Hot Cocoa Chocolate Layer Cake

The holidays are over, and I feel like January is when winter really begins to set in. Christmas decorations have been taken down, the temperature seems to dropp 10 degrees, and our brains are still frazzled from copious holiday cocktails and excessive amounts of sugar cookies.

There’s a nip in the air that makes you just want to stay inside. It makes scarves a necessity rather than a fashion statement. It also makes you want to pull out your coziest blankets, and stock up on hot cocoa.

That’s the exactly feeling that inspired this cake. I’m a sucker for a big mug of hot cocoa, especially this time of year. I want it made with real milk, loaded up with chocolate, and topped with ooey-gooey marshmallows.

I wanted to incorporate all of those flavors into this cake, and have each bite warm your taste buds up just as much as a sip of hot chocolate. It’s made with my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe, frosted with both marshmallow buttercream and milk chocolate ganache, and filled with mini marshmallows.

I chose to also soak the cake layers with hot cocoa simple syrup (I normally don’t add it to this chocolate cake recipe), because I wanted it to be SUPER moist. After all, it is trying to emulate a beverage. It also helps pack a bit more of that wonderful hot cocoa flavor into this cake, which I’m all for!!

Begin by making the milk chocolate ganache filling. It needs a few hours to set, so I highly recommend making it first, or even the day before! If you prefer dark chocolate, the recipe for my dark chocolate ganache filling can be found here.

To make it, place both the milk chocolate (750 grams – about 2 bags of chocolate chips) and heavy cream (250 grams) in a heat proof bowl, and heat for 30 second increments (stirring between).

Usually after about 2 minutes of heat, all the chocolate is melted. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight (or at least a few hours). Before adding the room temperature ganache to a cake, give it a slow stir with a spatula to ensure it’s nice and smooth, and the right consistency.

ganache-2

Next, make the chocolate cake layers. These can also be made in advance if desired! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.

Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.

Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.

In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of baking cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.

Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.

Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don’t, you’ll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen! Please learn from my mistakes :P).

Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.

Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.

Evenly divide between the four prepared pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.

Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.

Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers. If desired, level the cakes with a serrated knife once fully cooled.

It’s important to make the hot cocoa simple syrup ahead of time as well, to allow it to cool before adding it to the leveled cake layers. Mix together the water and granulated sugar into a pot, and heat on high until the mixture just begins to bubble. At this point the sugar should be fully dissolved. Turn off heat and remove pan from stove. Mix in the hot cocoa, and set aside to cool.

While the cake layers bake and cool, make the marshmallow buttercream frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla, marshmallow fluff and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.
If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Once each component of the cake is ready, it’s time to assemble the cake!! Begin by using a large sterile paint brush to lightly soak each cake layer with the hot cocoa simple syrup.

Then add a dab of frosting onto your cake board or cake plate. This will help keep your cake layers in place as you frost and stack the layers.

Use a large offset spatula to spread an even layer of marshmallow frosting and milk chocolate ganache onto each cake layer. If you have trouble with the two blending together, you can always chill the cake in the freezer for a couple minutes after adding the marshmallow buttercream, to keep the two fillings cleanly layered.

spreading ganache onto hot cocoa cake-2

Sprinkle mini marshmallows on top of the ganache, and gently press into place using you fingers. This will help keep them in place as you assemble cake, and help reduce air from being trapped between the layers.

hot cocoa adding marshmallows-2

Repeat until all four cake layers are stacked. Next, cover the cake in a thin  layer of frosting and chocolate ganache! Place dabs of both the ganache and buttercream around the cake, then gently spread them around the cake to cover the layers.

Use a bench scraper to get the frosting really nice and smooth. Normally I add a second, thicker layer of frosting, but I decided to give this cake a semi-naked look. I just loved the way the ganache and frosting swirled together. It reminded me of whipped cream melting into a warm mug of hot cocoa!

Place the cake into the freezer for about 5 minutes, to chill it before adding on the warm ganache drips.

frosted hot cocoa cake-2

Place about 1 cup of remaining ganache into a piping bag fitted with a french tip, and set aside.

