Valentine Blackout Cake with Chocolate Crunch

Fudgy chocolate frosting under a coat of crunchy chocolate crumbs hugs layers of chocolate cake. Decorated with ombré sugar rosebuds, this cake recipe will make your Valentine swoon!

Valentine Blackout Cake by Cakewalker

Mrs. W gave me some heart-shaped cake pans as a gift some 20 years ago. She does wonderful gestures like this, some out of the blue, as an extension of her endearing nature. Every time I use them, I’m transported like a time machine to where we were in our lives then, first time homeowners pounding the pavement on our career paths with the sure-footed zeal of younger professionals. I don’t clearly recall the first cake baked in the tins. I think it was chocolate on chocolate. But my, what a splendid memories ensue when the pans emerge from the cabinet.

Cakepans by CakewalkerIt’s very important to pay attention to the exact measurements of cake pans specified in recipes, particularly the height of the side. Otherwise the chance of overflow while baking is much greater.

While my wallet is not wealthy, my heart is. So when I reach for the pans and remember her thoughtful deed, it is my intention to return in kind with the best my faculties can provide. If I’ve learned one thing in nearly 30 years of marriage, a gift from the heart leaves lasting impressions beyond fancy chocolates and dozens of roses. These are connections of the indelible kind.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to get all ‘The Bachelor’ on you!

Sugarpaste Rosebud by CakewalkerWatch this video to learn how to make the sugar rosebuds for the cake. It’s the third demonstration.

Last year, Food Network Magazine featured a Blackout Cake in the January|February edition. Then I spotted a Wilton Instagram photo of royal icing rosebuds in ombré hues of red atop a chocolate buttercream cake.

I knew instantly how I wanted to present my version of chocolates and roses.


Top view Blackout Cake from CakewalkerRecipe adapted from Food Network Magazine. Decoration inspired by

Valentine Blackout Cake with Chocolate Crunch

Prep Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: One three layer heart-shaped cake or 8-inch round cake

Serving Size: One slice. Serves 8 to 10.

Valentine Blackout Cake with Chocolate Crunch

Fudgy chocolate frosting under a coat of crunchy chocolate crumbs hugs layers of chocolate cake. Decorated with ombré sugar rosebuds, this cake recipe will make your Valentine swoon!


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (or good quality chocolate chips)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Frosting:
  • 24 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (or good quality chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Decorations:
  • Approximately 80 sugar paste or fondant rosebuds in Ombré shades of red
  • Special Equipment:
  • A pair of heart-shaped cake pans, or two 8x2-inch round cake pans (see notes)


    Make the cake:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8x2-inch round cake pans (or heart-shaped pans), dust with flour, tapping out any excess; set aside.
  • Combine the chocolate, milk, espresso powder, and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring until the chocolate is melted, whisk smooth, and let cool; set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another large mixing bowl beat the butter on medium speed until creamy―about 4 minutes. Add the oil, both sugar types, and vanilla; beat for 3 or 4 additional minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the liquid chocolate mixture in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour mixture―mix until just incorporated.
  • Divide the batter equally between the two pans (see notes) smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 20 minutes; then run a knife around the edges, turn the cakes out onto racks to cool completely.
  • Reheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with your choice of parchment paper or foil. Cut each cake in half crosswise using a long serrated knife (or cake leveler) to make 4 layers. Crumble one of the layers into small pieces on the baking sheet. Bake the pieces until very dry and firm, about 20 minutes or so; cool completely. Cover the baking sheet with another sheet of parchment and crush with the bottom of a saucepan to make coarse crumbs.
  • For the frosting:
  • Combine the chocolate, corn syrup and 1/2 cup hot water in a large heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water; stir to melt and blend well, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from the pot and cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk and begin beating on high speed; beat in the vanilla. Add the butter, one cube at a time until fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until creamy. Refrigerate the frosting, stirring occasionally, until it becomes thick enough to spread―about 10 minutes.
  • Assemble:
  • Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread one heaping cup of frosting on top. Add another cake layer, another cup frosting, and the final cake layer. With the remaining frosting, cover the top and sides. Press the reserved cake crumbs all over the cake.
  • To decorate:
  • At the top of the cake and beginning on the outside edge, place the deepest red rosebuds around the perimeter; the blossoms should be flush to the edge. Follow with the next lighter shade of red working in a concentric fashion, slightly propping the blossom end of this run onto the bud end of the first. Repeat with the remaining three shades toward the center. Each color as you go towards the center will be propped up a little higher than the previous one. The white-most shade in the center will likely be standing up on end. Adjust spacing as needed along the way to achieve the look you desire.


My heart pans measure 7 1/2" wide by 1 1/3" high. In using these pans, I filled and baked them twice yielding the 4 layers required. If you are using 8-inch round pans, it’s important the height of the sides measure 2 inches. In the event your pans fall short of the 2-inch requirement, you will likely need to short fill them, perhaps slightly more than half full, so that the batter won’t overflow while baking. I prefer to line cake pans with parchment paper for added release assurance. If you wish to line your pans, place the paper in greased pans, grease the paper, then flour etc.

Don’t want to make so many flowers? Consider making the blossoms bigger and use just three shades of red for the ombré. Better yet, get the kids in on the fun and show them how―the sight of fully engaged children is a thing of beauty.


  1. Hi Brooks, What a romantic cake. I enjoyed reading about your memories as a newlywed. The fondant flowers are perfect and I wonder how much time was spent rolling each one. Have a nice Valentine’s Day and thanks for sharing your techniques. Pinned!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Hi Joan, I spent a little more than a couple of hours making the rosebuds which includes tinting the shades, and worked at a good clip. I stated a very long preparation for the cake in its entirety, which may take longer for others, but I did break the project down by making the flowers a day ahead. Thank you for the pin, and have a terrific Valentine’s Day!

  2. Ah, Valentine blackout brings back so many memories. Oh wait, we’re talking cake. Your cake looks marvelous! I’m definitely baking it soon. I’ll keep you apprised. The roses are so beautiful, but so not in my wheelhouse. Maybe, though, I’ll see if I can muster the ambition for them.

  3. This is a stunning cake! & perfect for Valentine’s. I have some heart shaped cake pans I’ll have to pull out to just try and make a cake as beautiful as yours 🙂

    • Brooks Walker says

      You’ll do just fine, Megan. All you have to do is put love into your work―the rest will fall into place. Thank you for the kind words and tweet!

  4. Boy, can you bake! But you knew that. 🙂 This is just wonderful. And it’s gorgeous — just beautiful. Thanks.

  5. What a beautiful cake for that special day! I love that it’s chocolate crunch too, must be absolutely delicious. Very nicely adorned with the little roses, you definitely love what you do.

    • Brooks Walker says

      It’s a pleasure to have you here, Eva―thank you for the kind words. May you have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

  6. Brooks, that’s a real showstopper! And I know it tastes as good as it looks!

  7. I’m swooning and I’m not even your valentine. Seriously well done. GREG

    PS I know what you mean about cakes pans…

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