Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love. Some people may think it’s about the love for a significant other, or family, or best friends, or even pets. Those people are dead wrong. To me, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the most important love of all: chocolate.
What better way to show chocolate that you truly care than to make a giant, truffle-topped cake that uses chocolate in four—FOUR!—different components? Making this cake tells chocolate, “I love you. I respect you. I appreciate you. And when I am done, I am going to devour you.”
This beast of a dessert starts with a moist chocolate cake made with both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, and a touch of blackberry jam. It’s layered with more jam, and has a thick center filling of chocolate-blackberry whipped ganache. Over the top is a shiny chocolate glaze, and the crowning touch is a layer of homemade chocolate truffles.
I couldn’t decide whether I liked the cake better with just an outline of truffles along the edge, or with the top of the cake completely filled in—so I did it both ways. The arrangement is up to you, but if possible, I do recommend using two or three different cocoa powders to roll them in. I think the different shades of cocoa add so much dimension and visual interest to the cake. I used a natural cocoa powder (the lightest color), an alkalized cocoa powder (the darkest) and then I sifted the two together to make the medium brown shade.
Ghirardelli provided me with their 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips to make this dessert. These are dangerous for me to have in the house because they’re my favorite snackin’ chip—they’re super smooth and fruity while still being quite dark, so I can eat them by the handful and not even realize what’s happening until it’s too late. Their high percentage of cocoa butter means that they melt smoothly—not like some other brands that get thick and lumpy—so they work perfectly in every aspect of this dessert, from the whipped ganache filling to the smooth glaze to the rich truffles.
As I mentioned above, the Ghirardelli 60% chips have a really fruity flavor to me, so I paired them with blackberry jam in the cake and filling. The blackberry taste itself is very subtle, and I don’t think anyone would eat this and think that it’s a blackberry cake—rather, it just enhances the natural fruitiness of the chocolate to make it even more tangy and fragrant, and of course the jam between the layers keeps the cake very moist. You’re free to use any other seedless berry jam you like—I think raspberry and blueberry would also work very well.
Finally, I put together a little tutorial showing my favorite method for rolling and coating truffles. This is technically optional for cocoa-covered truffles—to save some time, you can just roll the truffles in cocoa and call it good. However, it’s a valuable method to know in general, so allow me to drop some knowledge in the form of a little photo collage.
This method is explained in detail in the recipe below, but the general idea is that the truffle are rolled in chocolate or candy coating in your palm to produce a very thin layer around the truffle. When you dip them the traditional way into a bowl of melted chocolate, the coating is much thicker. That’s fine if you just want chocolate-dipped truffles, but if you’re looking to coat them with nuts, coconut, sprinkles, or any other textured topping, you might find that you’re left with a very thick, lumpy outer layer that distracts from the smooth filling.
The other advantage this method provides is that gives your coated truffles some structure. They’re less likely to soften, melt, or get misshapen if they have a little chocolate around them keeping them round. The photos show the truffles being coated in cocoa powder, but this works for basically anything you might want to roll truffles in—nuts, coconut, sprinkles, chopped candy, freeze-dried fruit powder, or anything else you can dream up!
And there you have it! An edible love letter to chocolate, my favorite valentine of all. How are you showing your love to chocolate this year?
Truffle-Topped Heart Cake
For the Chocolate Cake:
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate (either baking chips or finely chopped)
- 8 oz butter at room temperature
- 5 oz brown sugar (2/3 cup), packed
- 2 2/3 oz powdered sugar (2/3 cup )
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup blackberry jam seedless, divided use
- 3 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (1 cup)
- 10 2/3 oz all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups)
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups milk at room temperature
For the Chocolate-Blackberry Filling:
- 2 3/4 oz heavy cream (1/3 cup)
- 2 3/4 oz blackberry jam (1/4 cup), seedless
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (either baking chips or finely chopped)
- 2 tbsp butter at room temperature
For the Chocolate Truffles on Top: (Ideally done 1 day in advance)
- 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate (either baking chips or finely chopped)
- 8 oz heavy cream (1 cup)
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 12 oz chocolate candy coating wafers (optional)
For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate (1 cup), (either baking chips or finely chopped)
- 8 oz heavy cream (1 cup)
To Make the Chocolate Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two 8-inch heart-shaped cake pans with parchment paper, and spray the pans with nonstick cooking spray. (Round pans can be substituted, and 9-inch pans will also work, with slight adjustments to the baking time.)
Place the semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Set the chocolate aside to cool to lukewarm.
Combine the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will probably look lumpy or broken by the end—this is okay.
Add the vanilla extract, 1/2 cup of blackberry jam, and the cooled melted chocolate. Mix on low speed until the batter smooths out and there are no visible bits of unincorporated butter.
Sift or whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix them on low just until the flour streaks disappear. Add half of the milk, then when that’s incorporated add half the remaining drys, then the milk, and finish with the dry ingredients. Finish mixing by hand, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl well. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
Bake the cakes in the 350 F oven for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached. Don’t overbake, or your cakes will be dry! Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Cakes can be made ahead of time and kept, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for several weeks.
