Blackberry + Black Pepper Chocolate Cake
Like most things in my life, I had planned on doing this cake for the holidays, but time got away from me. I had initially imagined an all white cake with the white chocolate tree covering the top like a winter wonderland. A dusting of white edible glitter to finish and bam, you’ve got yourself the perfect white Christmas! I was about to abandon the idea of this cake in utter discouragement and banish myself to the corner; tearfully eating my sorrows away with a bowl of white frosting, when I realized I’m in Minnesota! Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the snow is. Oh no people, the winter white flurries are still going strong. I will admit, even though I HATE the cold, I do love a good snow storm! I also hate being hot, so apparently I can’t be satisfied, haha!
So you are probably asking yourself, “well if she was going to go ahead with her winter wonderland cake, why in the world is it a strange lavender color?” Well, I can explain. A few days after the new year, I was feeling a bit uninspired. I had a serious case of the New Year blues or the winter blues – that line is a bit blurry right now 🙂
Anyways, I was hanging out on Pinterest trying to rediscover my design mojo and ran across some stuff on the Pantone color of the year. I’m really loving the new “Greenery” color, aren’t you? However, on my rabbit trail through the world of Pinterest, I stumbled upon an even prettier color of the year (in my opinion). This one was created by the people at Benjamin Moore. It goes by the name of “Shadow” and it’s a very deep moody purple. I’m madly in love and want to make everything in my life this color! I’m not advertising for them in any way, I just really love this color!
Well, as you can see above, I wasn’t quite able to get to this intense deep purple color. I probably needed a bit more black in the frosting. You can’t win them all, folks! Actually I think my first attempt at this cake was a bit closer to the color. However, like after most of my photo shoots, I end up finding 10 million things I could do better and usually end up redoing it. This was one case in point.
Let me break it down for you… I loved the color, but was not in love with simply all chocolate trees. I also felt the trees could be taller and statelier. Oh and I made the mistake of piping the trees on my Silpats instead of parchment paper and lost half of them due to breakage. Apparently, Silpats are not as nonstick friendly as I thought! At least when it comes to chocolate.
I also felt it needed some more interest, hence adding the flowers, blackberries and truffles. On top of this, at the time I didn’t have a cardboard cake bases laying around. Due to it getting later in the day and losing light, I didn’t want to run to the store to pick one up. Hence, the white plate on top of a cake stand. That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back! I could have lived with everything else, but that drove me crazy! So I decided to go for round two. So now we have two huge cakes hanging around at home, lol! Not a good idea in the middle of winter when going outside to run off all of those calories is nearly impossible! But they sure do taste amazing, so I will let future Melissa deal with the repercussions!
And even though the color is still not where I want it, I try to remind myself of a favorite quote:
“I’ve never failed at anything in my life. I was simply given another chance or opportunity to get it right!” – Winston Churchill
So keep your eyes out for a future post to come in the next few weeks. We are working on something fun for Valentine’s day and hopefully, fingers crossed, it should turn out pretty cute and a bit closer to the real color!
With love from my kitchen to yours!
- (makes four 9-inch round cakes)
- 3 1/2 cups boiling water
- 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
- 6 1/2 oz. cocoa powder
- 1 lb 2 oz. cake flour
- 4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 lb 4 oz. butter, room temperature
- 1 lb brown sugar
- 8 eggs
- (makes 7 cups)
- 1 lb butter
- 2 lbs 8 oz. confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 fluid oz. heavy cream
- 4 oz black berry jam - extra for spreading on each layer
- 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 cups buttercream
- Scraps from chocolate cake
- 1/4 cup blackberry jam
- 1/4 cup heavy cream + more if needed
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 8 oz. white chocolate chips + more if needed.
- Fresh blackberries, roses, white chocolate trees and chocolate cake truffles
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray four 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, then line bottoms with 9-inch rounds of parchment paper. Lightly spray over the parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine boiling water, semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir. Set aside to cool.
- In a different medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until smooth. Slowly add in eggs, until just incorporated. Add 1/2 flour mixture, then 1/2 chocolate-water mixture. Mix in between. Add remaining flour mixture, then remaining chocolate-water mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Make sure not to over mix, which will cause the cake to be tough and dense.
