I don't get the hype. Thirty+ positive reviews on Epicurious, a few positive posts here in the past, and all I could think when I was done was "This is it?" Not a bad chocolate layer cake, but very ho hum.
A few observations:
-this is one time consuming cake. Considering all the different steps, there isn't enough wow factor. Even though I tripled the ginger and wasabi called for, no one could taste the wasabi (and the wasabi I used is plenty spicy) and people only noticed the ginger after I mentioned it. There was no "Hey, what did you put in this cake?"
-I think I am happier with the cake from the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder box, even though the Ghiardelli cocoa powder I used was darker, richer, and made a more flavorful cake than Hershey's. The Hershey's cake is a no brainer and tastes fantastic.
-I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and even I thought the cake wasn't sweet enough. Chocolate cake needs some sugar to bring out the chocolate's full flavor, and this cake didn't make my Chiardelli cocoa powder or my El Rey chocolate (60%) shine in any way.
-the ginger syrup the recipe calls for is just plain off. If you follow the instructions (simmer ginger and sugar in water for less than five minutes) you end up with some lightly flavored sugar water. It was weaker than the ginger tisane I make when I have a sore throat, and did nothing to enhance the flavor of the cake. I felt like I was sprinkling water on a dry-ish cake.
-The black sesame seeds in the ganache were not for me. I strained them out. They were fresh, but maybe I should have toasted them. I like the crunch of nuts in my chocolate, but the slight chew of the sesame seeds turned me off.
-I really dislike whipped cream frosting. It's hard to frost a cake perfectly with whipped cream, it doesn't sit out well for very long, and it tastes foamy to me. In this particular cake, the barely sweet frosting only worsened the "not sweet enough" problem. It seemed strange to me to pair a ganache filling (which tastes best at room temperature or even a little warmer) with a whipped cream frosting constantly in danger of melting into a puddle.
-since I was baking for a Christmas party, I sprinkled it with crushed candy canes instead of black sesame seeds.
I love ginger and chocolate, and the idea of wasabi in chocolate intrigues me. I love the Vosgues chocolate bar that inspired this cake (haven't tried the truffle version), but feel that this cake doesn't even come close to approximating the intensity of flavors in that chocolate bar. Maybe this recipe was tamed down for the masses. It needs way more oomph to be much more than just another chocolate ganache layer cake.