To Make the Chocolate-Blackberry Filling:
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine the heavy cream and blackberry jam in a small saucepan. Whisk them together and heat them until the cream comes to a simmer and bubbles appear along the edges of the pan.
Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for one minute to soften the chocolate. After a minute, whisk the chocolate and cream together until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Add the room temperature butter and whisk it in. Press a layer of cling wrap on top of the chocolate and let it sit overnight to firm up, or, if you’re pressed for time, refrigerate it for about an hour until it has the texture of peanut butter.
To Make the Chocolate Truffles on Top: (Ideally 1 day in advance)
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan. Whisk them together and heat them until the cream comes to a simmer and bubbles appear along the edges of the pan.
Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for one minute to soften the chocolate. After a minute, whisk the chocolate and cream together until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Add the room temperature butter and whisk it in. Press a layer of cling wrap on top of the chocolate and refrigerate it for about 1 hour, until firm enough to scoop and roll.
Pour the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl or pie tin. Use a small 1-inch candy scoop or a teaspoon to form small balls of truffles, and roll them quickly in the cocoa powder. Coat your palms with cocoa and roll the truffles between your palms to make them round. Place the round truffles on a baking sheet covered with parchment or waxed paper. Continue until all of the truffles are formed. This recipe makes about 48 truffles.
If you have the time, let the truffles sit out overnight at cool room temperature to form a “skin.” This makes them much easier to dip—it means they can be dipped at room temperature, so they don’t cool down the temperature of the dipping chocolate, but the skin prevents them from melting into the chocolate and changing the texture. If you don’t have the time, simply refrigerate the truffles until firm.
If you want to roll your truffles in cocoa powder, the next dipping step is optional—you can just make sure they’re totally coated in cocoa, and once they’re firm, you’re good to go. However, if you want to roll them in nuts, coconut, or other textured substances, I definitely recommend the dipping step, and of course, it can also be done with cocoa powder, if you’re curious to try it.
To quickly dip the truffles in a thin layer of chocolate coating, melt the coating wafers in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Let the melted coating cool until it is warm but not hot. Place the cocoa powder, nuts, coconut, or whatever else you want to coat the truffles with, in a shallow bowl or pie tin.
Spoon a generous amount of coating into your palm. Place a truffle in the coating, and use your other hand to roll it around until it’s covered. Tilt your hand down so that the truffle rolls down your fingers and into the cocoa powder—this will help remove excess coating and ensure that the chocolate around the truffle is a very thin layer. Immediately use a spoon or fork to toss cocoa powder on top of the wet chocolate. Leave the truffle in the cocoa powder to firm up while you dip more truffles. Once your tin of cocoa powder is full of truffles, carefully fish out the finished truffles with a fork, place them on a baking sheet, and repeat until all of the truffles are dipped and coated.
To Assemble the Cake and Make the Chocolate Glaze:
Cut a piece of cardboard the size of the heart-shaped cakes, and slide it under one of the cakes to make the finished cake easy to transfer. Trim the tops of the cakes so that they are flat, and slice each cake in half. Transfer the chocolate-blackberry filling to a mixing bowl, and whip it with a whisk attachment on medium-high speed until it lightens in color and gets thick like frosting, about 1-2 minutes.
Spread a layer of blackberry jam, about 1/2 cup, on top of the bottom layer of cake. Top it with a cake layer. Spread the chocolate-blackberry filling on the second layer of cake, then top it with a third layer. Top this layer with the remaining 1/2 cup of blackberry jam, then add the final cake layer on top. Scrape off any filling or jam that has squished out the sides. Transfer the cake to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, then make the chocolate glaze.
Place 8 oz chocolate in a small bowl and set aside. Pour 8 oz cream into a small saucepan and heat it until it comes to a simmer and bubbles appear along the edges of the pan. Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for one minute to soften the chocolate. After a minute, whisk the chocolate and cream together until the mixture is shiny and smooth. If it seems a little thin, let it cool and thicken for a minute or two.
Pour the glaze over the cake, taking care that it goes down the sides evenly and that all of the cake is covered. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to start setting, then transfer the cake to the refrigerator to firm up the glaze completely, for about 10-15 minutes. Top the cake with the homemade chocolate truffles, and serve immediately.
The cake can be assembled in advance, but for the best presentation I recommend not covering it with the glaze until shortly before you're ready to serve it. The glaze might get dull or show condensation if it’s refrigerated for an extended amount of time and then brought to room temperature. It will still taste good, but the visual impact will be lessened.
I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Baking Chips for all of the chocolate in this recipe. If you use a different chocolate, I recommend using something in a similar cocoa range, 60-65%. This recipe is heavy on the cake and lighter on the filling. If you prefer more filling to cake, consider doubling the Chocolate-Blackberry Filling and put it between each layer of cake, instead of just in the center.