Party Time: Best (and Easy!) Halloween Layer Cake

Halloween is just upon us, and so are Halloween parties, so let’s pull out those cake pans and start baking!  If you need to whip up an easy-ish but ultra-tasty Halloween layer cake for a party that won’t scare everyone away, then I’ve got the cake for you.  As an added bonus, you don’t need cake decorating skills!

It is a basic chocolate cake with tinted cream cheese frosting.  To add some punch to the chocolate flavor but also to make the presentation slightly spooky, the cake is dripping in chocolate ganache.  The combination of the chocolate flavored cake and ganache together with the vanilla cream cheese frosting makes for a well-balanced cake that will leave everyone as happy as Casper the Friendly Ghost!

Following is the recipe, after which are step-by-step illustrated instructions.  See you after the recipe!

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Halloween Chocolate Layer Cake
Course Cakes
Keyword Cake
Servings
Ingredients
For the Cake
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (preferably dutch-processed)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
For the Frosting
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (1 cup, or 2 sticks)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 brick; do not use low fat or fat free cream cheese)
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons purple gel food coloring
Ganache
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tablespoons orange and black sprinkles
Course Cakes
Keyword Cake
Servings
Ingredients
For the Cake
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (preferably dutch-processed)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
For the Frosting
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (1 cup, or 2 sticks)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 brick; do not use low fat or fat free cream cheese)
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons purple gel food coloring
Ganache
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 2 tablespoons orange and black sprinkles
Instructions
Make the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9 inch x 2 inch round cake pans (Alternatively, grease pans and line with parchment paper. Then grease paper and flour pans.)
  1. Bring water to a boil. Pour into measuring cup and dissolve espresso powder in boiling water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar. Whisk or stir to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Then whisk in milk and espresso until well-combined. Pour mixture into dry ingredients and whisk in until smooth and there are no lumps of flour remaining.
  4. Pour batter evenly among two baking pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cakes over onto rack and carefully remove parchment paper (if used). Flip back over and let cakes cool to room temperature. Place cakes in refrigerator for 1 hour or more before frosting.
Make the Frosting
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add confectioners sugar one cup at a time. Beat well before adding each cup. Beat in vanilla extract until well-combined. Beat in food coloring, 1/2 teaspoon at a time until desired color is reached. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using to frost cake.
Make the Ganache
  1. Place semi-sweet chocolate chips in medium bowl. In a small sauce pan, heat cream, espresso powder, and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just reaches a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Stir vigorously until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in soft butter and mix until smooth.
Assemble Cake
  1. Carefully cut off domes from tops of each cake so that cakes have flat tops. Cut each cake in half, lengthwise, to make 4 cake layers.
  2. Place bottom layer of one of the cakes on cake board* or cake plate and spread about 3/4 cup of frosting evenly over cake with an off-set spatula. Place another cake layer on top of frosted layer and spread 3/4 cup frosting on second layer. Place third cake layer on top of frosting and spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Place last layer on top of frosted layer and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Slowly pour ganache over top of cake, letting ganache drip over the sides of cake.
  3. Sprinkle Halloween-colored sprinkles around the top edge of the cake (about an inch-wide all around) before ganache sets. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. Let cake sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

* If you don't want to purchase a cake board, make one yourself!  Cut out a 10" diameter circle out of cardboard and cover with aluminum foil.

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Step-by-Step Instructions

Don’t get scared away from all the steps to make this cake.  It’s still pretty easy to make, and the taste and texture are really terrific.

First boil some water and stir in some espresso powder until the powder dissolves.  The coffee flavor gives a nice boost to the chocolate flavor in the cocoa that we’ll be using for the cake.

Set that mixture aside.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and cocoa.  Whisk the dry ingredients after sifting.

Set that bowl aside as well.  Then whisk together the wet ingredients:  eggs, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil.

Whisk in milk and the hot coffee.

Then whisk in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  No mixer required!

Whisk until smooth.  The batter will be thin and runny.

Pour the batter into two pans that have been greased, lined with parchment paper (grease the paper too), and floured.  You can skip the parchment paper but grease and flour the pans well.

The cakes will come out of the oven with a dome.

Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and remove the parchment paper.  Flip the cakes back over and let them cool completely.  Then refrigerate.  You want the cakes to be cold so that they will be easier to slice in half and frost.

Cut the domes off before frosting so you are working with a flat surface.

Speaking of frosting, we need to step on it and make some for the cake!  The frosting is a cream cheese frosting, made with butter, cream cheese, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and a little food coloring.  First, beat the butter with an electric mixer.

Then beat in the cream cheese.

After that, beat in the confectioners sugar, one cup at a time until light and fluffy.  Next comes the vanilla extract.

Then comes the purple gel food coloring to tint the frosting.  You can use other Halloween colors instead, like orange or green (for Frankenstein!).

It’s best to refrigerate the frosting for about 30 minutes so it stiffens a little bit before you use it to frost the cake.

When you are ready to frost the cake, cut each cake layer in half lengthwise so that you have four layers.  Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on the bottom layer.  Top with another cake layer and spread with 3/4 cup frosting.  Top with the third cake layer (bottom of the second cake) and spread with 3/4 cup frosting.  Top with the fourth and final cake layer.

For the fourth layer, it’s time to use the remaining icing to spread over the top and sides of the cake.

The cake will have a thin coating of frosting.  Refrigerate for about an hour.  Next comes the ganache.  Bring to a boil heavy whipping cream, a small amount of corn syrup, and a little bit of espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor.

Remove from the heat when it just reaches a boil.

Pour over the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Stir pretty vigorously in order to emulsify.

Add some soft butter.

Mix until smooth.

Pour over the middle of the cake and let it drip down the sides.  You may need to carefully nudge some of the ganache so that it flows over the sides, but resist the temptation of spreading the ganache all over the cake with a spatula.

Before the ganache sets, sprinkle Halloween sprinkles over the rim of the cake.

The cake should go in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.  Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Does it look a tiny bit creepy?

On thing is for sure, it is moist and incredibly delicious!

 

Have a fun-filled Halloween!

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