Chocolate. Raspberries. Cake. Need I say more?

Who do you know who would absolutely love a big piece of this cake? You’re probably thinking, "Me!, Me! I want a huge piece of that cake." And, really, it’s such a big cake, there will be plenty to share with a friend or two.

This cake was prepared by Bemidji bakers, Jeanette Proulx and Carla Mandrell, for the 2008 Chocolate Affair, a fundraiser for three nonprofit charitable organizations in Bemidji, Minn.: Northwoods Interfaith, Sexual Assault Program, and Community Resource Connections.

The Chocolate Affair has been held for the last four years in Bemidji. The last one was held in December, just in time for participating tasters to buy some candies and baked treats for all the chocoholics on their holiday gift list.

According to Ruth Sherman, one of the organizers of the event, the idea for a Chocolate Affair occurred when staff from Northwoods Interfaith and Community Resource Connections (CRC) were celebrating the birthday of a CRC staff member. "We were all sitting around the table eating some WONDERFUL chocolate cake, commiserating at how broke our agencies were, and wishing that we could come up with some fundraiser that involved something we all love: eating and chocolate. Somewhere during the silly conversation that followed… someone remarked that they couldn’t imagine having an affair…but if they did it would definitely be with chocolate. By the end of the birthday celebration (and the end of the cake) we had formed the concept of “The Chocolate Affair.”

Area chocolate lovers of all ages, home cooks, children and professional chefs, are invited to participate by preparing 100 one-inch samples of their sweet chocolate treat along with a beautifully decorated platter of it…for sale at a silent auction during the event. Contestants also provide their recipe, which is published in a small cookbook that is available for purchase at the event.

The samples are used as taste samples; people attending the event are charged a small amount to choose 10 items to taste and then vote on their favorites.

I attend these events and choosing favorites is a difficult task. But a sinfully delicious one, at that.

The item with the most votes wins first place.

The 2008 first place Taster’s Choice Award went to Proulx and Mandrell for their Raspberry Forest Cake.

So dig out all your favorite chocolate recipes. Sit down and read them as you leisurely enjoy a large piece of Raspberry Forest Cake. If you live in the Bemidji area, you can stop in at Minnesota Nice Cafe, right downtown. You see, Jeanette Proulx, who came up with the idea for this cake with her friend, Carla Mandrell, owns the cafe and her Raspberry Forest Cake is often on the menu. And if you’re feeling like having a bunch of chocolate-loving friends over, make the cake yourself and impress them all. 

Decide which of your recipes you’ll be entering into the 2009 Chocolate Affair. It may take another piece of cake before you can come to a decision.

Mandrell and Proulx assembled a Raspberry Forest Cake in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Chocolate. Raspberries. Cake. I will say this: It’s a chocolate cake I could eat everyday. To be able to stop into Minnesota Nice Cafe for a piece of this cake any day is waaaaay dangerous.

Raspberry Forest Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Frosting:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries, divided

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper, spray parchment.

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter in large bowl at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. At low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk until blended, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into pan, smooth top with spatula.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (do not overbake). Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Invert onto wire rack; remove parchment. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine cream and 3 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan; heat over medium heat until butter melts andmixture is hot. Remove from heat; add 12 ounces of chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Let stand at room temperature to cool and thicken slightly while cake cools. (Cooled frosting should be thick enough to cling to cake.)

Slice cake in half horizontally. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting over bottom cake layer; top with 2 cups of the raspberries. Top with remaining cake layer; spread top and sides with remaining frosting. Let stand 1 hour. Place remaining 1 cup raspberries on top of the cake. Cover carefully and refrigerate. Serve cold.

Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate leftovers.

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