. The only thing I do differently is use buttermilk and boiling espresso/coffee in place of the milk and boiling water, respectively.

    I'm so glad this cake and party turned out well! I like the addition of cream cheese frosting. YUM!

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    1. Memoria

      Then do u use the for sings like they are in the rec does it make it like a coffee cake

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  20. Made this today and it was yummy. I did end up with a lot of extra "white" icing though and I needed to add more milk to my chocolate frosting as it was too thick, but I always end up just adding milk to my desired consistency so that was no big deal. It was very very rich, so this would definitely serve a lot of people :)

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  21. I made this cake this week for a guy I am dating. I think he asked me to marry him when his mouth was full. It was that good! I did cut the cream cheese frosting in half and toasted pecans in butter for the sides of the cake. Thanks for the perfect chocolate cake!

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    1. I'm glad to hear he liked it :) The pecans sound like a delicious addition!

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  22. This cake looks absolutely delicious! I'm going to make it for Mother's Day. Would you know how long to bake the cake for if I were to bake it in a 10" pan? I have about 15 mouths to fill and I'm sure they won't want small pieces!

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    1. Thank you! I don't have much experience with 10" pans, but I would start with 20 minutes and then check the cake every 2 minutes after that just to be safe. I hope your guests enjoy it!

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  23. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I absolutely loved every single bit of the flavor of the icing and cake. I think the combination of a little darker chocolate on the icing and the fluffy cake was amazing. I don't really like cream cheese that much, so I only added half a cup of cream cheese. I added 8 marshmallows softened to a sauce in 1 tablespoon of butter. It was so good! It made the filling extra fluffy and there was no way the layers would slide. Thank you!

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    1. You are so welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it :) Adding the marshmallows sounds like a great idea!

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  24. Okay I'm going to make this cake for my daughter's 7th bday this Saturday! My family is obsessed with chocolate, and I foresee a tradition cake in the making around here!!! Thanks for the background story; it adds to the "flavor" of the cake!!

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    1. I hope you and your family love it as much as we did!

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  25. I am trying this recipe right now. Saw the pic and just had to. Yummmm cannot wait as it is smelling delicious already.

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  26. my family is literally obsessed with this cake

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  27. I made this cake for a dessert auction and it brought $100! It is one fabulous cake. Making it for the fourth of July too!

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    1. Wow, Robin, that's incredible! I'm so glad that it was a success :) Enjoy your fourth of july celebration!

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  28. We live in Costa Rica and we're celebrating our daughter's 5th birthday - her FIRST birthday in our family, having recently adopted her from Mexico.

    Because this birthday can NOT be ordinary - I just created this magnificent piece of goodness, today. While it was slightly time-consuming to make, it is SOOOOOO worth it.

    One confession - I exchanged the boiling water with coffee, for that added zip.

    Can't wait for that first bite!

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  29. Does this make the same amount of batter as a one-mix cake mix? I'm making my grandson a Mickey Mouse cake in a Mickey pan but want to use this cake recipe!!

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    1. I think it makes close to the same amount as a mix. If you end up with batter leftover, you could probably use it for cupcakes!

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    2. i used mousse in between layers.

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  30. I just made this cake for my sisters birthday! It's not at pretty as yours, but it tasted amazing! Thank you so much for posting it. Love the story too:)

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  31. My friend baked this cake for our birthdays (we were born 5 days apart). It was so unbelievably delicious! Something about the cream cheese to soften the flavor of all that chocolate. Never thought of putting cream cheese frosting with chocolate cake but I don't think I can go back now that I've crossed over that line! Thank you!

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  32. Oh wow! Best cake ever! Made it yesterday for my husband's birthday.
    I will beaming this one again!

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  33. Will I have to change the recipe if I use 3- 9 inch pans? I have been searching for 8 inch pans at 3 stores and they are all sold out or don't have them. Thanks for your help!

