optional: 3 tbsp Grand MarnierChambord would be a great choice as well
Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream
3large egg whites
8oz16 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
1Tbsppure vanilla extract
2ozunsweetened chocolatemelted and cooled
To make the Chocolate Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 8-inch cake pans with baking spray, and line with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk to combine.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next one. Scrape down the bowl after the 2nd and final egg, all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Combine the half-and-half and vanilla. With the mixer on medium-low, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and liquid ingredients until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and then turn the mixer on again briefly to make sure there are no more dry patches.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans, leveling out the top. Bake for 33-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Allow to cool completely.
To make Macerated Strawberries:
While the cake is baking, prepare the macerated strawberries. In a medium bowl, stir together the sliced strawberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier, if using. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring periodically.
To make the Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream:
Place the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed to begin forming a soft peak.
Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and cover until steam begins to form. Remove the cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches the soft-boil stage, 235-240 degrees F.
Carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl so that it slowly incorporates into the whipping egg whites. Then turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue mixing until the meringue reaches room temperature, approximately 15 minutes.
Once the meringue has cooled, turn the mixer to medium speed. Slowly add the butter, one piece at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically. Once the butter has incorporated, drizzle in the vanilla extract, followed by the melted chocolate.
Spread a generous amount of Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream on top of one cake layer, followed by approximately 1/3 of the macerated strawberries (allow them to briefly drain first to keep the cake from becoming saturated). Top with the second layer of cake and cover generously with frosting.
Top the cake with the remaining strawberries. Drizzle slices with the macerated strawberry liquid.
Italian meringue buttercream creates a light and airy chocolate frosting. However, any chocolate buttercream with work with this cake.