Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake
This is a "death by chocolate" cake. It probably won't kill you...but you've been warned.
My husband loves to remind me he's younger. He'll bring it up any chance he gets, especially in social situations. Reality: he's 5 months younger than me. We were both born in 1981, we both graduated high school in 1999, but for 5 long months he gets to be younger and rub it in my face.
But not today! Today he is 36, just like me! Happy birthday Jeremiah! Enjoy the last year of your mid-thirties! It's really not so bad. Especially when you've got an awesome wife who makes you cake.
I like to get a little crazy with birthday cakes. If you can't indulge on your birthday, when can you? This year was no exception. In fact, it may be my most lavish birthday cake yet. It contains everything my husband loves: coconut, cream cheese frosting, salted caramel, and enough chocolate to satisfy...oh, at least 10 pregnant women.
I'll be honest, I didn't have a plan for this cake, only to make it insanely over the top.
And over the top it was! Layer upon layer of moist dark chocolate cake, a savory hit of salted caramel, a sweet and tangy burst of coconut cream cheese frosting, a smooth dark chocolate buttercream, with a bonus layer of milk chocolate buttercream, and then a glorious semisweet chocolate shell finish. Talk about a mouthful.
I don't think I've ever seen my husband or children so quiet as they enjoyed a monster sized piece. They all agreed it was the best cake they've ever had. My favorite part of the evening was when Killian, my 4 year old, looked up and, with a mouthful of cake, said, "Got milk?"
This cake has multiple elements; don't feel you need all of them. Three types of frosting are not needed to make this cake. However, I'm going to share each element in case three types of frosting are wanted. If you'd prefer a more simple cake (and less dishes to clean, possibly want to avoid Type 2 Diabetes), leave out the milk chocolate buttercream and the chocolate shell topping. The cake will have a different finish, but will still be just as dreamy and delicious.
Dark Chocolate Cake
Makes two 9" cake rounds or three 6" rounds
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cups Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark (for high altitude increase by 1/4 cup)
- 1 tsp baking powder (for high altitude decrease by 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
- 1 tsp baking soda (for high altitude decrease by 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups sugar (for high altitude decrease by 1 to 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs at room temperature (for high altitude add 1 egg)
- 1 1/3 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons brewed strong coffee (for high altitude increase 2-3 tablespoons)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (for high altitude 375°F). Butter and flour two 9" round pans.
- In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter, on medium high speed, till light and fluffy. About 3-5 minutes.
- On low speed, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Mix till combined, scraping the bowl as needed.
- On low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat. Mix until smooth but do not over beat.
- Divide the batter evenly between prepared cake pans.
- Bake on middle rack for 30-35 minutes, till a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
* Baker's Note: For precise altitude adjustments see here.
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, blend the cream cheese and butter till smooth. Add the vanilla and almond extract, mix till combined.
- On low speed, add the powdered sugar. Mix till combined, then mix on high speed for 2 minutes till light and fluffy.
- Stir in the coconut. Set aside.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, sifted
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- With an electric mixer on slow-medium speed, mix the melted butter and dark cocoa powder till smooth.
- On low speed, add half the powdered sugar, followed by half the milk. Repeat.
- Add the vanilla. Mix on high speed for 2 minutes till light and fluffy. Set aside.
Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/3 cup sweet ground cocoa, I use Ghirardelli
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sweet ground cocoa, and butter. Stir over low heat until butter has melted. Add the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
Semisweet Chocolate Shell Topping
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- Place the chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir, then heat for another 15 seconds. Stir until the chips are melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly, but make sure it's still spreadable.
- Don't make the chocolate shell until you've assembled your cake. It should be your last step, otherwise the melted chocolate will set and you'll have to reheat, which could lead to burning. Once the chocolate has burned it's no longer usable.
- Salted caramel sauce for drizzling (store bought is fine, just heat for 15-30 seconds in microwave)
- Chopped or shaved dark chocolate for decorating the top (optional)
- Place a flat bottomed cooled cake layer on a serving platter. Cover the top with a generous layer of coconut cream cheese frosting. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
- Place the second cake layer, flat side facing up, on top of the frosted first layer. Cover the top with a generous layer of coconut cream cheese frosting. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
- Place the final cake layer, flat side facing up. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cake from fridge and apply a thin crumb coat using the dark chocolate frosting (see baker's note). Chill for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Remove cake from fridge and, with an offset spatula, apply a generous layer of dark chocolate frosting over the entire cake, starting at the top and smoothing down and over the sides. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cake from fridge, and with an offset spatula, apply smudges of milk chocolate frosting in random spots along the sides of the cake. Use the spatula to smooth the smudges, creating a unique decorative effect, like in the photos. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Melt the chocolate and coconut oil for the chocolate shell. Remove the chilled cake from fridge and pour the chocolate mixture over the top. With an offset spatula, smooth the mixture to the edges, gently pushing over the sides to create a dripping effect. The chocolate should set quickly if the cake is chilled.
- Decorate with shaved dark chocolate or shredded coconut. Can be made one day ahead, kept chilled.
- I used three 6" cake layers, rather than two 9" layers. I prefer two layers of coconut frosting rather than one. If using only two cake layers skip step 2.
- A crumb layer is a thin layer of frosting that covers the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. The frosted layer is chilled, making your final layer of frosting more polished.
- You'll have quite a bit of leftover frosting. I've found frosting freezes well for up to 2 months, in a sealed container or ziplock bag.