Talk about a showstopper! A stack of traditional flapjacks with butter and syrup is fabulous enough as is, but here we're taking that idea into mind-blowing dessert territory. Maple-sweetened chocolate cake batter is cooked up like pancakes into thin layers and then sandwiched with lots of maple cream that beckons for a covert finger swipe. A few hidden slicks of bittersweet chocolate ganache add a major swoon factor to this over-the-top sweet stack.
For maple chocolate cake batter:
Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the syrup, yogurt, eggs, oil, vanilla extract and 1/2 cup water.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using a whisk, energetically blend the batter by hand until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.
Preheat a griddle over low heat for at least 10 minutes. (You want the griddle nice and hot over as low heat as possible to avoid burning the pancakes and to give them ample time to cook through.)
Spray the griddle generously with nonstick spray. Making 2 pancakes at a time, pour two 1/2-cup scoops of batter onto the griddle. Use the back of a spoon to gently swirl and coax the pancakes into 7-inch circles. Cook the pancakes until the edges appear dry and set and bubbles are no longer popping on the surfaces, about 4 minutes on the first side. Use a thin, flexible metal spatula to gently flip the pancakes. Cook about 2 minutes more, or until the centers of the pancakes spring back when lightly touched. Remove the layers to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the batter scooping and cooking process until you have 8 cake layers.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and place 4 cake layers in a single layer on each sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the cream filling:
Pour the cream into a medium bowl. Whip the cream on high speed to stiff peaks. In a separate medium bowl, place the mascarpone, maple syrup, and vanilla bean paste. Beat on low speed, just until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken, about 30 seconds-don't overbeat, or the mascarpone will seize. Gently fold in the whipped cream until smooth.
Make the ganache filling:
Combine the bittersweet chocolate with the cream in a small heatproof bowl. Microwave on high power for 45 to 60 seconds. Whisk the ganache until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and the texture of chocolate pudding. Remove about 2 tablespoons of ganache to a small bowl and set aside for garnish.
To assemble the cake:
Remove the pancake layers from the refrigerator. Inspect the layers; choose the most handsome to be the top layer and set it aside. Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Dollop on 1/3 cup of the maple mascarpone cream and use a small offset spatula to smooth it out, with a l/2-inch border all around. Place a second layer on top, and press lightly to help it adhere. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of ganache onto the layer, also with a 1/2-inch border around the cake. Continue the layering process 6 more times, alternating maple mascarpone cream and chocolate ganache with the layers, placing the best-looking cake layer on top.
To the remaining chocolate ganache, add a drizzle of cream, only about l/2 teaspoon or so, just enough to thin it to a honey-like consistency (warm the ganache in the microwave for about lO seconds or so to loosen it up first, if necessary). Drizzle the ganache artfully over the cake. Chill the cake for about 30 minutes before serving. This cake can be made up to 1 day in advance (let it soften on the counter for 15 minutes before slicing).