All the rich flavor of hot chocolate—in cake form. Homemade marshmallows piled on top seal the deal.
Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9×2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter the parchment, then dust with flour and knock out the excess.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the butter, oil, chopped chocolate, and 1 cup water. Heat over medium heat until melted.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder. Pour the hot chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.
Set two pans on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the pans on the oven racks so that no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating the pans’ positions after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment, and cool completely.
Pour 3/4 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment.
Clip a candy thermometer to a 3-quart saucepan; don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan. In the saucepan, boil the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water over medium heat without stirring until it reaches 234°F to 235°F, about 10 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin in a slow, thin stream.
Add the vanilla, carefully increase the speed to high, and beat until the mixture has thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes (the bottom of the bowl should be just warm to the touch). Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Sift 1 Tbs. of the confectioners’ sugar into the bottom of the pan, then pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and sift another 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar on top. Let sit at room temperature until set, at least 2 hours.
Remove the frosting from the freezer or refrigerator. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to soften. Change to a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Put a cake layer on a flat serving platter or a cake stand lined with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing. Top the layer with 1-1/2 cups of the frosting, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula to the cake’s edge. Repeat with another cake layer and 1-1/2 cups frosting. Top with the last cake layer.
Put 1-1/2 cups of the frosting in a small bowl. With an offset spatula, spread this frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting firms enough to seal in the crumbs, 20 to 30 minutes.
Spread the remaining frosting in a smooth layer over the top and sides of the cake. If necessary, you can rewhip the remaining frosting to loosen and lighten it. Remove the waxed paper strips.
Use the foil overhang to lift the marshmallow from the pan. Using a knife that has been dipped in cold water, cut along the edge of the marshmallow to release it from the foil. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the foil. Put the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the marshmallow into cubes of different sizes, from 1/4 to 3/4 inch (you will need to continue to dip the knife in cold water as you cut the marshmallows). The marshmallows will be very sticky—dip the cut edges in the confectioners’ sugar to make them easier to handle. As you work, toss a few cubes at a time in the sugar to coat, then shake in a strainer to remove the excess. Mound the marshmallows on top of the cake (you’ll need only a third to half of them). Sift some cocoa powder over the marshmallows.
Make Ahead Tips
You can bake, cool, wrap, and store the cake layers at room temperature for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month. You can refrigerate the frosting for up to 3 days. The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours (return to room temperature before serving). Wrapped well, leftover marshmallows keep at room temperature for up to 1 month.
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I've made this cake 3 or 4 times because it's hands-down the best chocolate cake ever. The cake is moist and the icing is basically a whipped chocolate ganache, which is pure heaven and not sweet. It's definitely a cake for chocolate lovers. If you don't like dark-ish chocolate, it may be too rich. The homemade marshmallows seem daunting, but are quite simple if you have a candy thermometer and are comfortable cooking sugar (it takes some precision with the temperature). I don't eat the marshmallows myself, but they're a crowd-pleaser and always a conversation starter! The cake freezes well, and arguably tastes better still frozen (it's fudgey when freezer cold).
I have looked past this recipe many times thinking that if it looks this good it must be more about looks than flavor or taste. I was wrong. The texture, the flavor and the visual impact were amazing. I didn't modify at all except to check for doneness about 3 minutes early. And it was done. I would not say it's dry at all but I don't need every cake to be wet and gooey. I think the contrast between a fine crumb "grown up" cake and the amazing silky fudge like frosting was awesome!!! And it tastes like rich hot cocoa. Make sure you have it with coffee - amazing!!!
Hands-down my favorite chocolate cake. Rich, moist, and intensely chocolatey. Every time I have this, it reminds me of Mrs. Trunchbull's cake. I have been too lazy, thus far, to make the marshmallows. I will someday, but the cake is perfect even without them.
It is worth the time and it's worth using the best ingredients you have. (I prefer to use Callebaut cocoa and chocolate, around 65%.) This is a recipe that has turned me off of trying new chocolate cake recipes, and I can't wait to make it again.
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