This cake is dedicated to Luciano Pavarotti, the only tenor I know of who was capable of reaching the F above high C to create a sound not of this earth. I’ve added white chocolate to both yellow and white cakes with the excellent results of higher rise and moister, melt-in-the-mouth texture, and it dawned on me that a dark chocolate cake might also benefit from this addition. For the frosting, I created the darkest and shiniest ganache ever. It is enriched with a mixture of unsweetened chocolate and corn syrup. The texture is incredibly smooth and the flavor is absolutely extraordinary. Keep a batch of the enrichment in your fridge to add to any basic ganache. It will keep for months. The touch of cayenne pepper doesn’t alter the flavor, but instead heightens the taste sensation and gives the ganache a long finish. If you’re a spice lover, go for the higher amount of cayenne. This is the cake I made for my Music and Art fiftieth high school reunion in New York. I overheard fellow classmates saying, “It sings in the mouth,” which was just what I had intended.
Plan Ahead Make the ganache at least 4 hours ahead.
Special Equipment One 9 by 2 inch round cake pan, encircled with a cake strip, bottom coated with shortening, topped with a parchment round, then coated with baking spray with flour
4 ounces (113 grams) Guittard 31% Crème Francais White Chocolate Wafers
1.5 ounces (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon, sifted before measuring) Cocoa Rouge
4.2 ounces (1/2 cup/118 ml) boiling water
2 large eggs (100 grams), at room temperature
44 grams (3 tablespoons) water
1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
156 grams (1 1/2 cups, sifted into the cup and leveled off, plus 1 tablespoon) bleached cake flour
5.7 ounces (3/4 cup plus t tablespoon) superfine sugar
0.5 ounce (1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon) baking powder
6 grams (1 teaspoon) fine sea salt
113 grams (8 tablespoons/1 stick) unsalted butter
27 grams (2 tablespoons) canola or safflower oil, at room temperature
Wicked Good Ganache
61 grams (3 tablespoons) corn syrup
24 grams (0.8 ounces) Collection Etienne 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
170 grams (6 ounces) Collection Etienne 64% Cacao Semisweet Baking Chocolate, chopped
170 grams (3/4 cup minus 1 teaspoon) heavy cream
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Oven Temperature 350°F/175°C
Baking Time 30 to 40 minutes
Preheat the oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Melt the White Chocolate In a small microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), heat the white chocolate until almost completely melted. Remove the chocolate from the heat source and stir until fully melted. Let the chocolate cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid.
Mix the Cocoa and water In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and the ½ cup/118 ml of boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. To speed cooling, place in the refrigerator. Bring the mixture to room temperature before proceeding.
Mix the Remaining Liquid Ingredients In another small bowl, whisk the eggs, the 3 tablespoons/44 ml of water, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.
Make the Batter In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, oil, and cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and beat at medium speed for about 10 seconds until evenly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.
Bake the Cake Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. It will have a few cracks in the top.
Cool and Unmold the Cake Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert it onto a wire rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Immediately reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely.
Make the Wicked Good Ganache
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium glass bowl.
In a small microwavable bowl (or in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often), heat the corn syrup just to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat source and stir in the unsweetened chocolate until smoothly incorporated.
In a food processor, process the bittersweet chocolate until very fine.
In a 1 cup microwavable measure with a spout (or in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often), scald the cream (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).
With the motor of the food processor running, pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pulse in the corn syrup and chocolate mixture. Pulse in the optional cayenne. (If you want just a whisper of heat, start with the ¼ teaspoon.) Be sure to pulse it in to distribute it evenly before tasting.
Press the ganache through the strainer and let it sit for 1 hour. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it cool for 3 to 4 hours, until the mixture reaches a soft frosting consistency (70° to 75°F/21° to 24°C).
The ganache keeps in an airtight container for 3 days at cool room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated, or 6 months frozen. To restore to frosting consistency, defrost, if frozen, and reheat in a microwave with 3 second bursts, or in a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water (do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), stirring gently to ensure that it does not overheat or incorporate any air.
Compose the Cake
When the cake is completely cool, set it on a serving plate. Frost the top and sides with swirls of the ganache.
Store Airtight: room temperature, 3 days; refrigerated, 10 days; frozen, 2 months.