You know, this might be one of the best cakes I have ever made.
August is birthday month for our family. In our immediate family, 2/5 birthdays happen in August. There are fully four August birthdays if you include extended family and throw in my aunt and cousin. That means there's a lot of a celebrating to do in August. Which means lots of cake!
We've been on something of a winning streak with cakes this August. My cousin loved the vanilla cake with Nutella frosting Audrey whipped up on request for his birthday. Nothing fancy...but sometimes simplicity hits the spot just right. And then she knocked it out of the park with my Chocolate Pretzel Guinness Peanut Butter Cake (boy, do we need a zippier name for that...it's a mouthful, and not in the yummy way).
At risk of jinxing us, that streak continues with this cake. My mom's only request for her birthday cake was "butterscotch." I brainstormed a number of butterscotch iterations (frosting? cake? ganache? chips?) and flavor pairings, but - inspired by the Butterscotch Chocolate Cupcakes that were such a hit last summer - I soon landed on doing a chocolate/butterscotch pairing, to absolutely no one's surprise. It's a rare cake that gets made in this house that doesn't involve chocolate somehow.
I started with a deeply chocolatey and deeply moist devil's food cake. To up the butterscotch ante, I poked holes in the surface of the cake (weird, but go with me here...this is actually genius) and poured a homemade butterscotch sauce across the surface. Homemade butterscotch is a little bit salty and a whole lot buttery-carmel...kind of like a halfway point between brown butter and carmel. The sauce soaks into the holes and infuses the cake with its salty-carmel sweetness and makes the tender devil's food crumb even more moist (see? I told you - genius). After the sauce had sufficiently suffused the cake, I spread a thin layer of butterscotch chocolate ganache between the layers, which I sprinkled with chopped chocolate covered carmel corn pieces for crunch. Finally, I used the remaining butterscotch sauce to make a light butterscotch buttercream frosting to wrap it all up.
Guys...I know this cake sounds yummy and you're probably already salivating over those tender, intense chocolate crumbs and the glistening ganache. But believe me when I say that it is even more than the sum of its parts. I credit the butterscotch sauce. You don't taste it individually, but it's there, quietly making everything better and tying it all together.
This cake is soft, salty, sweet, and scrumptious x 1,000. Make it to celebrate the first week of school. Or the first week of September, if school isn't a thing for you anymore. Make it for your new neighbors. Make it for your un-birthday. Make it for your mom. Your mom definitely deserves this cake.
Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Crunch Cake
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon scotch or whisky (optional)
Dark Chocolate Cake
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed strong hot coffee
Chocolate Butterscotch Ganache
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 tablespoon butter
1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butterscotch sauce
1 cup caramel corn, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray two 9 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.
To make the butterscotch sauce. Melt the butter in a small sauce pot. Add the brown sugar, heavy cream and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and scotch, if using. Set a side to cool until ready to make the frosting.
To make the cake. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer on high speed, mix the buttermilk, oil, room temperature eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low. Add the coffee. (Yes, the batter will be VERY thin. Don't fret.) Pour the batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 23-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My cakes took exactly 24 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.
To make the ganache. Melt chocolate, butterscotch chips, and butter together in a double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool 5-10 minutes.
To make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the 1/2 cup butterscotch sauce until completely combined.
To assemble. While the cakes are cooling, poke holes in them using a toothpick. Pour 1/2 cup butterscotch sauce evenly across surface of each and allow to soak in to the cake. When the cakes are entirely cool, spread a thin layer of the ganache on one of them. Sprinkle generously with chopped caramel corn. Stack second cake on top. Frost with butterscotch frosting. Garnish with extra caramel corn.