You will not easily forget this Salted Chocolate Ganache Ding Dong Cake. Two layers of moist chocolate cake are sandwiched between light, fluffy ding dong filling and drizzled all over with an amazing salted chocolate ganache. I have never made this Salted Chocolate Ganache Ding Dong cake without being begged for the recipe because this is one epic cake!
Salted Chocolate Ganache Ding Dong Cake
This monumental cake was not only part of my daugther’s 10th birthday celebration, but marked my entry into the world of double digit parenting. Beep…beep…beep… Let’s back this bus up a bit. How is baby Clara 10 already? Even more amazingly, how did she grow so much in ten years, while I was encapsulated in a virtual ageless, youthful state? (cough, cough) Clara’s birthday was a tough pill for me to swallow.
When Clara and Nolan were younger, I was always looking ahead. I couldn’t wait for them to walk, talk, be done with diapers, get dressed on their own, execute multi-step instructions I could bark out from the couch. If their childhood is a bell curve, we’ve reached that pinnacle state of more independence, but also innocence and emotional devotion to us. I’m terrified of what I fear is the downward slope after this. Am I going to live in a perpetually world of door slams, eye rolls, shaking off hand-holds, obliviousness with what’s going on in their heads all the time?
Keenly, Ryan and I had the forethought to have a second installment of kids, Finn and Elliot, as known as “the babies.” Whenever I have a dose of it’s-all-going-too-fast reality I can still spoon an entire 4 year old’s body with my torso or not correct my 2 year old calling pancakes “panks.”
The kicker is Clara is so freakishly mature, I wouldn’t be surprised if she sits Ryan and I down one day soon and tell us, “You guys gave it your all up to this point, but I don’t really think you have much to offer me anymore. I’m going to go ahead seek out guidance more on par with me, such as the enlightenments of Nietzche. We’re all good here.” Sure, I could always just overcompensate with my remaining three kids, and have them chant, “Yes, Sensei,” when I dole out my sage wisdom, but it would probably still not feel the same.
Parents are in a never-ending game of tug and war with their kids, letting the rope go to let them step away on their own, and then pulling it frantically back when we feel like they’re going too far. It can be suffocating at times of how much they need us to operate, but terrifying when they don’t even glance back.
Of course Clara’s birthday wasn’t entirely somber and foreboding. How could it be when you are eating a cake like this? The cake portion is my go to chocolate cake recipe because it’s easy, I always have all the ingredients on hand, it works beautifully if you have to sub out gluten free flour, and it’s gloriously moist. For the filling I wanted it to be exactly like the middle of a Ding Dong or Hostess cupcake. A lot of the recipes use marshmallow fluff, which I didn’t think would resemble the taste I was going for, so I used the filling from Six Sister’s Ho Ho Cake. For the ganache I used the recipe that initially inspired me to make this cake, Bon Appetit’s version. Bon Appetit’s version looked equally delicious, but a little more time consuming and would require a lot more ingredients in my grocery cart. The ganache turned out amazing, and it was the perfect balance to the sweetness of the filling and cake.
Clara absolutely loved it, and, as always, the culinary grunt work is never lost on her. She graciously marvels at all my desserts, and will recite their components correctly. “Did you see what Mommy made for me?! A cake with the filling of a Hostess cupcake and salted chocolate ganache spread all over it!” Yes, my 10 year old uses the word the ganache. I guess there are some good things about your kids growing older.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, for gluten free adaption I highly recommend Cup 4 Cup
- 2 cups sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- 5 Tablespoons flour, for gluten free adaption I used Cup 4 Cup
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Salted Chocolate Ganache:
- 9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1⅛ teaspoons kosher salt, not table salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray, lining pans with cut-to-size parchment on bottom, and then spraying the parchment.
Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
For the filling:
- In a medium saucepan, whisk flour into half and half over medium heat on stove top. Whisk constantly until very thick, similar to the consistency of thick pudding or custard,about 5-8 minutes.
Cool completely (place in refrigerator if you want to speed the cooling process, but just make sure it's back at room temp before next step). Stir in vanilla.
In a mixing bowl, mix 1 cup softened butter and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add cooled flour/milk mixture to butter/sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.
For the ganache:
- Place chocolate and salt in a medium bowl. Stir sugar and ¼ cup water in a deep saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, a few minutes.
Increase heat and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar is deep amber, about 9 minutes.
Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over medium heat until caramel bits dissolve.
Pour over chocolate in bowl. Add vanilla; stir until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly, and then refrigerate until mixture is thicker, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place 1 cake layer in a springform pan (this isn't entirely necessary, but it did make it a lot easier to transfer the cake around during assembly). Pour 1 cup of ganache over. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Cover remaining ganache and let stand at room temperature if using the same day, if not store in refrigerator.
Spoon filling over chilled ganache on cake layer in springform pan; smooth top. Gently place second cake layer on top, ensuring filling is reaching the edge of the cake. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Remove sides of springform pan. Using an offset spatula, scrape off any filling that may have leaked out from between the cakes to form smooth sides. Transfer cake to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet.
Bring ganache back to room temperature so it is pourable (can microwave for a few seconds if needed). Pour ganache over cake to drip down sides and using an offset spatula to help spread ganache, if needed, to cover sides of cake. Chill until ganache is set, about 1 hour. Sprinkle top with flaky sea salt.
Make ahead instructions: I made this cake over the course of 2 days. You can make the cake portion up to a few weeks in advance. Wrap cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and freeze in freezer gallon bags. The ganache can be made a day or two ahead as well, covered and refrigerated until ready for use. The filling I would make the day of assembly and just keep at room temperature until ready to use.