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    1. Your layers will be a bit thinner, so you'll probably need to decrease the baking time. I would start at 20 minutes and then check every 2 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out clean!

      Good luck!

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    2. Thanks! I'm baking them right now. My hubby's birthday is tomorrow. :O)

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  34. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. I made it as cupcakes stuffed with the filling - they were incredible!

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  35. Made the cake, didnt ice it yet but the cake part is yummy

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  36. I'm would like to make these as a cupcake. How long should I cook them and about how many would these make. Thanks for you help in advance!

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    1. I haven't used this recipe for cupcakes before, but I would start the baking time at 18 minutes, and check every 2 minutes after that until they're done. I'm not sure how many cupcakes this will make; I would guess 12-18. Hope this helps!

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  37. Hey, I'd like to know if this recipe would be too much if I used two 8 or 9inch pans? Would I have to reduce quantity to make a 2-layered cake?

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  38. I cut the butter cream recipe in half and frosted 24 cupcakes and still had some leftover. Delicious butter cream!!

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  39. Hey there, I really want to try this one for my moms 55th bday! Is it possible to make the cake in one baking pan and then cut into three layers? Thank u for answering!

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    1. Hi Oli! I think it would be possible, as long as you had a tall enough pan to bake it in. The cake would definitely take longer to bake though!

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  40. made this cake today for my husbands bday it was so good thank you for the recipe!!!!

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  41. I too share the characteristic of being slightly inpatient when baking.... Looks delicious!

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  42. Assembling cakes is soooo complicated! I am definitely with you on that front. Yours looks beautiful, though.

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  43. I know this may sound dumb, but do you use all purpose of self rising flour?

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  44. Hi, i'm Italian and I'm a fan of american cakes.
    This cake is great but... OMG is very rich of butter and sugar. Are you sure that the for the cheese cream and for the chiccolate buttercream we need all this sugar? Congrats!

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  45. Hi pinkabbestia! These are the correct amounts of sugar for these frosting recipes; however, these recipes will make more frosting than you need. I always like to have a little extra frosting when I'm making a layer cake... there's nothing worse than running out in the middle of decorating the cake!

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  46. I was wondering if this is a thicker cake or more airy? I am going to make a tiered cake this weekend and your recipe sounds like a good idea, but I don't want the top tier to "smoosh" the bottom tier if the cake is on the lighter side.

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    1. I wouldn't describe it as airy, but it's not super dense either. I guess it falls somewhere in between! I know that's probably not very helpful :( I think it would work, since all the layers would be the same density. Maybe you could use a cake board under each layer to help stabilize it? Best of luck!

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  47. I made this cake for my hubby's birthday today and it was sooo yummy. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous when I saw how soupy the batter was when it went in the oven, but I soldiered on and it was a success! I made half the recipes for frosting, out of necessity--I realized I only had half the powdered sugar called for--but fortunately it was JUST enough. I think next time I'll make 3/4 the original recipe to be safe, but that should be plenty. Thanks again!!

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  48. I made this cake last weekend for my son's birthday. Love. At. First. Bite. Sigh...

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  49. I made this cake tonight, just cuz it looked amazing on pinterest:) Its in the fridge awaiting the last coat of frosting...I love that there was plenty for this recipe, Id always rather have more than less. I got confused at the 1@3/4 C cocoa powder for the Chocolate butter cream, then looked again and saw the 5 ounces. Its more challenging baking at night for me,..but so far it looks beautiful, After we eat it Ill let you know what everybody thought:) Thanks! Jennifer

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  50. This cake looks amazing and really mouthwatering! It looks like I definitely need to have a piece of that right now!

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  51. I'm confused on the powdered sugar...it says 6 cups (25 ounces)...I thought 6 cups would be 48 ounces. Am I missing something? :)

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    1. Hi Liz! It's 6 cups by volume or 25 ounces by weight. I prefer to measure dry ingredients by weight, but I know not everyone has a kitchen scale. Hope this helps!

