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Triple Threat Mint Chocolate Layer Cake and CHEMISTRY LESSON: Cocoa

January 26, 2014

The first time I made this cake it was absolutely delicious and I might have said it was the best chocolate cake I ever made. This was not surprising as it came from my favorite cookbook, The Marshall Field’s Cookbook. I made it again for Jim’s birthday and making the cake part a day ahead of time I think dried it out a bit. Since cake baking is quite the process I usually like to start a day early, but frequently find my cakes dry out. I will have to experiment a bit with a better way to store them. I’ve read about keeping them in the freezer, I might try that next. I’ll keep you posted. Anyways, this is a pretty awesome cake, it takes some time as most do, but it’s worth it.

Happy Birthday Jim!

Difficulty: Medium (due to time involved)
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time:30-40 min
Total Time: Budget 2 hours
Yield: 10-12 servings
Taste: Very Good!


6 Frango mint dark chocolates (about 2 ounces), finely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
2.5 cups cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably NOT Dutch processed – See Chemistry Lesson below)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
3/4 tsp of pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

12 Frango mint dark chocolates (4 ounces), finely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbs of confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
Optional 15 Frango mint dark chocolates (5.5 ounces) finely chopped for garnish


1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2) Grease the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottom with parchment paper and coat bottom and sides with flour, tapping out excess.
3) In a small bowl cover the chopped chocolates and unsweetened chocolate with boiling water and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until smooth and allow to cool to room temperature.
4) In a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt.
5) Place the butter in a larger separate bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium/high speed beat for 1 minute, until creamy.
6) Gradually add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
7) Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
8) Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla into sugar-butter mixture.
9) Add in one-third of flour mixture alternating with one-third of buttermilk mixing and scraping down bowl sides of bowl after each addition.
10) Divide the batter equally among the three pans smoothing down the tops.
11) Bake for 15 minutes then switch pan positions in the oven from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
12) Cool cakes on wire rack at least 10 min. Invert cakes onto wire racks, remove parchment paper and allow to fully cool.

1) Heat a pot of water until it is steaming but not simmering. Combine chopped chocolates and unsweetened chocolates in a stainless steel bowl and place over, but not touching, the water. Heat stirring for 5 to 7 minutes until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let stand to cool but still liquid. NOTE – For this step I often am too impatient to stand at the stove holding a stainless steel bowl (with oven mit on) waiting for chocolate to melt when a perfectly good microwave stands before me. I put the chopped chocolate in a microwavable bowl and cook in 30 sec intervals mixing in between until it is smooth.
2) Place the butter in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium/high speed beat for 1 minute, until creamy.
3) Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners sugar. Increase speed to medium/high and beat for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
4) Add the chocolate mixture and beat until smooth, scrapping down the sides of the bowl.

1) Place one cake layer upside down on your platter. Using a cake spatula spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly over cake.
2) Top with the second cake, also upside down and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly over cake.
3) Place third cake layer upside down on the top. Evenly frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
4) Garnish the cake with the optional chopped mints. Cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Source: Marshal Fields Cookbook, P 94



What does Dutch process chocolate mean? I wondered the same thing and did some research.

Chocolate starts with raw cocoa beans that are processed into a paste called cocoa masses. Next, either the Dutch process or Broma (natural) process is used to make cocoa powder by removing the fat/butter from the powder. The Dutch process uses a hydraulic press to remove the fat and treats the chocolate with an alkalizing agent to reduce the natural acidity of the cocoa making the taste milder, lighter color, and more soluble than cocoa using the Broma process.

The natural Broma process was discovered by Mr. Ghirardelli when cocoa masses were hung in porous bags and the fat was naturally removed by dripping out of the bag. This leaves cocoa with a slightly bitter taste since it slightly acidic, but all the antioxidants remain in the cocoa.

So, why is it important to use or not use Dutch processed cocoa in certain recipes? Since the natural Broma processed cocoa has an acidic pH it should be used in recipes that call for baking soda as the leavening agent. The acid in the natural cocoa will react with the baking soda to create CO2 leaving your cake i.e. making it lighter and softer (more airy).

Dutch process cocoa can be used in recipes that use baking powder, or more baking powder than baking soda for leavening.

Baking soda = Natural (Broma) process cocoa
Baking powder = Dutch process cocoa

A in depth read on more of the difference in cocoa here.

  1. Mmm that cake looks lovely and moist!

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