Monday, February 13, 2012

Wolfgang Puck's 16-Layer Chocolate Cake

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I  made a vow to never again make this cake, but, that is about to change. I made this cake for my friend Jason for his birthday about 4 years ago and as much as I loved the challenge of making such a labor-intensive cake, it was just too much work for one cake. The end result however is really satisfying since the cake is feathery light with just the right amount of sweetness. You do need to bring your MacGyver game face when making this cake. Otherwise, it might just reduce you to tears out of frustration. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The cake is from one of my favorite chefs, Wolfgang Puck. This cake actually came to mind when I made the Chocolate Truffle cake, which by the way is still up for a chance at redemption. With eight layers of cake alternating with eight layers of chocolate mousse, what mortal can resist such a temptation? Anyway, without much further ado, I present this wonderful cake for my own birthday this time. If there is one person who deserves to enjoy this cake more than anyone else, that person is me. 

Wolfgang Puck's 16-Layer Chocolate Cake - Adapted*

10 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 4 12x18x0.5 inch baking sheet pan and line
    with parchment paper. Butter the paper. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and the white sugar and beat at
    high speed over a double broiler until tripled in volume. A hand mixer is
    your best tool here or you can do it by hand as well.

3. In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks
    form and gradually add the confectioner's sugar and continue to beat until
    stiff peaks form.

4. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and the almond

5. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Once incorporated,
    add the rest of the meringue. Fold in the dry ingredients and divide into
    the 4 pans. Spread out the batter using an offset spatula.

6. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

Coffee syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp espresso powder

Bring the sugar and the water to a boil over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the espresso powder and turn off the heat. Let cool and set aside.

Chocolate Mousse:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
9 egg yolks
1 lb semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

1. In a small sauce pan at medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil.
    Once the sugar has melted, Lower the heat and bring to simmer.

2. In a glass bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Go slow and do this
    in 30-second intervals. Set aside. 

3. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks at high speed with the wire whisk
    attachment until light and ribbony. Lower the mixer speed to low and pour
    in the sugar syrup gradually. Once all the syrup has been added, increase
    the speed to high and continue to beat until tripled in volume and slightly

4. In yet another bowl with clean beaters, beat the heavy cream until stiff
    peaks form.

5. Fold the melted chocolate into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the heavy cream
    and cover the mousse with clingfilm and set aside in the fridge for at least
    two hours.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
To assemble, cut the cake crosswise and peel the parchment paper off of one cake layer and place onto a cardboard base lined with aluminum foil or wax paper. Brush the cake with the coffee syrup and add enough mousse to cover the cake with a thin layer. Take another piece of cake and with the parchment paper still on it, lay the unlined side onto the mousse layer. Carefully peel off the parchment paper off the second cake layer and do the same as with the cake base. Continue layering the cake until you end up with the last cake layer. Brush with the coffee syrup but do not top with the mousse layer.

At this point, this is where your MacGyver skills come in handy. The cake is very delicate and has a tendency to splay about while chilling in the fridge. A few barbecue sticks will hold it in place while it sets in the fridge. Depending on humidity and other factors, the cake is best made the day before it is needed to allow it to chill and set overnight.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache:   
2 cup heavy cream
10 oz semisweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan and once almost boiling, pour onto
    the chocolate and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Whisk until the ganache
    is smooth. Let cool in the fridge.

2. Once cooled, add the vanilla extract. Beat the ganache at medium speed
    until thick but still spreadable.

To finish the cake, take the chilled cake out of the fridge. Trim the sides using a serrated knife. Remove the stakes and frost the cake with the whipped ganache.

To serve, dust the whole cake with cocoa powder. Serve in thin slices.


The original recipe states to cut the cake horizontally. I did cut the cake this way but along the longer side and it rendered the cake too unstable. The first time I made the cake, I cut it crosswise and it was definitely easier to work with.

The ganache is very thin and it will probably take half a day to thicken without it running off the sides of the cake. You can either do two things: one is to use 1/2 cup less cream or two, to whip the ganache like I did.

* Wolfgang Puck's 16-layer Chocolate Cake; Food Network Channels; Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Class: Chock full of Chocolate episode. 


  1. I appreciate a recipe that starts out with a note that the cook has vowed to never make the recipe again and then refers to McGyver and tears. That should be warning enough. But some, blessed with the dreams of youth and craving for chocolate, ignore these omens and go right ahead. I knew last night when my 30 y.o. son called me for about the eighth time as he was trying to make this recipe, that it had kicked his butt. What I saw when I arrived today was a disaster. At least he went no further than the cake, so the mousse was still good.
    I gathered up the ingredients, pans, and brought them home to try again, for him --to take to the Thanksgiving dinner he is to attend. Although I did suggest that this recipe should never be undertaken by anybody without a huge fully furnished kitchen, commercial oven, 3 sets of pots and pans and staff of at least 4. I also reminded him that 5 years ago when he first asked for this to be made, I printed the recipe and let it sit for a couple of years, then threw it away because there is no way this cake is worth the effort.
    I guessed that knowing how to prepare a genoise was going to be the critical step. Indeed it is. I even went so far as to measure the yolks and whites to equal 10 eggs (200g and 300g by the way). I folded the two egg mixtures carefully to maintain as much volume as possible. Calibrated all the cooking thermometers btw, just to be sure. I followed the instructions to a T, with the exception of using a 4 qt mixing bowl/8qt stock pot combo to equal a double boiler. Who owns a double boiler that will accommodate the volume of this batter?

    Even with 4 qts of batter, and only baking 3 pans of cake, they scarcely rose. Certainly not enough to make 16 layers. As Ltdan said, McGyver may have to make an appearance. I think I will cut the sheets into thirds and go 9 layers.
    After this afternoon, I may just eat the left over ganache with a spoon. I have no idea what I did wrong, none. I don't think WP really got 16 layers either.

  2. Anon,

    Your comment made my day. Really! Not that I am making fun of your predicament but rather, I know exactly what you and your son went through. I had such a hard time making it the first time that I came up with this grand idea to bake half the amount of the original recipe but cut the cake sheets into 4 pieces to make up the 8 layers of the cake. Bad move. The mousse is a bit runny which is great when you are trying to spread it around the cake layers but it also tends to ooze out when you are on the 10th layer and more. Hence, the reference to McGyver and a maybe cup of tears and sweat added into the mix. I managed to salvage the cake and that is what is shown on the post above actually. Overall, I think the best way to go about this is to cool the cake base every addition of two layers to stabilize it. Also, the cake itself is a bit thin so I ended up flipping the cake and peeling off the parchment as I go along. I might just pick up the courage to try this cake again one of these days. Hope your son's Thanksgiving dinner was still a great success (with or without the aforementioned cake).

  3. One secret that a friend and I discovered, we never use the long pans to make the cake. Use 4 9-inch spring for pans to bake the cake. When you go to form your cake, stack them in 2 9-inch springform pans and continue as directed. You will have 2 delicious cakes that I have actually frozen one in the spring form pan and it is delicious. I would at least refrigerate it before opening up the pan. 2 cake's in one. Expensive, but, well worth it. Aggrievating you bet. I only make when I have too.