Did you know that it’s National Chocolate Cake Day?! And do I ever have a great recipe for you chocolate cake lovers. It all started with wanting to make a baking recipe involving pomegranate which is in season through February and just so beautiful with its little ruby seeds. Then I thought, how great would bittersweet chocolate be with tart pomegranate? I can confirm that it is scrumptious.
My first version was a simple, round, two-layer cake. For this post, however, I made two heart-shaped cakes because Valentine’s Day is approaching (it also happens to be near mine and Mr. Foodie’s 3rd wedding anniversary – that’s the leather or crystal anniversary – which makes me chuckle).
I’ve made chocolate ganache cake before, but I wanted to incorporate the flavor of pomegranate and have the option to make a layer cake version. Unlike other fruits, pomegranate can’t really be made into a proper “filling” unless you combine it with another fruit because it is just liquid, so I took a page out of the Arab-dessert book and decided to make a syrup to pour over the cakes instead. Because you essentially soak the cake with this syrup, I opted for a ganache topping since a) it is much easier to make from scratch than traditional frostings and b) it allows me to “frost” the cake much quicker than if I had to wait for the cake to completely cool (plus I don’t have to worry about the extra liquid + frosting causing an issue).
Now this recipe was cobbled together from several other recipes, and it involves more than a few steps. In some ways, this cake is easier than other cakes (you don’t have to wait for butter to come to room temperature and ganache is easier to make than frosting, for example); however, I suggest following my instructions in the order they’re listed for the most efficient baking experience. I have also provided some alternative, time-saving, step-skipping options.
Chocolate Pomegranate Cake
(adapted from Giada’s SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake recipe)
4 C Pomegranate Juice
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C lemon juice (1 med lemon)
1 whole pomegranate
2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/3 C cocoa powder (I used unsweetened)
2 2/3 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
11 Tb (1 stick + 3 Tb) butter, melted
1 1/3 C Buttermilk (or see below)
1 1/3 C Freshly Brewed Coffee
1 C heavy cream
16 oz semisweet chocolate
To make the pomegranate molasses*, combine the 4 C pomegranate juice (from the bottle or from blended/strained seeds), 1/4 C lemon juice, and 1/3 C sugar into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to gentle boil for 1 hour (with the lid off). The mixture should reduce by half and will thicken even more as it cools.
To make the garnish*, fill a large bowl with water. Cut the top crown off the pomegranate and submerge into the water. With your hands, crack the pomegranate open and pull the seeds out. Keep cracking and pulling the seeds out. The membrane will float to the top and the seeds will sink. There are many ways to get pomegranate seeds out, but this is the best if all you want are the seeds in tact (and if you want to reduce the risk of juice splattering everywhere).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 9″ (if you only have 8″, just don’t use all of the cake batter or they will over flow).
To make your own buttermilk from regular milk, combine 1 1/3 C regular milk with 1 TB of white vinegar in a 4-cup measuring cup (or other pouring vessel) and let sit for 10 minutes (alternatively, you can buy buttermilk at some grocery stores). In the meantime, brew the fresh coffee and melt the butter. Combine the buttermilk, coffee, melted butter, and vanilla extract into the 4-cup measuring cup (or other pouring vessel).
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients and whisk on low-speed to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to whisk on low-speed. Then slowly pour the rest of the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Whisk until combined (but don’t overwork it). Pour evenly into the two greased cake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.
In a double-boiler, add the heavy cream and 16 oz (chopped) semisweet chocolate and stir until combined. It should be a very glossy, dark mixture. You can let it set a while if your cakes aren’t ready. The longer it sits, the stiffer it will become, so if your plan is to pour it, don’t wait too long; otherwise, you’ll have to spread it.
If making a layer cake, cut the rounded tops of the cakes off to make them even. If making two heart cakes, draw a heart on parchment paper (or you can freehand it with the knife) and cut the cakes into heart shapes. Across the top of each layer/cake, poke holes with a toothpick halfway down. Use a spoon to spoon the pomegranate molasses over the holes. The cake should soak up the molasses (especially if it is still partly warm). I used about 1/4 C of molasses per layer. Then pour the ganache over the top of each layer if doing two cakes (or over the whole layered cake if doing one cake) and spread with a spatula until it runs over the sides. Top with pomegranate seeds for garnish.
To skip making your own molasses, you could buy pomegranate molasses online or in specialty stores.
To skip seeding a whole pomegranate, you could buy pomegranate seeds from many grocery stores.
If doing two cakes, you can wrap one in wax paper, then in plastic wrap and freeze until needed—-just let the ganache set before doing so.
You could also halve the recipe or use Ina Garten’s recipe for a single layer ganache cake (the reason I didn’t do this is because I wanted two layers/cakes and didn’t have Hershey’s chocolate syrup).