Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake – 17 and Baking turns 17

April 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm 212 comments

When I was little, I used to remember birthdays by party themes and presents.

There was my fabulous pink themed party, with hot magenta and bubble gum pink stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling. The birthday where all the kids swung eagerly at a pinata, unable to crack it, forcing Dad to come to the rescue. And who could forget the birthday I was presented with my own Barbie bicycle, complete with sparkles on the handlebars?

But these days, I remember birthdays by the people and the food we celebrated with. The year my Pubah carried out a hamburger cake to my utter delight. Or the birthday cake decorated with plastic dancing princesses, which I still have in a box under my bed. Even the famous family mashed potatoes I’ve requested for every single birthday dinner of my life, since I can remember.

Last year, I invited two of my closest friends over and we made dinner: 3 different kinds of pasta from scratch, mixing and rolling out the dough right on the table. It was the perfect low-key sweet 16, memorable and intimate and tasty.

Turning 17 was a little different. It seemed less important, less of a “big deal,” and there were no balloons or real parties. The only celebratory thing I did was eat at Salty’s, a pricey and stunning restaurant (more on that later.) In fact, it felt like an average April day. But little things made it special… from my friends singing happy birthday at lunch to my beautiful birthday dinner, it was made even sweeter.

Click to read about dinner at Salty’s and how I assembled this showstopper chocolate cake of my dreams.

For my birthday meal, Salty’s was amazing. The restaurant is nationally acclaimed, a valet took our car, and we sat with a postcard perfect view of the waterfront and downtown Seattle, but Salty’s is unpretentious. I told them it was my birthday when I made reservations, so there were bright balloons waiting at our table.

When we arrived, the sun was just about to begin setting, and the whole skyline sparkled blue and silver. By the time we left, the sky had darkened, traces of gold were leaving the sky, and the whole city glittered.


Our appetizer, coconut tiger prawns with a spicy Thai chili sauce and a tangy citrus sauce, was probably the best thing we had. So light, it melted in our mouths… I ate every single shred of toasted coconut off my plate and refused to drink any water, savoring the flavor as long as I could.


My entree was also great. Cedar smoked wild Coho salmon with mashed potatoes, tomato beurre blanc, and spring pea greens with a bacon vinaigrette. I ended up having birthday potatoes after all! (Though I missed Dad’s.) No photo of this – it’s impossible to avoid blurriness in a restaurant, sorry.

Dessert was unforgettable too. White chocolate mousse cake that was lighter than air, their signature dessert, on the house because of my birthday. I don’t usually like restaurant desserts because I bake myself, but of course, this was so good I asked the waiter for the recipe. Ha. (He laughed a little and politely said no.)

[Update: Reader Jan let me know that the recipe is, in fact, on the Salty’s website! You’d think the waiter could have filled me in! (; Thanks Jan!]


But chocolate cake is my favorite. I don’t find vanilla boring, and I do like lemon and carrot, but there’s really nothing like a classic, mile-high chocolate cake. Like this one, made just for my birthday. It’s so tall it doesn’t fit in my cake carrier. It’s incredibly moist, so intense it’s nearly black. I’ve never had such soft, rich, dark chocolate cake before. It’s rich, but the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming. Good thing, because it’s covered in melt-in-your-mouth ganache.

But what flavor to choose? It didn’t take long before I settled on raspberry. Fresh berries are something I rarely have with because they’re so expensive, but I made an exception for my birthday. Raspberry jam and raspberry ganache between the layers of my cake, and fresh raspberries on top. Delicious.


What a special cake. It’s super rich. Eat it in teeny tiny, dark and aromatic slices, as it’s truly death by chocolate. I’m submitting it into Poornima’s “For the Love of Chocolate” event as well as my Mini Cocoa and Banana Pavlovas.

For the Love of Chocolate

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake
Including Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes a three layer 8″ cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
Raspberry Ganache (recipe follows)
2/3 cup raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8″ cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter again. [ I just buttered and dusted with cocoa. It was extremely hard to get the cakes out – don’t skip the parchment paper.]

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil and sour cream, then gradually beat in the water. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix to combine, and finally beat in the eggs until the batter is well combined. Divide among the three cake pans.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out almost clean. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper, letting the cakes cool completely. These cakes are very soft, and it helps to freeze them for 15 minutes at this point. While the cakes cool, make the Raspberry Ganache.

If the cakes are not flat, use a serrated knife to even the tops. Place one layer onto a parchment-lined cardboard cut out and spread 1/3 cup raspberry jam. Cover the jam with a thin, 1/4″ thick layer of raspberry ganache. Top with the second layer and repeat. Then invert the final layer and place on top.