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    2. Ok that makes complete sense! Thank you so much! The cakes just came out of the oven...I'm excited to start the frosting tomorrow!

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  52. I am planning to make this cake for my daughter's 6th birthday party on March 2nd. I have a full time job and would like to have as much of this made ahead of time as possible to allow plenty of time to assemble and decorate the morning of the party. Would you advise to make the cream cheese filling and buttercream icing the night before and refrigerate or wait until the morning I assemble to make sure it's spreadable?

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    1. You can definitely make the frosting in advance... several days even! The cream cheese frosting will need to be stored in the refrigerator and taken out to thaw 1-2 hours before you plan to use it. The chocolate buttercream can be stored at room temperature. You can even make the cake layers the day before and wrap them in plastic wrap. That way, all you have to do the day of is assemble the cake and decorate it! Best of luck!

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  53. I made this yesterday and it was amazing!!!!! Took some time but well worth it!!

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  54. This recipe is great!! I made them in cupcake form a few months ago and filled with mousse and it was delicious. I'm making the cake with the cream cheese this time in a few days and am excited! :)

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  55. What tip did you use for the cream cheese decorations?

    Thanks!

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    1. I used a large star tip. I think it was 16mm, but anything similar would work!

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  56. Looks delicious. I'll be making it for a Valentine's day event on Saturday night. I may prepare it all tonight/tomorrow and put it together tomorrow.

    My question is, if I make 3-8 inch layers, will there be any cake batter left? I want to "sample" it before I take it to the event and I have 2-4 inch pans (I think, they're small) and I could just put any left over batter in those for tasting.

    I plant to put marachino cherries around the top edge and top with shaved chocolate!

    Can't wait.

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    1. Hi there! Sorry I didn't get back to you in time :( For anyone else wondering, I didn't have any cake batter left when I made 3 8-inch layers, but I suppose you could just add less batter to each pan if you wanted some leftover!

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  57. I absolutely love a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. I have never found the "right" recipe for the perfect chocolate icing, but now I have! Your recipe is to die for. Thanks so much for sharing. I will never make another chocolate icing again!

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  58. Hello. I have made this a couple times now. Absolutely incredible!! I agree that the chocolate buttercream is amazing and will be my staple for everything chocolate!!

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  59. Greetings from Finland! I found this recipe through Pinterest and at this very moment I´m preparing it for my hubby´s birthday. I haven´t even tasted it yet, but it looks so good already, that I have to thank you for an excellent recipe!

    I found some difficulties in changing the measurments into metric system, but it seemed to work well though.

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  60. Hi! I have only ever made a Boston Cream Pie from scratch before, and never a cake. Well I made this cake exactly as you suggested, this past weekend. And it was a-maaaazzzing!! Thank you for this recipe! My parents came in from out of town and I was so excited to present it to them and they loved it! My hubby and mother both said it was a little rich, and they would maybe skip the mini choc chips on the top - but it was fantatstic either way. So, thanks!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for visiting my blog :)

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  61. Making this today - just wondering if the butter/cream cheese in your filling and frosting are at room temp or cold?

    The cake smells SOOO good! I used coffee in mine instead of boiling water! YUM YUM YUM!

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    1. Hi Molly! Both frostings were at room temperature when I frosted the cake. If you have extra cream cheese frosting, it should be stored in the refrigerator. Hope this helps!

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    2. This was super rich, but what fudgy chocolate cake isn't! The cream cheese filling definitely helps bring things down a notch! Total hit at my mom's birthday celebration! Thanks for the great recipe - I did 1/2 milk 1/2 sour cream and used coffee instead of boiling water!

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  62. Loved your story and picture. Couldn't wait to try it. I have been baking for over 50 years to include most everything from pies and decorated wedding cakes to cupcakes for our kids and grandkids to take to school. But I found this frosting/filling recipe to be overpowering in that there is so much sugar in the filling, the cream cheese flavor is masked. And the frosting is so sweet and heavy, it hinders the flavor of the cake. Also there was so much of it left over that I combined the two and froze it for two pans of brownies. Good luck to you and your baking adventures.

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  63. Made this cake for Easter and it was VERY well received and soooo good. Thanks for the recipe, it is now my "go-to" chocolate cake. I'm not even much of a cake person (more of a pie person) but I can't wait for the next time I have an excuse to make this.

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  64. I enjoyed reading about your cake ventures. I've had similar ones, too. The last "dud" I had was when I made a half sheet cake for a 6-year-old birthday party. Her theme was Disney Princess and the cake would have been fine if I had just filled it with the vanilla and strawberry filling and nothing else. Here it is August, and I just had to make it an ice cream cake! I piled sheets of vanilla ice cream onto the already filled bottom layer and put in freezer while I frosted sides of top layer. As soon as I put the top layer on and frosted the top, it started cracking and breaking in the center and on one side. I'm keeping my composure, realizing that it's too late to do anything else, so I started randomly placing Princess decs that I bought on the holes. I placed the botched cake in the freezer for a few minutes. I later cut ribbon, curled it and stuck it on the icing where all the cracks were. It looked so much better, but the top had slidden away from the bottom at McDonalds. Birthday girl didn't notice, neither did any of the kids. The best part: everybody loved it.

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  65. Hi! (my name is patricia) when you talk about a 8-inch pan, is it 2-inch deep or 1-inch deep? This is my very first time asking something in a blog, and my first time making an american cake, I´m very interested! I choose it after looking hundreds of chocolate cake recipes. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Patricia! The 8-inch pans I use are about two inches deep. Hope this helps :)

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  66. I made this cake yesterday. Subbed Buttermilk for milk and Coffee for water (for cake). I also used Extra Dark Cocoa powder. It was Fantastic & came out perfectly! Not the quickest project but SO worth it! Thank you!

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  67. I found this through pinterest, but the link didn't work so I did a google image search. I (thankfully!) found your post, but I just wanted to let you know, I also found that http://www.leeannskitchen.com/products-page/meals/chocolate-cream-cheese-cake/ is using one of your pictures to sell their chocolate cake. I can't blame them-this looks AMAZING. I am pregnant and have been having major chocolate cravings lately and I swear I come back to this page every day drooling over how much I want to eat that entire cake :) And maybe you already know, maybe you're affiliated with them in some way, I don't know--but thought I'd give you a heads up just in case.

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    1. I'm glad you found me! It really is a delicious cake... maybe you can get someone to make it for you? :) I am not affiliated with that site--it's crazy how easily and often content is stolen. I really appreciate you letting me know!

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  68. mmmmmmm! I made this tonight and my family all loved it!

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  69. What is the filling of this cake? Is it the cream chesse frosting as the filling?

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  70. Looks wonderful, but what type of flour did you use? Self Rising; All purpose; or Cake Flour?

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  71. Looks wonderful,can't wait to make it. Maybe today,if not def for Easter!

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  72. This looks amazing! I am going to try it for the long weekend as a surprise for my sister and her man! It doesn't even seem to have any crazy ingredients in it that make it super expensive like red velvet cake! I intend to shave some dark chocolate for the top :-) Thank you for the motivation to get back to baking!

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  73. 12 cups of powdered sugar???!!! Wowzers! This can easily be cut down to about 2 cups. One cup for cream cheese, and one cup for Buttercream frosting. Please be careful about your sugar consumption. There are other variations of frosting that does not cost so much in sugar.

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  74. What kind of flour? I would love to make this!

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  75. Made this with all purpose flour and it was amazing!

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  76. This cake looks so yummy! I'm going to make it for a party this weekend. Did you use whole milk or a lowfat version?

    Thank you for sharing this recipe.

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  77. Like you, I'd previously ruined every cake I made for my husband. Well, today I got it right. I knew I could trust your recipe since you'd "been there." :) Thank you!

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