Deca wows chocolate fans with signature dessert

October 22, 2010 (CHICAGO)

When the Ritz-Carlton downtown re-designed their lobby cafe into deca, they needed a signature dessert. So their pastry chef came up with a 10-layer chocolate cake.

"And I didn't want the filling to be too rich, because it would be just too much to eat. So I kind of made a filling that was a little bit less strong as far as chocolate goes. And made it a little bit more moist, more moist than usual. Almost like a pudding cake," said Eric Estrella, the Pastry Chef at the Ritz-Carlton.

His batter contains buttermilk, which adds tartness, along with intense cocoa powder. After the cake is baked, he slices it into ultra-thin layers. His chocolate filling is gently heated on the stove, then cooled and spread between the moist cake layers.

"We use a kind of more of a bittersweet chocolate, usually about 72 percent. And in the top frost there's also a little bit of the sour cream, that gives a little bit of the tartness that cuts some the sugar," Estrella said.

That outer frosting is spread thin, again so as not to overwhelm each bite. Watching Estrella work, you get the feeling he's made this hundreds of times: forming, stacking, smoothing and spreading everything evenly. Slices are generous, and don't need a lot of extra garnish.

"And we serve it with a little bit of whipped cream on the side, with vanilla bean, and a little bit of a goal leaf on the top, just for a touch, a little bit of sparkle, I guess," said Estrella.

A small, molten chocolate waterfall is added on one of the sides as well. Estrella says he's seen customers keep it to themselves, but it's also fine for sharing.

"The cake isn't so rich that if you eat it, you'll be so full, but you can always share with someone else. It's a good share dessert," Estrella said.

at the Ritz-Carlton
160 E. Pearson St.


Chocolate Cake:

2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/8 cup water
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

Bring the water to a boil. Add the cocoa powder while whisking by hand and boil once again. Remove from the heat. Sift the dry ingredients and place them in a bowl with the whisk attachment. Combine the buttermilk with the oil and eggs. Add them to the dry ingredients and mix smooth. Add the liquid cocoa mixture and combine until smooth. Pour into 2- 8 inch round cake pans that have been sprayed. Bake at 325 F for 25-30 minutes or until a pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Allow it to cool.

Deca Filling:

3 1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup corn starch

Boil the first four ingredients. Whisk together the cornstarch and the cocoa powder. Add the last measurement of water. Add the cocoa mixture to the boiling water and cook until thick. Place the frosting in an electric mixer and beat on 2nd speed until room temperature. Use the frosting immediately between the layers or it will set up.

Chocolate Frosting:

2 cups cream
2 ½ cups chopped bittersweet chocolate

Place the chocolate in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Whisk slowly until it is smooth. Allow it to cool completely.

Assembly: Cut the two cooled chocolate cake rounds into 8 layers (approximately 1/4 inch thick). Place each layer separated on a cookie sheet in the freezer. This helps in handling the thin layers. Use a tall 8 inch bottomless cake ring or spring form pan. Place one of the layers on the bottom of the pan. Place a dollop of the filling on the cake layer and spread evenly. Continue to layer until all of the cake is used. Place in the refrigerator overnight to set up. Unmold and mask the cake in Chocolate Frosting.

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