Preheat oven to 350° F.
Generously butter and flour 3, 8" round cake pans. Boil water and add slowly to the Aztec Elixir cocoa and dark cocoa powder, whisk together until thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool. Sift the flour together with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the vanilla bean into a small dice (brunoise). Soften the butter, sugar, vanilla bean, and pure vanilla extract in a bowl or electric mixer fitted with a whisk on medium-high speed, mix in the eggs one by one until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the side periodically. Add the sifted dry ingredients in fourths, alternating with cocoa liquids in thirds. Stir very slowly to prevent splatters of chocolate and flour. Scrape the sides and stir only to combine, about 3 minutes on low speed. Pour the batter into prepared baking pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set. It should slightly resist the pressure of your finger. Let the cake rest for 10 minutes before demolding. Once removed from cake pans, let cool completed on cake racks.
Heat cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan, over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Place chocolate fire bars, broken up in a stainless steal bowl. Pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes stir to combine then set aside and leave at room temperature until you are ready to use.
Whipped Cream Frosting
Place mixing bowl and balloon whisk in freezer for 10 minutes. Combine cream and sugar in chilled bowl fitted with the balloon whisk. Whisk on medium until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to over whisk the cream or you may make sweetened butter.
Pipe 1/2 of the ganache filling on top of first layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border from the edge. Place another layer of cake on top of the ganache and pipe the rest of the ganache filling on the second layer. Top with third cake and you are ready to frost. Using a spatula, carefully frost the cake with whipped cream.
This recipe can be adapted for many forms, cupcakes, a large birthday cake, or individual cakes for each guest. Everyone should put a bit of their own creative spirits into each creation, I love the texture and surprise of vanilla bean pieces. I hope you will too!
(Recipe from Katrina Madoff, thanks to Heather Jackson for introducing us to it)
Beer and cream cheese variant:
Use 1 bottle Founder's Breakfast Stout (or other chocolate stout) in place of water. Replace the ganache and whipped cream with raspberry ganache and chocolate cream cheese frosting:
Prepare as above
Chocolate cream cheese frosting:
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave oven.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Pour melted chocolate into cream cheese and mix on medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and pinch of salt. Slowly mix in the confectioners sugar.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and increase mixer speed to medium-high. Slowly add evaporated milk until the frosting is spreading consistency.