Black Pearl Layer Cake

When you’re a baker, you want to make birthday cakes for everyone.

Seriously. If I could live my life in layer cakes, I would.

Apparently, when you’re a baker, you also assume everyone else has basic baking essentials to make this happen.

As I learned this weekend, they don’t. Seriously.


I’m not talking like cookie scoops and piping bags. I would never expect The Accountant’s apartment to have those hiding in the drawers (unless I had put them there first).


I’m talking mixing bowls and wooden spoons.

And measuring cups. And measuring spoons.



I went to make The Accountant’s birthday cake this weekend and this was the only baking utensil I could find:


It felt almost like an episode of Top Chef where they only let the chefs have one knife and nothing else and then challenge the chefs to make something delicious.

To be fair, he also had a hand mixer (thank goodness. Because he didn’t have a whisk or  rubber spatula or wooden spoon. So stirring would have been a disaster and this cake would have never been frosted).


To be fairer, when I discovered that I would have to make his cake in an over-sized tupperware with ingredients estimated from a 1/2 cup measure, The Accountant went to the store and bought me a mixing bowl and some measuring cups and spoons.

Boys, man. Continually surprising.

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Makes one, 3 layer 8″ cake


6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Ginger Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

More black sesames for sprinkling


  1. You’re going to need to make the ganache and syrup a few hours before you’re planning on baking the cake. Just as a fair warning. 
  2. For the ganache: Put your chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Mix together cream, wasabi powder, and ground ginger in saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Pour over chocolate. Cover, let sit for 5-10 minutes depending on how cold it is in your house (as in: the recipe says 10 but it was freezing in The Accountant’s apartment, so 10 minutes made the cream too cold to do the rest of the work you need it to do). Uncover and whisk chocolate and cream together. Now mix together the black sesames and the corn syrup and add to the chocolate mixture. Lastly, stir in the butter. Let sit until spreadable. If you need this to happen more quickly, place in the fridge. If it’s freezing in your house, sitting on the counter for how long the next few steps take is plenty of time.
  3. For the syrup: Place water, sugar, chopped ginger, and scraped vanilla bean (pod and seeds) in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Then let simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for about 1 hour (to let the flavors set). After your hour has passed, strain the syrup. Keep the ginger. Chop it and set it aside. It will be going into your cake batter.
  4. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour your cake pans. You can also do the parchment thing if you’re feeling anxious about potential cake-breakage. I just generously buttered and floured and had no problem getting them out, though.
  5. Whisk together the water, cocoa powder, and ginger in a medium bowl. Set aside. In another medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Now, in yet another medium bowl, cream together your butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add vanilla.
  6. Next, add flour and cocoa powder in alternating additions. 4 flour, 3 cocoa powder. Start and end with flour. Mix until just combined.
  7. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. If you want to make a 9″ cake, do everything the same, just take out of the oven around minute 23-25. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Then remove and let cool completely on wire rack.
  8. In the meantime… For the frosting: Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add remaining ingredients and whip again until stiff peaks form.
  9. To assemble, brush first layer with 1/3 of the ginger syrup. Top with 1/2 of the ganache. You need the ganache to be spreadable here, or it will take the top of the cake off (since it will be moist and delicate from the syrup bath). Pop it in the microwave for about 10 seconds if it gets too hard, stir well, and try spreading again. Next, top with another layer and repeat the process. For the last layer, brush with remaining ginger syrup. Then frost with your whipped cream frosting. You might want to do a thin crumb layer around the sides, unless you were super careful to keep the ganache from touching the sides of the cake. If you weren’t super careful (like me), your first go-round with the frosting could streak ganache around the cake. Crumb layers are a wonderful way to not freak out about that.  Finish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.
  10. You want to keep this cake refrigerated, but it is best served room temp. So let it sit out for a few minutes before serving if you have that luxury.

Recipe from Bon Appetit 


Anyway, happy birthday to The Accountant! I’m so glad I get the honor of making your birthday cake every year. Thanks for putting up with my obsession with baking you overly intricate cakes and using you as my guinea pig for interesting (weird?) flavor combinations.


I’m also so super glad that your face didn’t catch on fire while taking a picture with the cake and its lit candles.

Bake with love!!



  1. You left out the part where you broke the only baking utensil, the measuring cup.

    Also, not entirely my fault. I had many of those things, but they did not make it over in the move because other people were moving me. Why wasn’t I there? Because I was visiting you.

    Thanks for the cake though! It was (is) pretty bomb.

    1. It broke scooping flour out of the bag. If it can’t withstand that, it shouldn’t be considered a real measuring cup…Sorry your friends lost all your stuff! Anyway, you’re welcome!

  2. Okay now ~~~this is really thinking outside the box girl~~does it taste like a very spicy chocolate ginger cake ???~~with some crunch ?????~`just curious

    1. The wasabi actually isn’t that intense in the ganache. But other than that, yes! Chocolate ginger cake with a little crunch. Just a little bit of spice in the background.

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