I love layer cakes, and to me, this is the perfect cake: alternating layers of moist chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting, then topped with a mountain of berries. The cake layers are chocolaty, and the frosting tastes like cheesecake. Together, they are made even better paired with slightly tart, fresh berries.
The chocolate cake recipe is that eggless chocolate cake that is so easy and the batter is mixed in one bowl, just like cake mix. The cake is made with cocoa powder instead of dark chocolate, so that it has a more pronounced, deep chocolate flavour. I baked the cake in three 6-inch cake pans so that it was easier to handle and it bakes faster than one tall cake that you would split in 3 after cooling.
As for the cream cheese frosting (taken from the beautiful book Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s Most Charming Pastry Shop), I cannot stress enough how important it is to start by beating together the butter with the icing sugar first, before adding in the cream cheese after. Otherwise, you will end up with a soupy mess. This is the secret to making thick cream cheese frosting that’s pipeable even though it has less than half the icing sugar of most recipes. This cream cheese frosting also tastes great on a poppy seed cardamom cake with cranberries. Another option for a thick cream cheese frosting is this white chocolate cream cheese frosting that is sweetened with melted white chocolate instead of icing sugar!
In the summer, the easiest way to decorate this cake is by topping it with a mound of fresh berries (local strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries). In the winter months, you can top it with chocolate curls or even slices of orange. And if all else fails, you can always sprinkle liberally with sprinkles!
To bake the cake layers, I split the batter between three 6-inch cake pans. Take the time to prepare the cake pans before baking, by buttering the pans, lining the bottom with parchment, and dusting the sides with flour. This way your cakes will slide right out of the pan, without any resistance.
Berry chocolate cake
Chocolate cake ingredients
- 185 grams (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 7.5 mL (1½ tsp) baking soda
- 37 grams (⅓ cup) Cacao Barry extra brute cocoa powder
- 1.25 mL (¼ tsp) fine kosher salt
- 15 mL (1 tbsp) white vinegar
- 1 tsp (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
- 250 mL (1 cup) skim milk (fat free)
- 60 mL (¼ cup) canola oil
- 225 grams (1 cup) light brown sugar
Cream cheese frosting ingredients
- 156 grams (1⅓ cups) icing sugar
- 156 grams (⅔ cup) Stirling Creamery unsalted butter room temperature
- 454 grams (1 lb) Philadelphia cream cheese (full fat, regular) this is a little less than 2 blocks of Philadelphia cream cheese
- 225 grams (½ lb) fresh strawberries
- 225 grams (½ lb) Fresh raspberries
- 225 grams (½ lb) fresh blueberries
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 175 ºC (350°F). Prepare a three 6-inch cake pans by brushing the bottom and sides with melted butter and dusting it with cocoa, then lining the bottom with a round of parchment. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa into a medium bowl and set it aside.
- Combine the milk, vinegar, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Stir, then let it stand for a few minutes so that the milk curdles and thickens.
- Whisk in the oil and brown sugar.
- Add the wet ingredients to the sifted dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- Pour the batter in the prepared pans and bake until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean (about 30 minutes but keep an eye on it after 25 minutes).
For the frosting
- The order of these steps is very important! First, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the icing sugar and butter until it is smooth.
- Then, when the butter and sugar are nice and smooth, add in the cream cheese, and beat until you get a creamy, fluffy frosting, for at least 2 to 3 minutes, if not more.
- Trim the cakes to level them with a large, serrated bread knife.
- Place the bottom layer on a cake turntable (find it on Amazon), and smooth on about 1/4 of the frosting. Top with the second layer of cake, frost, and repeat with the third layer. Smooth the last of the frosting on the sides and top of the cake.
- Top the cake with a tall mound of the berries.
- I used Stirling Creamery unsalted butter for this recipe
- I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder - Extra Brute, which is a very dark cocoa powder
- You can also bake this recipe in one 3-inch deep 6-inch cake pan. It will take 60 minutes to bake and make sure to check if the cake is done baking in the middle before taking it out of the oven or else there's a risk that the cake collapses.
I do my best to bake with the finest ingredients. Stirling Creamery, a Canadian company, has provided the butter for this post.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.