If you spend any amount of time poking around this blog, you’ll find there aren’t many cakes here. Actually, you’ll find there aren’t that many dessert recipes period. The truth is I’m no prolific baker. I find the activity rather stressful with a high degree of difficulty. But the desire to be better is always there. And as a person who enjoys aesthetics, I do feel a real desire to make beautiful desserts. So, every now and then, I try my hand at a layer cake to see if I’m just as clumsy as I was before. And with today’s Midnight Cake with Dark Chocolate Fig Ganache, I do feel like I’ve leveled up…maybe to, like, a green belt? Or is that really high? I never took tae kwon do.
Well, whatever belt I’ve earned with this Midnight Cake, I can’t say it was hard-won. This cake, for all its elegance, was actually an easy decorating job, especially when compared to this headache of a cake. And the truth is I owe it all to my pal Libby, who posts her prolific cake projects under the handle @sift.baking on Instagram. One day, I unloaded my many cake-decorating-hangups on her and in return, she patiently asked me a question, “What kind of buttercream are you using?” I blinked and told her American. She smiled and suggested I try frosting with Swiss meringue instead. And that has made all the difference.
If that sounds too cut and dry, let me assure you this story is 100% true. Swiss meringue buttercream is a godsend. It spreads easily, pipes beautifully and is stable as all hell. I mean, it starts to fall apart under extreme humidity but what frosting doesn’t?
Okay, with all thank yous aside, let’s dissect this Midnight Cake. Now, I opted for a 6-inch cake. Why? Well, my household is two people and I was making a cake for the heck of it. We love cake but we can’t eat that much cake. Having said that, the recipe below will give you two 8-inch layers of cake and enough buttercream to cover them. And as for the ganache, well, you will have leftovers of that and, I promise, you won’t be the least bit sorry.
So, first things first – the Midnight Cake itself. This cake is your basic chocolate cake with a little black cocoa. That’s why the cake looks so foreboding. Greek yogurt keeps things nice and moist, while vegetable oil gives it a nice light crumb. Honestly, this is THE chocolate cake. You don’t need anything else, well, except for this stout cake. It’s pretty dang good too!
The next layer is the Dark Chocolate Fig Ganache. Now, you may be wondering where the fig comes in. Well, trust me when I say, nothing about the fig’s involvement is complicated. I suppose you could make it complicated. But why would you want to? The fig in this Dark Chocolate Fig Ganache is storebought fig jam. All you have to do is whisk it into the dark chocolate ganache while it’s still liquid. That’s it! And ganache? Ganache is nothing. You make it once and you’re pretty much an expert.
Okay, now it’s time for the game-changer, the frosting. For the Midnight Cake, I made a simple Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. While it is true that Swiss Meringue is more complicated to make than the American version, the time you lose making the buttercream you more than make up for in time saved decorating. The secret to a good Swiss Meringue Buttercream is temperature control. Keeping everything at the optimal temperature will result in a silky, airy frosting every time.
Why is temperature so important? Well, with Swiss Meringue you have egg whites that yoy have to heat gently right off the bat. This is to help the sugar dissolve into the egg whites so the finished buttercream isn’t gritty. But then you have to whip soft but cold butter into the egg whites. If the eggs are still hot the butter melts and you have soup. I don’t say this to scare you, I just want you to have a good idea of the balance you have to strike. It’s actually a very simple process provided you have patience.
Now, the final element we have to talk about is the pomegranate syrup. You can buy the syrup but I chose to cook down a bottle of pomegranate juice. I did this because I wanted to have more control over the final consistency. This part can be a pain, so if you don’t want to deal with the headache, just skip the syrup. But if you want the flavor of syrup without the drip look, drizzle the pom syrup over the ganache layer before placing the final layer of cake. Once you decided where to put your syrup, it’s simply a matter of arranging fresh fruit on top of the cake to your liking. I used pomegranate, figs, blackberries, fresh sage, and fresh bay leaves on my cake.
So that’s everything you need to know about this beauty of a cake. She takes a little time, love, and a fair bit of patience. But trust me when I say every bite of chocolaty goodness is well worth the effort.
Midnight Cake with Dark Chocolate Fig Ganache & Pomegranate Syrup
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 2 tbsp black cocoa
- 1 cup strong coffee cooled
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups pure pomegranate juice
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Dark Chocolate Fig Ganache
- 454g (16oz) dark chocolate chips 70% or higher
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 cup fig jam
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter soft but cold, cut into cubes
- 113g (4oz) dark chocolate chips melted and cooled slightly
- pomegranates arils
- fresh figs
- sage leaves
- bay leaves
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Sift in the cocoas and stir them into the flour mixture. Set aside.
- Pour the coffee into another large bowl. Add the eggs, yogurt, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
- Using a spoon, form a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the center of the well and stir to combine. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and place them in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center of each cake and come out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely. Wrap the cakes tightly and transfer to the fridge. Let chill for at least 1 hour.
For the Syrup
- Pour the pomegranate juice into a large skillet and add the sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave it to reduce for 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to a quarter.
- Take the skillet off of the heat and set aside to cool completely before transferring to a jar.
For the Ganache
- Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and set aside.
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan and place over low heat. Heat the cream to a low simmer then take it off the heat. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Stir the chocolate into the cream until smooth and silky. Stir in the fig jam and set aside.
- Let the ganache sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours to achieve a spreadable consistency.
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Place the egg whites and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Set aside.
- Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to a low simmer. Place the bowl over the pan to create a double boiler. Whisk the sugar and egg whites together until the sugar dissolves the mixture become opaque. Don't heat too aggressively or you will cook the egg.
- Pour the egg white mixture into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg white on high until thoroughly cooled. Start adding the butter, 3-4 cubes at a time, only adding more when the butter disappears.
- Once the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Take the mixing bowl out of the stand mixer and fold in the chocolate.
- Using a serrated knife, trim the cakes of any domes that may have formed. Spread a small amount of ganache on a 6-inch cake board and place the first layer of cake on top.
- Spread a thick layer of ganache on top of the first cake layer and place the second on top. Use a large spatula to smooth any wayward ganache on the surface of the cake. Transfer the cake to the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
- Cover the cake in a thin layer of the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This is called the "crumb coat". Return the cake to the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.
- Cover the cake in another, thicker layer of Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream and chill for another 30 minutes before covering the top with the pomegranate syrup. Pipe the syrup around the edges of the cake first before covering the center. This is how to achieve the drip look.
- Decorate the top and sides of the cake with the pomegranate arils, blackberries, figs, sage leaves, and bay leaves and serve immediately. If not serving right away, transfer the cake to the fridge and chill until ready to serve. The cake is best served the day it's made.**