To frost the cake, start with a crumb coat: barely cover the entire cake with a thin, see through layer of ganache. This is to help create a smooth finish later. Chill the cake for 10 minutes.

Frost the cake with the remaining raspberry ganache and top with fresh raspberries. I would recommend leaving the cake at room temperature to prevent the ganache from becoming too brittle.

Raspberry Ganache
Makes just enough to fill and frost a three layer 8″ cake

15 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped *
1 2/3 cups frozen raspberries
8 oz (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

Bring an inch or two of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. As the water heats, microwave the raspberries in 1 minute intervals, stirring and mashing with a fork, until they become a smooth liquid. Pour through a strainer (should yield 1/3 cup raspberry juice) and set aside to cool.

Place the chopped chocolate and the butter in a large heatproof bowl and set over the saucepan. The bowl should not touch the water or fall more than halfway into the saucepan. Stir until the chocolate and butter melt, then gradually add in the slightly warm raspberry juice, whisking to combine.

Take the ganache off the heat and let cool until spreadable, stirring once in a while.

* The ganache was almost too sweet, but I used a combination of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate. Use the bitterest, darkest chocolate possible to counteract the sweetness of the berries.

Printer Friendly Version – Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake


That triangular crack is from the beautiful candle that I pulled out of my slice. I’ll tell you when my wish comes true.

Miss 17 and Baking is 17 at last!

[An especially sweet thank you to all my friends – C, T, M, D, K, C, and J – who had a birthday dinner with me at a local sushi joint. We bought out the conveyor belt and played charades in the park. Thank you so much for the card, gift certificate, yellow striped apron & oven mitts, and the vanilla bean!]

Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes. Tags: , , , , .

Golden Birthday Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

212 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  April 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    That cake looks amazing!

  • 2. Baking Monster  |  April 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Your birthday sounds amazing!Mines coming on tuesday so i will no longer be 17. :( happy birthday again.

  • 3. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy  |  April 20, 2009 at 5:25 am

    Happy belated birthday! When you get to be my age, you realize that EVERY birthday is important. Please don’t ever forget that!

    Your cake is indeed a showstopper. It is gorgeous! Chocolate and raspberries are such a wonderful combination.

    Thanks for the info on Salty’s. I’ll be in Seattle next month and I’ve been looking for ideas!

  • 4. Poornima  |  April 20, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Hey Elissa…belated b’day wishes to you…that cake looks divine, love the rich and dark color…my ur quiet a baker at 17, I could only dream at that age:)…

  • 5. Alicia  |  April 20, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Happy Belated!! That cake looks unbelievably good!! I looove the combo of chocolate and raspberry, definitely my all time fav. Hope your wish comes true!! =)

  • 6. Eliana  |  April 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Sounds like you had an amazing birthday and an amazing cake to go along with it. It looks stunning.

  • 7. Jayme  |  April 21, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I am quite jealous of the themed birthday parites and awesome sounding birthday cakes you had growing up!

    Your photos are outstanding (the one at Saltys of the skyline – stunning! )That tripple layer chocolate cake is positively drool worthy.

    Between your writing and your photos, I am amazed that you are only 17! Happy belated birthday and thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  • 8. Meaghan  |  April 21, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the comment! Happy belated 17th. You’re lucky you have all these wonderful pictures to remind you of the great birthday! I have none and honestly, I must be getting old, because I can’t remember my 17th birthday! Eek!

  • 9. Erica  |  April 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    That cake looks amazing! Happy belated birthday!! 17 was my favorite age – savor it! LOL

  • 10. Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!"  |  April 21, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Happy 17th!!

    The cake looks really really good!

  • 11. Baking Monster  |  April 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    thank you! i did!

  • 12. amy  |  April 22, 2009 at 3:43 am

    happy birthday girl:) you are one talented 17 year old and that cakes just looks soooo delish!:)

  • 13. Dani  |  April 22, 2009 at 6:47 am

    what a delicious looking cake!
    happy b-day :)

  • 14. Marta  |  April 22, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Happy Birthday!!!! Your cake looks great! I just found your site and I’m glad I did, it looks lovely, I think you’re doing a fantastic job juggling everything, like you mention in your profile :) I’ll come back and visit with more detail!

  • 15. jan  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:03 am

    good news… I just found the recipe for the white chocoalte mousse cake on their web page… check it out! :)

  • 16. Sophie  |  April 22, 2009 at 11:21 am

    That is a beautiful cake :)! I love raspberry and chocolate together, nothing beats that combo!