Add an extra splash of heavy cream to the remaining ganache, and heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Stir, and repeat until the ganache has a thinner consistency that will allow you to add drips to the cake.

MAKING A TEST DRIP IS SUCH A CRUCIAL STEP!!! Make one drip on the side of your cake, and let it flow. Allow it to sit for a couple minutes.

See what it looks like, if it’s the length and look you’re after. If not, adjust as needed. Either pop the ganache into the fridge for a couple minutes to allow it to cool off a bit more if the drips are too long or thin, or pop the bottle (or bowl) in the microwave and heat for 5-10 seconds to get less thick and longer drips.

drips on hot cocoa cake-2

Once you’ve covered the cake in ganache drips, pipe some ganache dollops around the top of the cake. Place mini marshmallows on top of each frosting dollop. If desired, dust the top of the cake with hot cocoa powder.

hot cocoa cake uncut-2

I swear this cake really will warm you up on a cold winter day! The filling is rich and decadent, and the mini marshmallows add such a fun texture to each bite. This cake feeds 20-25 people, so make a big batch of hot cocoa and invite your friends over!!

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Chocolate Cake Layers:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Hot Cocoa Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp hot cocoa mix

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 750 grams milk chocolate chips (about 2 bags)
  • 250 grams heavy cream

Easy Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 8 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar (907 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)
  • 3/4 cup marshmallow fluff

How To Make A Drip S’mores Cake

While I may have created a cake in time for National S’mores Day, I sadly didn’t share it in time!

I am a firm believer of the saying “better late than never,” so I’m sharing it anyways.

I originally made this cake back in 2016, but remade it this summer to create video footage of this cake for the Food Network.

It’s funny how differently a cake can turn out the second time you make it. I see quite a few differences! The left is my first, the right is my second version. I decided not to make a s’mores tower this time, to make it easier to cut into.

 

That’s one of the things I love about cakes, each one is unique and beautiful in it’s own way. No two are ever truly identical (or at least none of mine :P).

This cake is made with my go-to chocolate layer cake recipe, frosted with  marshmallow fluff and chocolate buttercream, and filled with toasted mini marshmallows, crushed graham crackers, and chocolate ganache.

Did I mention it’s topped with S’MORES?? That’s prob my favorite part of this cake. While it did feel a bit strange to make s’mores alone in my kitchen, it sure was fun to stack them on top of this cake.

For this cake, I chose to use 4, 8-inch chocolate cake layers. Since there are lots of add in’s between the layers, AND we’re piling s’mores on top, this cake ends up being pretty tall. With that in mind, 7 inch layers would’ve made it even taller!! So 8 inch cake layers really are ideal for this design.

Once all the cake components are prepared, frost each layer of cake with an even layer of marshmallow buttercream, using a large offset spatula.

adding toasted marshmallows

Next, sprinkle a generous layer of crushed graham crackers on top of the frosting. Carefully add the mini toasted marshmallows.

smores cake assembly overhead

Add a generous drizzle of warm chocolate ganache. Repeat with two more chocolate cake layers.

smores cake assembly

Flip the fourth cake layer upside down, and gently press on top of the stacked layers.

Applying a bit of pressure with your hands pushes out any air that might be stuck between your layers, and will help them settle before you being to frost the cake. This  will prevent the frosting from bulging between the layers, or cracking later in the process.

Once the layers are filled and stacked, crumb-coat the cake by cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting. This makes the overall frosting process so much easier, and ensures that no crumbs get into your final layer of frosting.

smores cake crumb coat

Place the cake in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, until the crumb coat is firm to the touch. To add the second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, use piping bags to pipe horizontal lines of chocolate and marshmallow frosting.

adding frosting stripes

Alternate lines of chocolate and marshmallow frosting.  Smooth using a bench scrapper. Make long, slow strokes around the cake, removing excess frosting and scraping it into a separate bowl.

smoothing smores stripesIf you want to see a full tutorial showing how to get smooth sides on a cake, click here.

Place the cake in the freezer, to allow the second layer of frosting to firm up. While the cake chills, make the s’mores. Toast marshmallows using either a kitchen torch or a broiler.

Create a sandwich using graham crackers, a chocolate bar, and a toasted marshmallow. Use a bit of chocolate frosting to help keep the s’more together.

smores

Once the cake is chilled, add the chocolate ganache drips.

I prefer to use a bottle, since it makes the process so much easier, but I also like the way drips look when they’re added to a cake using the spoon method.

smores drips

Two factors are critical to getting a perfect drizzle! The first is that your cake is properly chilled. Once frosted, you should allow it sit it your fridge for at least 20 minutes, or in your freezer for 10 minutes, so that the frosting is cold and firm to the touch.

The second important aspect of a drip cake is the temperature of the ganache!! It should be slightly warmer than room temperature, but not so hot that it melts your buttercream as you drizzle it!

The best way to ensure your ganache is the right temperature is do a test drip. You can’t tell, but the first drip on my cake above was a test drip. Once I knew i had my ganache at the right temperature, I continued adding my drips.

MAKING A TEST DRIP IS SUCH A CRUCIAL STEP!!! Make one drip on the side of your cake, and let it flow. Allow it to sit for a couple minutes.

See what it looks like, if it’s the length and look you’re after. If not, adjust as needed. Either pop the ganache into the fridge for a couple minutes to allow it to cool off a bit more, or pop the bottle (or bowl) in the microwave and heat for 5-10 seconds.

Next, pipe some buttercream on top of the cake using your favorite piping tip, to help the s’mores stay in place (I used a Wilton 1M). The last step is to cover the top of the cake with the s’mores!!

me placing smores on cake

The s’mores do make it a bit interesting to cut, but I just cut sliced around each s’more. When I cut slices for a crowd, I usually cut a generous slice, then cut it in half! This give each person two layers of cake and filling.

sliced smores cake v2

The full tutorial of this cake, and the recipes can be found below:

 

In addition to the below components, you will also need graham crackers, marshmallows, and some chocolate bars for both the filling of the cake and to create the s’mores!

Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

This recipe makes soft, tender, chocolaty cake layers that can handle a splash of simple syrup, yet still hold up while being frosted. I'm obsessed with this recipe, and hope you all will be too!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword best chocolate cake layer recipe, best chocolate cake recipe, chelsweets, go to chocolate cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 seven or eight inch cake

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 1 cup black cocoa

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line four 7 inch or 8 inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk on high for 1 minute. The mixture should become light in color.
  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of buttermilk. Pour in the cup of black cocoa, and whisk until no clumps remain.
  5. Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter /egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
  6. Pour in half of the buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!
  7. Please learn from my mistakes :P). Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a medium speed. Pour in the remaining buttermilk / cocoa mixture, and again gently pulse, then mix on low until fully combined.
  8. Add in the last cup of flour, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated. Mix on high for 30 additional seconds, to incorporate a bit more air into the batter.
  9. Evenly divide between the four prepared pans . I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.
  10. Bake according to the size of pan. For 7 inch layers, bake for 35-37 minutes. For 8 inch layers, bake for 32-33 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  11. Allow layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
  12. Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.
  13. Use a serrate knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Recipe Notes

I chose to use black cocoa (I love the taste and color it creates), but if you don't have any on hand, you can use regular baking cocoa.

Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword easy marshmallow frosting, marshmallow buttercream, marshmallow frosting
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 7 inch cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (4 sticks)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter and marshmallow fluff on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.

  2. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 

  3. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Recipe Notes

If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

Chocolate Ganache Drip Recipe

The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity. You only need two ingredients, it’s so easy!!! You also can use your favorite chocolate, whether it’s dark, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate. It takes less than 5 minutes to make.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate drip recipe, chocolate ganache drips
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 layer cake

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream 77 grams.
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 88 grams

Instructions

  1. Heat heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until gently bubbling.
  2. If you don’t have a microwave or prefer to use the stove top, you can heat the cream over a medium heat in a pan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl.
  3. Gently pour chocolate chips into the heavy cream, making sure they are covered with cream. Allow mixture to sit for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir slowly until the cream and chocolate are fully combined, and ganache is silky smooth. Pour into a plastic squirt bottles for easy application. If you don’t have any plastic bottles on hand, you can also use a spoon to drizzle it over cakes.
  5. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes (or place in fridge for about 10 minutes). You can also make this in advance, and store it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Heat the ganache in 3 15 second increments, or until it reaches the right viscosity. It should be slightly warmer than room temp, but to hot enough to melt your the buttercream on your chilled cake.
  6. If it seems to thin or thick, you can add a touch more chocolate or heavy cream! The type of cream and chocolate that you use can affect the consistency, so feel free to adjust as needed.

Recipe Notes

Note: if you can’t find heavy cream at your grocery store, heavy whipping cream will work too!

Rainbow Marshmallow Rice Krispies Cake

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of having Jessica Siskin in the Chelsweets kitchen! Jessica is also know on instagram as @mister_krisp, and an absolute genius when it comes to rice krispies treats!! She makes custom treats, and has made pretty much everything you can imagine.

Misterkrisp has partnered with Rice Krispies this holiday season to encourage people to make their own Rice Krispies Treats at home and share them on social media. For every post of a treat using the hashtag #Treats4Toys, Rice Krispies will donate a toy to Toys for Tots to bring some joy to a child in need this holiday season. Check out  www.RiceKrispies.com/Treats4Toys  for more info!
The recipes we used to make this cake can be found below:
Rice Krispie Rounds:
For each layer (substitute different color food coloring each time- red, yellow, and blue)
Melt 2 tbsp butter. Add 3 cups mini marshmallows and stir until coated and 75% melted, add food coloring. Turn off burner and add 4 cups Rice Krispies, stir until coated and pour the mixture into greased 7″ cake ring, press to edges.
Sprinkled Rice Krispies Squares:
Melt 2 tbsp butter. Add 3 cups mini marshmallows and stir until coated and 75% melted
Turn off burner and add 4 cups Rice Krispies and then 1/2 cup sprinkles, stir until coated and pour the mixture onto parchment sheet, mold into square shape and press additional sprinkles onto top surface. Wait 2 hours and cut into small (approx 1.5″) squares.

 

Vanilla Cake Ingredients (coloring the three layers orange, green, and purple):

  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (about 7 large egg whites)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
Marshmallow Buttercream:
  • 6 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 heavy cream
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff

Instructions:

The Rice Krispies parts of this cake were prepped the day before to help simplify the process! If you also plan to do this, store them in an airtight container at room temperature.

To make the cake layers, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 7” round pans. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.Mix chunks of butter slowly into the dry mix on a low speed. Continue to mix until no chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients (vanilla extract, egg whites, buttermilk, and vegetable oil), and whisk to combine.On low speed, add 1/3 of the liquid ingredients to the dry/butter mixture. Mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Mix in the remaining wet ingredients in two installments, on a medium-high speed until fully incorporated.

Divide evenly into three bowls, and color one batter orange, one batter green, and one purple with gel food coloring. The pour the batters into the three prepared cake pans. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

While the cake layers bake and cool, prepare the marshmallow frosting!

Beat the butter on high for 30 seconds, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the marshmallow fluff, vanilla, and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

img_5477-2

Once you’ve made all your layers, it’s time to assemble the cake!! Stack them in rainbow order (ROYGBV), alternating layers of rice krispies and cake! I applied a thick, fluffy layer of frosting between each layers. I then applied a crumb coat and let the cake chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes. I used some of my remaining buttercream to add a second coat of frosting, and smoothed with a cake bench. I then applied colorful ganache drips, and we began to decorate the top of the cake! We made a large swirl of buttercream in the center of the cake, and stacked the krispies squares in a pyramid on top of the cake. We filled in any gaps with mini marshmallows and sprinkles! The cake ended up being insanely tall, but that made it all the more fun to cut and eat 🙂 The rice krispies / cake combination turned out being surprisingly delicious! I loved the variety of textures!!

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