- Split cake batter evenly between the 4 prepared cake pans. Place in oven and bake for 16 minutes. Rotate pans in oven and bake for another 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Another test is lightly pressing on the center of a cake. If it easily bounces back, the cake is finished. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks.
- Once completely cool, remove from pans and peel off parchment paper bottoms. Wrap cakes in plastic wrap, then foil. Freeze cakes overnight. if possible. I find, freezing your cake layers help when frosting. (Cakes can be made up to 1-2 weeks ahead of time, then frozen.)
- When ready to frost, remove cakes from freezer. Slice mounded part of cake tops off to make a level, flat surface. Save cake scraps for chocolate cake truffles.
- Cream butter until fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar into butter and continue to mix until completely blended. Add salt, vanilla and heavy cream. Blend on low until just combined. Add additional heavy cream until desired consistency is reached. Beat frosting until fluffy, 2-4 minutes. Over whipping adds in too much air, so make sure to whip with care.
- Set aside 3 cups for filling, color remaining frosting with desired icing color. Use immediately or wrap with plastic wrap and store in fridge until ready to use. May require additional whipping after storing in fridge.
- Mix together 4 oz. blackberry jam, 2 tsp. cracked pepper and 3 cups buttercream until well combined. Use immediately or wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
- Place cake scraps in a medium sized bowl. Add in blackberry jam and heavy cream. Using a hand mixer, beat until smooth. Consistency of truffle batter should be thick, but smooth. Add more heavy cream, if needed. Chill batter for 4 hours or overnight. Roll 1 tablespoon each of chilled chocolate mixture into balls. Place on a plate or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour, until firm. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature. Before using, roll in cocoa powder to coat.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil. Place white chocolate chips in a glass bowl. Remove pot of water from heat and place bowl over "water bath". Make sure water does not hit bottom of bowl. This can burn the chocolate. Allow to sit until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir chocolate smooth. To test that chocolate is ready, take a small spoonful and spread thinly onto parchment paper. If chocolate sets after a few minutes, the chocolate is tempered and ready to use.
- Make a paper cone out of parchment paper. Here's a great step by step for the perfect paper cone. Pour chocolate into cone and carefully fold top of cone to close. Roll out large sheets of parchment paper on a flat surface. Cut off a very small tip of cone. Enough to allow chocolate to come out in a thin line. Pipe trees out onto parchment paper in various heights, allow to set. They will be very delicate, so make sure to make extra for breakage.Carefully release chocolate trees from parchment with a very thin spatula. Use immediately or store on a sheet pan between parchment paper and wrap in plastic wrap until ready to use.
- Fill a large pastry bag, fitted with a extra large round tip #1A, with colored buttercream. You will have extra left over.
- Place 1 chocolate cake layer in the center of a cardboard cake round then place on a revolving cake decorating stand. This will make transferring your cake to a cake plate much easier.
- Spread a very thin layer of blackberry jam in center of cake, leaving 1 inch from outer edge. Using your filled pastry bag, pipe a frosting ring or "dam" on the outer edge of the cake layer. This will keep the filling from leaking out. Spread 1/2 cup blackberry + black pepper buttercream filling in the center. Place second chocolate cake layer on top of first cake layer. Press gently and make sure both layers are even on top and sides.
- Repeat with jam, frosting "dam" and blackberry + black pepper buttercream filling. Top with next cake layer. Repeat with jam, frosting "dam" and blackberry + black pepper buttercream filling and finish with final cake layer. Make sure all layers are even on top and sides.
- Using a small offset icing spatula, smooth any buttercream on sides of cake.
- Apply a crumb coat to entire cake. This is a thin layer of frosting that seals any loose crumbs that "dirty" your final coat of frosting. Place cake in fridge for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.
- With remaining buttercream frosting, apply to entire cake. This is the fun part! Choosing how you want to sculpt your frosting. Smooth top and sides or create a pattern. The choice is up to you.
- Decorate frosted cake with white chocolate trees, blackberries, chocolate cake truffles and roses.
- Carefully transfer cake to cake plate and serve.
- All items can be made 1-2 days in advanced and tightly stored in fridge until ready to assemble. Store white chocolate trees in a dark cool place - do not store in fridge as the chocolate will sweat.
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With love from my kitchen to yours,