This Death by Chocolate Cake is the dessert that chocolate lovers dream about! It has layers of brownie, mousse, meringue, ganache, and more! It’s an extravaganza that will rock your world!

This is the richest, most decadent, and Best Chocolate Cake Recipe you’ll ever taste. But, be forewarned, it takes some time and effort so save this amazing recipe for a very special occasion!

Death By Chocolate Cake topped with mousse stars and malted milk bars.

Why You Must Make:

  • It’s made with 11 eggs, 5+ cups heavy cream, 12 tablespoons cocoa powder, 44 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, and a mere 1/2 cup of butter. Now does the title of Death by Chocolate Cake make sense????
  • The recipe comes from famed restaurateur, Marcels Desaulniers. Death by Chocolate is a featured dessert at the Trellis Restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg.
  • I made this unrivaled, most decadent, seven-layer chocolate cake first in 2006. The family swooned, the guests swooned, and I was exhausted! But my friends, family and I all agree this is the BEST Chocolate Cake Recipe you’ll ever taste!!!

For my 5th time making this death by chocolate cake, I made the recipe as written for my dinner club. As this is a long, detailed recipe, I’m going to encourage you all to buy (affiliate link) Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion. Make sure to allow a couple of days to put this stunning dessert together. Chocoholics will not be disappointed!!!

Overhead view of Death By Chocolate Cake on a white cake plate.

Recipe Tips:

I’d never try to make this masterpiece all in one day. Way too daunting. I’d recommend making all the components over three days, starting with the brownie layer and finishing the day before you plan to serve by assembling. Here’s my planning list:

  • PRO-Tip: Early in the week, make the shopping list. Tally up all the eggs, chocolate, and cream and make sure your kitchen is stocked.
  • I like to watch for sales on (affiliate link) Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate bars and buy them when discounted. These bars melt much better and are of a better quality than the chocolate in semisweet chocolate chips. I wouldn’t splurge on a high-end chocolate, unless your budget permits, due to the amount of chocolate needed.
  • Two to three days before assembly, make the brownie layer. Cool, wrap well, and either freeze or refrigerate. Just remember to defrost before slicing and assembling.
  • PRO-Tip: To cut the brownie in half horizontally, I insert toothpicks about halfway up the side of the brownie, all the way around the perimeter. I aim for just a touch below the center so I can cut above the toothpicks at that halfway point.
  • I use a long serrated knife to first make a shallow cut around the perimeter, just above the toothpicks.
  • Next, I saw my way closer to the center, rotating the brownie until the brownie is cut into two relatively even slices.
  • PRO-Tip: The mocha rum sauce also keeps well and can be made ahead of time, then rewarmed or brought to room temperature to serve.
  • If it’s not too humid, make the meringue layer the day before you plan to assemble. Store it in an oven that you will not be using to keep it from absorbing any moisture in the air. Make sure to put a post-it on the oven door with a warning not to turn it on! Don’t ask why I need to do this, LOL!
  • PRO-Tip: Though the recipe states to make the meringue exactly 9 inches in diameter and trim any excess after it is baked, I’d suggest making it a tad under that size so you don’t need to resize it.
  • Trimming my meringue caused it to break into many pieces. My first meringue was the perfect size, but that one that got left in the oven without my recommended post-it was slightly charred and not suitable for company!! I hurried along my second meringue and it spread more than the first. Darn it.
  • The day of assembly, make the mousses and ganache. The chocolate mousse cannot be made ahead of time, so it also has to be made on the day you assemble it. There’s so much chocolate involved, that your kitchen needs a day to recover before having guests, but if you want, you could make it all in one day. Even on the day of your gathering….if you’re ordering pizza or making something super easy to serve your guests!
Death By Chocolate Cake on a white serving plate.

You May Also Like:

I have a few friends who have made this recipe, but I realize most homebakers are looking for something that takes a little less time and effort.

Death by Chocolate Cake with the birthday girl

The birthday girl and her cake.

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A list of our over 20 years worth of book club selections can be found here.

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Death By Chocolate Cake on a white serving plate

Death By Chocolate Cake

Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 30 minutes
Yield 24

7 amazing chocolate layers that make for the most magnificent chocolate cake you'll ever encounter!! Brace yourself for chocolate overload and a lot of swooning! You'll only need a sliver to satisfy your sweet tooth!


Cocoa Meringue

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons  cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chocolate Mousse

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Chocolate Brownie Layer

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1⁄4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (make sure its fresh)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄4 cup sour cream

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 22 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Mocha Mousse

  • 14 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
  • 5 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

Mocha Rum Sauce

  • 6 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 ⅓ cups sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cups heavy cream
  • 8 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons dark Rum
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Make the Meringue:

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Using a 9-inch cake pan as a template, trace a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Flip the parchment over and place it on a baking sheet.
  3. Place 4 egg whites, the cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on high until soft peaks form, about 45 to 50 seconds.
  4. Gradually add 1 cup of sugar while continuing to beat on high. Whisk until stiff, about 1 ½ minutes.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and the cornstarch until well combined.  Fill to about ⅛-¼ inch from the edges of the traced parchment circle with meringue. Use an offset spatula to smooth the top and straighten the sides.
  6. Place the meringue in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes before handling. Increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees (to bake the brownies).

