Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

I've made this cake twice now, and decided it was finally time to blog it! And it turns out it was a good thing I procrastinated because it is the perfect cake for Valentine's Day! Deep dark chocolate cake layers, creamy chocolate buttercream, fudgy chocolate ganache, and fresh strawberries! It doesn't get much better than that. Plus, this is literally the easiest cake to decorate. Throw some chocolate covered strawberries on top and it's an instant jaw dropper.

Chocolate Cake Layers

This recipe makes three nice big 9" round layers which would make a cake the size of the one below, or the bottom tier of the cake pictured above.

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups flour

3 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups black cocoa powder (regular cocoa powder is fine too)

1 1/2 tbs baking powder

2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups hot water

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour three 9" round pans.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients.

4. Add liquid ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans and bake for 20-30 minutes or until center springs back when poked gently.

Chocolate Buttercream (from CakebyCourtney.com)

Ingredients:

2 cups butter

4.5 cups confectioners sugar

2 tsp vanilla

10 oz chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tbs heavy cream

Directions:

1. Beat butter until smooth. Add sugar one cup at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.

2. Add vanilla and chocolate and beat until combined.

3. Add heavy cream and beat on high until fluffy, this should take a few minutes.

Chocolate Ganache

Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 12oz chocolate in a pot over medium low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Let cool to room temperature for spread in the cake and just warmer than room temperature for drizzling.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (for decorating)

Melt chocolate. The safe way is by setting a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, if you like to live on the edge and/or are just lazy like me you can also microwave at 30 sec intervals until the chocolate is melted. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate, let the extra drip off and then place on a baking sheet. I've done it without parchment paper but it's probably easier if you line it with parchment paper. Refrigerate until chocolate is hardened.

Cake Assembly

Place your first cake layer on a cake circle. Spread a thin layer of the chocolate buttercream, then place a layer of fresh strawberries on top (I like to slice the strawberries into thin pieces first). Drizzle or spread chocolate ganache on top of the strawberries. Place the next cake layer on top of this, making sure it's centered. Using an offset spatula fill in the edge between the two layers with more buttercream. This will keep the strawberries from smooshing out the sides. And repeat the process!

**Pro-tip: To get the cool chocolate drizzle look, put chocolate ganache into a squirt bottle (like the kind you often see ketchup and mustard in) and squirt the ganache onto the top edge of the cake. Hold the bottle in one place longer to get a bigger drip or shorter to get a smaller drip!