  • 17. Elissa  |  April 22, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Jan – Thank you so, so much! I never even thought to look at the website. The waiter made it out to be some huge secret! I’ll definitely be trying it just for the white cake, which was divine… Thanks again for the find! :)

  • 18. Maris  |  April 22, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    This looks so, so good!I am such a choco-holic, it’s not even funny and this sounds decadent!

  • 19. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    I hope all of your birthdays are this much fun, with such a beautiful cake to help you celebrate.

  • 20. Elise  |  April 22, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Every birthday deserves a great cake. Happy Birthday!

  • 21. Helen  |  April 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Oh wow that looks so delicious! Yum yum yum. I might bake that when my finals are over.

  • 22. Valerie  |  April 27, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Hi, new reader here!

    That cake looks absolutely mouth-watering! I will definitely try it, and soon!

  • 23. Cze-Johnson Carrie  |  April 27, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    the cake looks amazing! (ok.. and I had to read about Salty’s, too… I lived in Seattle for a number of years and always loved going there; especially for Sunday Brunch!)

    So glad Erin Cooks linked to you…. you have an incredibly bright future ahead, young lady! I’ve bookmarked you and look forward to reading (and SEEING) more more more!!!

  • 24. Holly  |  April 27, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    April birthdays are the best (yes, mine was the 20th!). Happy birthday! Your cake looks awesome!

  • 25. Monica h  |  April 28, 2009 at 1:10 am

    This looks so great and so do you!

    Happy Belated Birthday!!!

  • 26. Theresa  |  April 29, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Happy belated birthday! You and I have the same taste in cakes. This one sounds like HEAVEN. I’ll be adding it to my to-bake list right now!

  • 27. AF  |  April 30, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Your friends gave you very thoughtful gifts! What a wonderful birthday! Found your blog from Erin Cooks!

  • 28. MJ  |  May 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    you sound so mature for only being 17! and your cake looks like it was made by a professional! props girl!

  • 29. laur  |  September 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    i made this cake yesterday for my roommate’s birthday and for a party we were throwing. it was absolutely amazing and delicious. thank you for the recipe!

  • 30. jasmine  |  September 20, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    I will made this cake for my birthday on october. I love the ideea of chocolate raspberry ganache

  • 31. helene  |  November 5, 2009 at 2:11 am

    This looks delicous! I made a very similar cake from Nigella Lawson, but I found it a but oily, so I’m looking forward to trying your recipe!

    I’m also 17 and baking, and had a little chuckle at the name of your blog!

  • 32. Kathryn Lambert  |  November 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I’ll have to try this cake! You posted the photos (stunning photo of the Seattle skyline at sunset!) the day after my birthday — April 18.

    Hope your wishes come true!

  • 33. Katy  |  January 26, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I just want you to know that reading this, and looking at the pictures of that cake is literally making me drool right now. :)

  • 34. Katy  |  February 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    So I just made this cake. (I’m home for the weekend and I’m taking advantage of the kitchen!) I’m pretty sure that I’m in love. With this cake. It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. I’m probably going to eat far too much of it over the next few days! :)

  • 35. Katy  |  February 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    So sorry to be the weird kid who writes yet another comment on the same post, but I just can’t get enough of this cake. I actually made two over the weekend, and brought one back to school with me. Everybody loved it (probably not as much as I did, but then, I may have developed a somewhat unhealthy obsession/addiction to this cake, so that’s probably not a bad thing :D) It’s just SO GOOD. :)

    • 36. Elissa  |  February 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

      Katy – Whoo! That is so awesome! :)

  • 37. bakenshiz  |  March 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    of course it’s the classy chocolate raspberry combo that somehow lured me to this post when i’m suppose to be studying now!

    Birthdays are never complete without the perfect cake and this one took it to a whole new level. (although the hamburger cake is also pretty ‘solid’)
    (random:.. <.< my "sweet" 16 also included 2 others, cept we made (unsightly) sushi. xD)

  • 38. Emily  |  March 2, 2010 at 2:18 am

    If I wanted to make the cake part a day in advance and put it in the fridge, would it dry up? and would chocolate swiss meringue buttercream suit the cake? Because im not sure if the person im baking for likes raspberry

    Thanks! :) The cake looks awesome btw :)

  • 39. Monica H  |  March 11, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that a blogger has lifted your photos of this cake, copyrighted it and is taking credit for it. She did the same to me too.


    • 40. Elissa  |  March 12, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      Monica H – Thanks for letting me know… this is so frustrating. I immediately recognized your photos as I went through her blog too. If it’s any consolation, she has such a small following, and honestly… Even if I hadn’t known she was lying, I’d be able to tell that the quality of those photos don’t make sense on her blog. They’re obviously not hers.