While the meringue is baking, prepare the Chocolate Mousse:

  1. Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, about 9 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, gently heat in the microwave, stopping and stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Keep at room temperature until needed.
  2. Place 1 ½ cups heavy cream in a chilled bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high until peaks form, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. Beat 3 egg whites in a large bowl, until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Add a quarter of the whipped cream to the chocolate and whisk quickly, vigorously, and thoroughly, then add to the egg whites. Now add the remaining whipped cream. Fold all together gently but thoroughly. Refrigerate the chocolate mousse until needed.

Make the Brownie Layer:

  1. Grease a 9 by 1 ½ inch cake pan with 1 teaspoon of softened butter. Dust the pan with 1 teaspoon of flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. Whisk together ¼ cup flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. Set up a double boiler. Place the 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2 ounces semi-sweetened chocolate in the top half.
  4. Tightly cover the top with plastic wrap, and heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth.
  5. Put 3 eggs, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in an electric mixer. Using a whisk, beat on high until slightly thickened, about 1 ½ minutes.
  6. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix on medium for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low for 10 seconds, then on medium for 10 seconds. Add the sour cream and mix on medium for 5 seconds.
  8. Remove the bowl and use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl and make sure all dry ingredients are combined.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, spreading evenly with an offset spatula. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake the brownie until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the brownie from the oven and allow to cool in the pan at room temperature for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a cake circle and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the brownie from the refrigerator and cut in half horizontally*. Keep the brownie at room temperature until needed.

Make the ganache:

  1. Heat 1 ½ cups heavy cream and 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Place 22 ounces of semisweet chocolate in a heat-safe bowl.
  3. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
  4. Keep at room temperature until needed.

Make the Mocha Mousse:

  1. Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of the double boiler over medium-high heat. Place 14 ounces semisweet chocolate, 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, the water, instant coffee, and 2 tablespoons cocoa in the top half of the double boiler.
  2. Tightly cover the top with plastic wrap. Heat for about 5 minutes, remove the plastic, and stir the mixture until smooth. Keep at room temperature until needed.
  3. Place 5 egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Continue to beat while gradually adding 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until stiff, about 30 seconds.
  4. Whip ¾ cup heavy cream in a well-chilled bowl until stiff. Fold ¼ of the egg whites into the melted chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream. Now fold in the remaining egg whites. Keep the mocha mousse at room temperature.

To Assemble:

  1. Place a  9 by 3-inch springform pan on a baking sheet. Set the top half of the chocolate brownie inside the pan, top side up. Ladle 1 ½ cups of ganache into the pan over the chocolate brownie.
  2. If needed, trim the cocoa meringue with a serrated knife so that it will fit tightly into the pan. Place the trimmed cocoa meringue, top side up, inside the pan on top of the ganache, pressing down gently on the cocoa meringue to avoid air pockets.
  3. Spoon the mocha mousse on top of the cocoa meringue, spreading evenly. Place the remaining chocolate brownie half, bottom side up, on top of the mocha mousse. Chill the cake in the freezer for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the cake from the freezer and cut around the edges to release from the springform pan. Pour the remaining ganache over the cake and use an offset spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 10 to 15 minutes to set the ganache.
  5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the chocolate mousse. Pipe a circle of stars (each touching the other) along the outside edge of the top of the cake. Continue to pipe out circles of stars until the top of the cake. Chill for 4-12 hours before serving.

Make Mocha Rum Sauce:

  1. Make this the day before or the day of serving. Bring to room temperature before serving
  2. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Once melted, add sugar,  heavy cream,  cocoa, 2 tablespoons of rum, and salt. Whisk to combine.
    Bring to a boil and lower the heat, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add instant coffee,  vanilla, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of rum. Stir until combined.

To Serve:

  1. Cut the Death By Chocolate into the desired number of servings. Heat the blade of a serrated slicer under hot running water before slicing into the cake. Repeat this procedure after cutting each slice, wiping the knife to dry, and to remove the excess chocolate. 
  2. Serve with a generous drizzle of mocha rum sauce.


Total time does not include cooling and chilling time.

Calories are for 1/12 of the cake. I cut my slices much thinner.

*Tip for slicing the brownie layer. I place toothpicks around the perimeter of the brownie halfway between the top and the bottom, horizontally. I use those to guide my knife and start with shallow cuts around the perimeter, then inserting further in as I take my second pass around, continuing until the brownie is cut in half.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 724Total Fat: 49gSaturated Fat: 30gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 218mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 5gSugar: 62gProtein: 8g


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