Our oldest son had gone through emergency surgery after the holidays a year ago and could only walk briefly with a walker. I wanted to cheer him up and remembered he liked the chocolate/orange candy balls and he also liked cannoli, so I just combined some of his favorite flavors into a cake. The grin and smile that would always light up a room came back and didn't leave as he finished off two pieces. Now he always will ask when will I make his recovery cake again. It has become a family favorite.
1Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease with shortening, three metal 8 inch by 2 inch tall round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Grease parchment papers with shortening. Lightly flour greased cake pans. Place 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate and 6 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
2Combine 2 cups brown sugar and 1/2 cup coconut oil in a large stand mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add 4 eggs on low speed, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons orange extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract,1 1/2 cups cooled brewed coffee and melted, cooled chocolate mixture. Once all ingredients are combined well, beat for 3 minutes on medium speed. On low speed, add 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt alternating with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center of each layer comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks to cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Run a blunt knife around the rim of the pan before removing. Carefully peel off the paper liners. Leave on wire racks until completely cooled. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes. This makes it easier to put the filling and first layer of frosting on cake.
3Cannoli: While cake is baking, prepare cannoli filling. In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup half and half cream and 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens,about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Place 1 3/4 cups ricotta cheese,1 cup powered sugar, 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, 1 teaspoon orange extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and combine on low speed, about 1 minute. Add the lukewarm half and half mixture, beating about 1 minute or until creamy. Fold in the 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips. Cover and store in the refrigerator until cake has cooled and been in the freezer for 30 minutes.
4Orange Buttercream: Place 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 cup unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons meringue powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon orange extract in a large stand mixer bowl. Blend on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until all 7 1/2 cups have been added. Increase the speed to medium and beat until ligh and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Blend in 2-3 tablespoons of whole milk until desired spreading consistency.
5Assemble Cake: Place one cake layer flat side up on serving plate. Cover the top with half of cannoli filling. repeat with the second layer, topping with the other half of cannoli filling. Set the third layer on top of second layer. Spread a thin layer of orange buttercream on sides and top. Don't worry if some of the cake shows through. This layer is to seal the crumbs. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the remainder of the icing and set aside at room temperature. Remove cake from the refrigerator and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Use leftover icing for decorating if desired. Store the cake in the refrigerator while making the ganache.
6Ganache: Place 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a low simmer. Remove from the heat and add 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate cips are melted. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon orange extract. Let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or until cool and slightly thickened. Pour over top of iced cake, allowing it to run over the edges of the cake. If it does not run over the edges by itself, you can use the back of a tablespoon to help over the edges of the cake. Deccorate the top of the cake with white and dark chocolate curls and grated orange zest, if desired. Store cake in the refrigerator.
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