We like to make big deals about Birthdays in our family. Our son’s preschool & elementary school parties included bouncy castles, ponies, petting zoos, Harvey the Hound & and epic battle between Darth Vader, Obi Won Kenobi & a dozen grade oners! The birthday boy or girl always gets to pick their cake. Last year, Glambaby #1 requested, “Chocolate cake with chocolate icing, lots and lots of sprinkles…all the colours, and a Power Ranger on top!”
When the older members of the family get their choice, including my now teenage son, more often than not, they choose a Ding Dong Cake. What the heck is a Ding Dong Cake? Maybe remember a spongy chocolate coated, cream and caramel filled chocolate snack cake in a cellophane package that sat on corner store shelves and could likely survive the apocalypse? That was a Ding Dong. What I make may be inspired by that snack, but it is so much tastier! My Ding Dong Cake includes a dense, dark chocolate cake with a vanilla cream filling covered in dark chocolate salted caramel ganache. I think you may be beginning to understand why this is a family favourite.
Making this Ding Dong Cake is a project. You need to give yourself at least two days to make it. This cake has a few steps, and has some advanced techniques like making a caramel, stabilizing whip cream with gelatin, and coating a cake in ganache, but give it a try…even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will taste amazing! Make sure you read through the entire recipe (twice won’t hurt) and give yourself enough time. If you have questions, put them in the comments below and I will reply with some advice!
The cake freezes well, so you can make it ahead. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you are ready to proceed with the cake (you will still need two days). The cake can be fully assembled and stored in the fridge for 2 days before serving. Do not add the final sprinkles of sea salt until just before serving. You will also need a cake dome because you will not be able to cover it with plastic wrap once the cake is covered with ganache.
Ding Dong Cake
(makes 1 – 9” cake, serves 10 -12)
85 g (1 cup) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
112 g (4 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
240 g (1 cup) hot strong coffee
185 g ( ¾ cup) buttermilk
7.5 ml (1½ tsp) vanilla extract
250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) baking soda
5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt
400 g (2 cups) sugar
227 (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
250 g (9 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5.5 ml (11/8tsp) kosher salt
200g (1 cup) sugar
350 g (1½ cups) heavy cream
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
Filling and Assembly:
4 g (1 ¼ tsp) unflavored gelatin
350 g (1½ cups) heavy cream
60g (½ cup) powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Make the Cake
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment-paper rounds; coat paper with more nonstick spray. Place cocoa powder and chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Pour hot coffee over. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with chocolate mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops.
Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes (cakes will deflate slightly). Run a knife around pans to loosen cakes; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and let cakes cool completely. Turn cakes over. If needed, use a long serrated knife to cut off bumps or trim dome from top of each cake to create a flat, even surface.
Make the Caramel Ganache
Place chocolate and salt in a medium bowl. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium deep saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar is deep amber, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over medium heat until caramel bits dissolve. Pour over chocolate in bowl. Add vanilla; stir until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly.
Assemble the Cake:
Place 1 cake layer in springform pan. Pour 1 cup ganache over. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Cover remaining ganache and let stand at room temperature.
Make Filling: Place 2 Tbsp. cold water in a small microwave safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Place gelatin in microwave and microwave for 5 seconds, if gelatin is not dissolved, continue to microwave for 2 second intervals until just melted, but not hot.
Place cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Using an electric mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add gelatin; beat filling until firm peaks form.
Spoon filling over chilled ganache on cake layer in pan; smooth top. Gently place second cake layer on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cream layer is set, at least 6 hours or overnight.
Remove sides from springform pan. Using a knife or offset spatula, scrape off any filling that may have leaked out from between cakes to form smooth sides. Transfer cake to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
Rewarm remaining ganache until just pourable. (Microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, or set a metal bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water until just warm, not hot). Pour ganache over cake, tilting cake as needed to allow ganache to drip down sides and using an offset spatula to help spread ganache, if needed, to cover sides of cake. Chill until ganache is set, about 1 hour.
Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with a cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle cake with flaky sea salt just before serving.
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine