Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

mini chocolate cake
This is my favorite chocolate cake to make for small celebrations. It’s really simple to whip up, but it stands nice and tall for an impressive treat. The cake itself is sturdy (especially important for these minis), but still has a fine, moist crumb. We are big chocolate raspberry fans around here so I almost always fill it with raspberry jam, but use whatever floats your boat (peanut butter, nutella, another jam…). I often use up bits and bobs of frosting I have leftover from other baking projects, but if you don’t have anything on hand I highly recommend this ganache. It’s also super easy to make (just requires some time to set up to a frosting consistency), and it’s rich so a little goes a long way.

I typically bake this cake in my 4-inch cake pans. If I’m super lazy, I’ll just split the batter between the two pans (they’ll be about 3/4 full but I haven’t had any problems with overflowing), but usually I’ll bake some off in a little ramekin for a baker’s treat.

slice of chocolate cake

Mini Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Ganache

Makes one 6-layer 4-inch cake

Ingredients:

For the mini chocolate cake (adapted from Linda Lomelino):

  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 120g AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 34g dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 157g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 c) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c hot coffee or espresso

For the strawberry ganache (adapted from The Cake Bible):

  • 204g bittersweet chocolate (~53% works best here — I used half milk and half 70%)
  • 51g white chocolate
  • 139g heavy cream
  • 81g strawberry puree

For assembly:

  • Simple syrup
  • ~1/2 c raspberry preserves or jam
  • Fresh berries, for garnish

Method:

For the mini chocolate cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 4-inch pans (plus an extra ramekin, if desired) with parchment paper, then grease the pans and dust them with cocoa powder.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the milk and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Whisk the sour cream into the butter mixture, followed by the egg. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Add the hot coffee and whisk just until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter among the pans (I usually put ~275g into each of the cake tins and the rest into the ramekin) and bake for 30-35 minutes (20-25 minutes for the ramekin), or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once the pans are cool enough to handle, run a thin knife around the edges and turn the cakes out to finish cooling completely. For easiest assembly, I prefer to chill the cakes in the fridge before filling and frosting.

For the strawberry ganache:

  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.
  2. Heat the cream and strawberry puree in a small saucepan until just before the boiling point.
  3. With the food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth.
  4. Transfer to a bowl or glass measuring cup and allow to cool at room temperature until ganache reaches a spreadable consistency (this takes me 2-3 hours).

To assemble:

  1. Level the cakes and cut each into 3 thinner layers for a total of 6 layers.
  2. Place the first layer of cake on a cake board or serving plate (use a dab of ganache to “glue” it in place) and brush with simple syrup.
  3. Pipe a ring of ganache around the edge and fill the center with raspberry jam. Continue this process until you’ve used up all the layers.
  4. Spread a thin layer of ganache over the entire cake to lock in the crumbs, followed by a thicker coat. (My kitchen was on the cold side, so my ganache set pretty quickly and I didn’t need to refrigerate the cake between coats.)
  5. Garnish with fresh berries and serve at room temperature.

mini chocolate cake - dark

Baking with Discard Sourdough Starter

sourdough scones

I feed my sourdough starter twice daily most of the time, which means I end up with a fair amount of “discard” starter. Now, I’m not the most ambitious discard user out there (i.e. I don’t mind composting it), but lately I’ve been trying to incorporate it more often into some of my “normal” (read: non-sourdough) baking. So if you’re looking to up your discard game, here are some ideas to get you started. If you have any favorite discard recipes to share, please leave them in the comments — I’m always interested in more ideas!

Adding Sourdough to Quick Bread Recipes

sourdough banana bread
Replacing some of the flour and liquids in quick bread (including scone and pancake) recipes is one of the easiest ways to use up discard starter. You don’t even need a specific “sourdough” recipe. Since starter is, essentially, flour and water, all you have to do is measure out the amount of starter you want to use and subtract that amount in flour/liquid called for in your recipe.

Say, for example, you have 100g of starter you want to use up, and your recipe calls for 225g of flour and 100g of water. If your starter is 100% hydration (equal parts flour and water), simply subtract 50g of flour and 50g of water (100g total) from your recipe and use starter in its place (I typically whisk it in with the wet ingredients). This is definitely easiest to do if you are baking by weight, which I highly recommend (this OXO digital scale is definitely my most frequently used kitchen appliance).

If your recipe doesn’t call for water you can replace another liquid instead — say milk, juice, or even oil. Just keep in mind that these ingredients contribute more than just hydration to the final product (i.e. sweetness, flavor, fat) so you may not want to replace all of it.

Note: When I use sourdough in these situations it’s purely for “less waste” reasons — not for leavening. I still keep the chemical leaveners (baking soda/powder) in. My starter is refreshed pretty often and is quite mild, so I don’t really detect any “sourdough tang” in the final product (maybe a little in pancakes). But if your starter has been sitting in the fridge for awhile or is especially acidic you might have different results. Finally, you’ll also need to experiment with the amount of starter you can sub in for your individual recipes. For quick bread loaves I usually sub around ~20-25% of the flour weight; higher percentages tend to lend a bit of a “spongy” texture in my experience, but it really varies with the recipe.

Here are a few recipes on CTD in which I’ve successfully used discard starter:

Sourdough Granola

sourdough granola

Making granola one of my current favorite ways to use up discard because it’s so easy and and flexible! This formula/guideline is largely inspired by my Instagram friend Fumi. The starter basically acts as a binder so you end up with a nice crunchy, clumpy granola (my favorite kind!) without having to add too much sweetener or fat.

Preferment:

  • 100g sourdough starter (100% hydration; can be straight from the fridge)
  • 30g water
  • 30g brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 30g flour (AP or whole grain)

Mix and ferment for 3-8 hours. (Fermenting isn’t necessary but I typically let mine ferment for at least 3 hours.)

Final mix:

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 160g rolled oats (not instant)
  • 70g raw, unsalted nuts (roughly chopped if large)
  • 50g mixed seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, millet, sesame…)
  • 20g honey or maple syrup
  • 15-30g neutral oil (I like grapeseed)
  • Mix-ins: Dried fruit, cacao nibs, crystallized ginger

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients except for the mix-ins in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients (honey/maple syrup and oil) into the preferment, then pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture thinly on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for ~45 min, rotating pan halfway through. If the granola is browning quickly, turn the oven down to 275 or 250 halfway through baking. Turn oven off and allow to cool for ~30 minutes, then break the granola into pieces and return to the turned-off oven to cool completely. Add mix-ins once completely cool and store in an airtight container.

Other recipe ideas

Here are some other recipe/resource ideas for using up sourdough starter discard: