Vicken’s birthday was last weekend and since I came up pretty short on cool presents this year, I thought the least I could do was make him an awesome birthday cake. The only potential problem with this idea is that Vicken isn’t that crazy about sweets. If only the tradition was to have Birthday Potatoes, he’d be in heaven. But decadent desserts just aren’t really his thing. This is why I was a bit surprised when he actually requested a chocolate birthday cake.

I immediately and selfishly decided that the cake had to be raspberry-chocolate since this is pretty much my favorite flavor combination ever, and then I came across a recipe from the June issue of Bon Appétit that seemed perfect. Everyone who had reviewed it on loved it and multiple people commented on the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet. It sounded perfect!

The recipe is for a 2 layer chocolate cake with raspberry jam and ganache frosting. It yields enough batter to use two 2-inch tall cake pans, which I didn’t have. Instead, I used my standard 1 1/2 inch tall pans and poured a shallow layer of leftover batter into a bundt pan as an experiment. I thought about using 3 standard cake pans, but was worried that I wouldn’t have enough ganache frosting to cover all of those layers. In hindsight, the ganache recipe makes way more than you need to ice the cake, so I probably would go with a 3 layer cake in the future. (In case you’re wondering, the bundt portion of cake yielded a cute little chococate cake wreath which I doused in leftover ganache.)

The original recipe has you top the cake with concentric circles of fresh raspberries, finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Once I got done pouring all of the ganache on the cake and creating such a beautiful, smooth, and glassy chocolate surface, I just couldn’t bring myself to cover that and up with white powder. So instead I covered the cake with 2 circles of raspberries and a ring of chocolate chips between them. I think you could get even more creative with how you arrange the raspberries on top, but I would definitely stick with my decision to leave out the powdered sugar again.

After eating a Mexican birthday dinner the other night, we didn’t have much room left for cake. We ate small slivers (which immediately hit the spot) and then put the mostly-whole cake back into the fridge. Another almost-half of the cake disappeared at the 4th of July bbq we had yesterday, and we’ll have to wait and see who eats the rest of the cake. Needless to say, I have a feeling my “diet plans” are going to get pushed back a few days.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
from Bon Appétit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

Chocolate ganache and raspberry topping:
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, stirred to loosen, divided
2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries
Powdered sugar (optional)

Special equipment: 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides

For cake:
1. Position racks in top and bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; spray rounds.

2. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; whisk to blend and form well in center. Whisk 1 cup water, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Divide cake batter between prepared pans (about 3 cups each).

3. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (If cakes form domes, place kitchen towel atop hot cakes, then press gently with palm of hand to level.) Cool completely in pans on cooling racks. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover cakes in pans and let stand at room temperature.

For chocolate ganache and raspberry topping:
4. Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream just to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Pour over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until ganache is melted and smooth. Transfer 1 1/4 cups ganache to small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ganache is thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let remaining ganache stand at room temperature to cool until barely lukewarm.

5. Place rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Carefully run knife around pan edges to release cakes. Invert 1 cake layer onto cardboard round or bottom of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Place cake layer on round on prepared rack. Spread 3 tablespoons jam over top. Spoon dollops of chilled ganache over, then spread evenly.

6. Invert second cake layer onto another cardboard round or tart pan bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Carefully slide cake off round and onto frosted cake layer on rack. Spread remaining 3 tablespoons raspberry jam over top of second cake layer. Pour half of barely lukewarm ganache over cake, spreading over sides to cover. Freeze until ganache sets, about 30 minutes.

7. Pour remaining ganache over cake, allowing to drip down sides and spreading over sides if needed for even coverage and to smooth edges. Freeze to set ganache, about 30 minutes. (DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.)

8. Arrange raspberries in concentric circles atop cake. Sift powdered sugar lightly over raspberries and serve.