Onwards, to find a usable, yummy chocolate cake!
I used a recipe that's made for a 9 x 13 inch pan, instead of continuing to doctor recipes that really belong in two 9 inch round pans. Unfortunately, I went a smidge too basic because this cake is supposed to be served right in the pan. It was quite soft and a little crumbly, so of course I broke part of it during assembly. Whatever. Just going to the co-workers anyway. (I can't believe some of them still haven't had enough chcocolate cake. I am totally done. Paul is way beyond done.) But the ganache frosting is a better glue than most others, and no one can tell that one whole layer cracked completely through. Can you see it? Nope. And it's even in the top layer.
Cake tasted pretty good, though. Maybe I'm on the right track, sort of. Edges weren't dry, so yay cake strips!
Skipped the fondant because I didn't try to make the cake smooth. Got in a little practice time with the cake comb, not that it helped.
The frosting came out very well and the ganache filling came out decently, but not quite as well. I could use either one as frosting or filling, they were very similar.
Details of the cake:
One batch of Chocolate Sheet Cake from Baking Illustrated (if you have a subscription to Cooks' Illustrated online, here's the recipe), baked in my still-fabulous, not-as-new Calphalon 9 x 13 pan.
Cut the cake in half to get two 9 x 6.5 cakes, about 1.5" tall, each, maybe a little taller.
Stacked the small cakes so that I had one 9 x 6.5 cake with 2 layers, about 3.5" total height.
One batch of Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting from Baking Illustrated, which is paired with the Chocolate Sheet Cake in the book. I used semi-sweet chocolate (about 55% cacao, Nestle's chips) instead of milk chocolate.
One batch of Chocolate Ganache Frosting from Cooks' Illustrated online recipes for the filling and crumb coat.
A few handfuls of Nestle's raspberry and chocolate swirled chips for decoration.
Cake made 2 days before serving.
Cake layers assembled and crumb coated 1 day before serving.
Cake decorated and assembled the night before serving.
The Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting, made with semi-sweet chocolate, is a keeper. Must double it for this recipe to use it as the filling too. Try it under fondant sometime, hopefully it won't be too rich. Narrowing down the type of chocolate cake I need: light, but sturdy; chock-full of chocolate; but not overwhelming, rich, or super-sweet (like a mix). Maybe I'll try other sheet cake recipes. Maybe I'll try a pound cake recipe after all, even though they're not exactly light.