      I don’t really have the effort to deal with her, so I’m just going to leave it alone :( Thanks for telling me and I hope it works out with you, since she clearly took way more than a couple photos.

  • 41. Ella  |  April 12, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I just made this cake as a time waster because it’ the school holidays in New Zealand. My brother and his friend almost passed out, they were so overwhelmed! Thanks for ANOTHER great recipe!

  • 42. Miranda  |  April 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Woah, I came upon this looking for a chocolate raspberry ganache cake… for my birthday, which seems to be crazy close to yours, April 17th… and I live in Seattle. Blowing my mind. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 43. Mandy  |  April 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Hey Elissa, this cake looks great! I’m just curious – how many people do you think it serves? I’m thinking of baking it for a graduation party that will have 20 to 25 people at it. Do you think it would work as is, or could I add an extra layer to it without it becoming to unstable? Thanks!

    • 44. Elissa  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Mandy, I don’t think you could get away with 20… even though this cake is pretty rich, I’d say it would feed at most 14. I also don’t think another layer would work since it already makes 3 tall layers. You could try doubling the recipe and baking in 9″x13″ pans? One 9″x13″ is two 8″ pans. :) let me know how it turns out!

  • 45. Ayesha  |  April 23, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Hi I tried this cake, with a chocoltae sourcream frosting, for my brothers birthday. And it turned out to be AMAZING !!! I wanna know if you have any idea about its weight in kilos or pounds. I also replaced raspberries with homemade strawberry jam and it worked pretty well. Loving your blog, keep it coming!!!

  • 46. bel  |  April 26, 2010 at 1:11 am

    the cake LOOKS really great, the sponge LOOKS tasty and moist, however, despite the fact that i am a well, practiced and reasonably successful baker, and having followed the recipe precisely, i found that there was a slightly strange taste in the sponge. In fact, one guinneapig who tasted it, tried to pinpoint that strange taste and came up with sardines, which, needless to say is not something that is generally sought after in your average chocolate cake. a little disappointed. i’m still on my quest for the perfect chocolate cake, one that would be in my repertoire for future chocolate cake requests.

  • 47. Rebecca  |  May 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I just found your blog today – looking for a yummy recipe for a cake to my for my birthday (which isn’t until the end of June, but I wanted to plan ahead) and I am now a huge fan of yours! Your baking and photography skills are awesome. Keep it up!

  • 48. JB  |  May 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Just baked this for a birthday celebration. It was fantastic! Perhaps the best chocolate cake I’ve made. The ganache never totally set, so it was definitely not the neatest presentation. But the taste and texture of the cake were perfect. I made two 9″ layers, which worked just fine. I wonder if the previous baker who had a problem with the flavor used natural cocoa instead of dutched? I did that once, and the cake had a strong chemical flavor.

    Thanks for this terrific recipe!

  • 49. Bárbara  |  June 19, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Hi Elissa, I live in Brasil, and here we don’t have sour cream, do have some sugestion to me, for what can i replace it? I’m so excinting to make your cake, your blog is awesome, congratulations !

  • 50. Rebecca  |  August 31, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I have made this cake twice now – and it was awesome each time!!! I need to take dessert to a dinner this weekend and I was thinking of trying to do this recipe as cupcakes, with the raspberry jam on top, covered in ganache. Do you think that will work?

  • 51. Katy  |  September 1, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Rebecca, I’ve made it as both cupcakes and regular cake before. The regular 3 layer cake is so much better, but it’s still really good as cupcakes. I did it just as you described, with the jam on top of the cupcakes and the ganache over that. It made around 36 regular sized cupcakes (or if you wanted minis, I think it made over 100 with one recipe).
    So, not the person you were looking for an answer for, but since I’ve not made this cake so many times in different forms, I thought I’d share. :) I’ve made it for friends and such before. They always get really excited when they find out this is what I brought. :D

  • 52. Rebecca  |  September 1, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Thanks so much! I was hoping it would make about that many, so that is perfect. I also figured they couldn’t be quite as good as the cake, (could anything be that good?!) but I think it’s worth a shot. A few more questions – was the ganache recipe the right amount? And how long did you bake the cupcakes? Thanks again for helping me out!

  • 53. Katy  |  September 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Haha no I don’t think anything else could be that good. It’s to die for. :)

    But yes, the ganache recipe worked for the cupcakes too. I’ve usually had a little bit left over, but it was always used up somehow (ganache covered oreos…sooo good). It’s been awhile since I made the cupcakes, so I can’t remember for sure, but I want to say it might have been 18 minutes at 350. It might require a bit of experimentation to find out for certain though.. Hope this helps! :)


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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