Maida Heatter’s September 7th Cake is my favorite cake, but boy is it ever a pain. It’s basically an exercise in whipping things – whipped egg yolks, whipped whites, whipped cream. With all the mixers running it is quite a noisy endeavor, so I only make it when I already have bad tinnitus and need a really distracting project.
Like washing dishes? September 7th cake will dirty up a lot of them for you so you can wash and wash. Have fun!
And I hope you have a spare refrigerator in the garage or something because you have to keep the whole cake chilled due to the copious amounts of whipped cream. Again. A pain.
Oh, but I love this cake. I first had it at a restaurant and was so enamored. It was the lightest, creamiest cake I’d ever tasted and the frosting was so rich and chocolaty (even though it was light textured).
I went on to research the origin of the recipe, which of course turned out to be Maida Heatter. She came up with this cake for her own birthday, September 7th. Since then I’ve made the cake many times. Or relatively “many”. Because it’s such a rich and slightly expensive cake the “many times” have been spread out over the years so I’ve never been able to get a ton of practice and often screw up the icing, which is the only tricky part of the cake. It is VERY easy to curdle it. Here’s a batch where I did just that. If you whip the cream too much, you’ll get the curdled look. You only want to whip it until it, as Maida says, “holds a soft shape”. But you whip it to stiff peaks, you’ll get the curdled look.
I hope you are enjoying all the bad photography here, BTW. I usually take pictures when I’m in the middle of a baking project so they are quite candid and often poorly lit. But what I want to show here is that I’ve successfully made this as a 6 inch cake using half of all the ingredients. You will most likely want a full size cake, so the directions are for the 9 inch. However, if you want to practice without using too many ingredients you can make a smaller version.
You should also know that after you take the beautiful baked cakes out of the oven they will collapse and look pathetic. That is normal, so don’t worry. Maida mentions all of this in the recipe.
If you’d like to try the recipe yourself, you can find it in Maida’ Heatter’s book of Great Chocolate Desserts. You can also probably find someone who posted it verbatim without paraphrasing using Google.
One final note. September 7 Cake can also be a gluten-free dessert. All you’d need to do to make it gluten-free is use a gluten-free flour to dust the sides of the cake pans.
September 7th Cake
- 6 extra-large eggs OR 7 large separated (192 grams of whites)
- 3/4 cup sugar (150 grams)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon gelatin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate. chopped (230 grams)
- 2 ounces unsalted butter (56 grams)
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder or use 1-2 teaspoons of espresso powder
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375. Grease two 9×2 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds parchment or wax paper. Grease paper and dust insides of pans with flour.
- Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, beat yolks at high speed for about 5 min until light. Add half of the sugar and beat another 5 minutes until very thick and mixture forms a wide ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Add cocoa and beat until blended, scraping sides of bowl.
- In a large metal or glass bowl and using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until egg whites hold soft peaks. Very gradually add the remaining sugar. In small additions, fold about half of the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites. Turn into pans and smooth each layer. If you have a scale and want to make sure the batter is evenly divided, weigh a little over 8 ounces of batter into each pan.
- Bake in lower third of oven for 30 min. until layers spring back when pressed with fingertip and begin to come away from sides of pan. Loosen warm cakes with a knife, then remove layers from pan, remove paper, and invert again to let layers cool right side up. They will buckle and sink and be uneven, but that's to be expected.
- Place 4 10×3 inch pieces of wax paper or parchment around edges of cake plate and place the first layer of cake upside down so that it touches the paper pieces, but the paper pieces are still sticking out from under the cake.
- Filling: Sprinkle gelatin over water in small cup and let stand for 5 min, then set the cup in skillet you've filled with about an inch of hot water. This helps dissolve the gelatin. Remove cup from hot water and set aside.
- Set aside 3 tablespoons of the cold cream and put the rest in a clean mixing bowl. Add sugar and vanilla to the cream in the mixing bowl and whip only until it holds a soft shape. Quickly stir remaining cream into the dissolved gelatin and pour into the softly whipped cream. Continue whipping until cream holds a firm shape. Cover bottom layer of cake with cream and cap with top layer. Refrigerate while preparing icing.
- Icing: Place chopped chocolate and butter and coffee (which has been dissolved in boiling water) in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir occasionally until melted and remove from heat. Alternatively, you can melt this in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Cool just to room temperature.
- Beat cream, powdered sugar and vanilla together just until mixture thickens a bit and holds a soft shape. THIS IS IMPORTANT. If you overdo it here, the icing will be too stiff and will have a slightly curdled appearance. Fold half the cream gradually into the chocolate mixture, then fold that into the remaining cream. Use as much of the icing as you need to fill in any hollows on the sides of the cake and then smooth icing all over. Pull away the parchment paper pieces the cake is sitting on.
- Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight and serve cold. To slice without squashing cake, insert the point of a sharp knife in the center of the cake, then cut with an up-and-down sawing motion.