Graduation season is fully upon us. In this year of the coronavirus, we are restricting our celebration to our backyard with just our family, so I wanted to make an extra-special dessert to commemorate the occasion. I was thrilled with the results - but I will warn you, this was time consuming. It’s not something I will repeat often, but totally worth it for this memorable event. 

Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.


Use the best-quality chocolate and cocoa powder you can - it makes a difference. Make the flat squares for the tops first so that they are ready to be put on to the cakes when the ganache is soft.

The Tops

I used squares of my Tangle Chocolate chocolate. If you know how to temper chocolate, you can make your own squares using good quality chocolate. The final size for the squares is a little over 2”.

If you prefer, you can dip graham crackers into melted chocolate. Put ¾ cup semi-sweet or 70% chocolate in a shallow bowl in the microwave or in a double boiler until it’s about ⅔ melted, then stir until it’s totally melted. Dip graham crackers into the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry.


The Cap Cakes

1 cup semisweet or 70% chocolate pieces

½ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup sugar

¼ t salt

1 to 2 t espresso powder (optional, but delicious)

1 t vanilla extract (also optional)

3 large eggs

½ c cocoa powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter the bottoms of muffin cups; cut a piece of parchment to fit each one, lay one in the bottom of each cup, and butter the top of the parchment paper.
  2. To make the cake: Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chocolate is about ⅔ melted. Or use a double boiler. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, reheating briefly if necessary. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. One teaspoon of espresso powder will enhance the chocolate flavor and two will add a hint of mocha flavor to the caps. 
  4. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and put in the oven.
  6. Check them at 15 minutes; they may need another several minutes, but watch them closely because they will start to dry out if they are overcooked. When done, the top will have formed a thin crust and the center of the muffins will register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

Loosen the edges of each cap with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn them out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that's fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit, which is also fine. Allow the caps to cool completely before glazing.


The Ganache

 1 cup semi-sweet or 70% chocolate pieces

½ cup heavy cream

  1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until it's not quite at a simmer, but showing fine bubbles around the edge. Pour the cream over the chocolate, stir very briefly to combine, and let rest for 5 minutes. Stir again — at first slowly, then more vigorously — until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth. If any bits of chocolate remain, reheat briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler, then stir until smooth.
  2. Spoon the ganache over each cap, spreading it to drip over the sides. Use a butter knife to cover the whole cap. The ganache will harden as it sets, so you may need to wait a half hour or so to be able to spread it effectively. If it is a total mess on the top or sides, use your butter knife to smooth out the glaze. This will take off the gloss, so to add that back, direct a warm hair dryer onto the cap briefly until the gloss returns.
  3. Place a flat top on each cap, angling it slightly and pressing it down into the soft ganache.


The Tassel

The tassel is made from white modeling chocolate. The only two ingredients are white chocolate and corn syrup, and the ratio is 4 parts chocolate to 1 part corn syrup. You need very little to make the tassels, but it’s easier to make a slightly bigger batch and have some left over. I used Callebeaut white chocolate which is real white chocolate. Many brands of white chocolate chips are not actually chocolate at all, in which case I’m not sure if this recipe would work. So read the label.

  1. Melt pieces of white chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler. 
  2. Warm up the corn syrup for a few seconds in the microwave so that it is warm, but not hot. 
  3. Stir the corn syrup slowly into the melted chocolate, just to combine. It starts to harden very quickly and you may be tempted to stir faster to stop the hardening, but this will have the opposite effect. If you don’t want to use it right away, you can wrap it tightly in parchment paper and refrigerate it. Take it out and let it come to room temperature before using it.
  4. Knead the chocolate until it is smooth and pliable.
  5. Roll out little tassels and secure them to the top of the graduation cap with a little white chocolate button if desired, or leave one end of the tassel thicker and secure that end to the chocolate top. 
  6. Carefully drape the tassel over the edge of the top and let dry for several hours.
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