dark chocolate clementine cake


clementines offer a brightness matched by few other types of winter produce. beets are earthy and evasive; radishes are spicy and curt; grapefruit packs a punch, but its bitter aftertaste offsets its initial sunniness.

january’s gloomy nights, often solely illuminated by dull moonlight on dirty snow, parallel this cake’s dense chocolate sponge and thick, dark ganache. solace arrives in the form of clementine curd and buttercream, balancing the richness of the chocolate while adding auxiliary layers of texture and tang.

you’ll need a 6-inch cake ring and a 6×20 strip of acetate (i used wax paper this time).


  • 1 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

clementine buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp clementine extract

chocolate ganache

  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz heavy cream

clementine curd (recipe from willow bird baking)

  • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup clementine juice
  • 1 tsp clementine


  • 1 chocolate orange, chopped (optional)

for the cake, preheat oven to 300º. grease a quarter sheet pan and line with parchment paper. mix the chocolate with the hot coffee and set aside (don’t stir). whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt. in a stand mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. add the oils, buttermilk, and vanilla. stir the chocolate-coffee mixture and add it to the wet ingredients. add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for twenty seconds. spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 20 minutes. let cool for five minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack and let cool for at least an hour (or stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes).

for the buttercream, beat all ingredients together in a stand mixer until fluffy, about 8 minutes.

for the ganache, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. let sit for five minutes, then stir until smooth. refrigerate until slightly thickened.

for the curd, cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until fluffy. add the eggs and egg yolks, then mix in the clementine juice. the mixture will look curdled. transfer to a medium saucepan, and cook over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly. don’t let it boil. it should be pretty thick. strain through a sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (press it down onto the surface of the curd). refrigerate for 2 hours.

to assemble, use the cake ring to punch two circles and four half circles out of the cake. reserve scraps for snacking. wipe off the cake ring, then place it on a sheet pan. lay a 6-inch circle of cardboard (or cake board) in the bottom. line the ring with the strip of acetate. place the two half circles in the bottom, adding scraps if needed to complete the circle. use the back of a spoon to spread on some buttercream. sprinkle on some bits of chocolate orange, then spread a third of the ganache (heat briefly in the microwave before using if it set too hard). spread on a third of the curd. repeat with the second layer, using a two more halves. repeat with the third layer, using a whole round. nestle the final layer on top. cover the top of the cake with buttercream, and smooth it out as much as possible. transfer the sheet pan to the freezer, and freeze for at least 12 hours (or up to 2 weeks). when ready to serve, remove the ring and acetate and bring to room temperature.


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