Saturday, September 3, 2011

a family birthday and anniversary celebration: *that* chocolate cake

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday! (29, again! Can you believe it?) Monday is my brother- and sister-in-law's 6-year anniversary. Lots to celebrate! The whole group of us went out for sushi, the family favorite, and then came home for dessert. Since the honorees are all chocolate fans, I decided to try a new chocolate cake recipe. (Family loves being guinea pigs, right?) I had bookmarked this deep, dark chocolate cake for just such an occasion! While I was in experimental mode, I also played around with this pretty ruffly flower I saw on My Cake School. It looked really easy, and although I was happy with how it turned out, it was harder to make than I expected. (My fondant didn't cooperate very well when I used the ball tool to ruffle it. Oh well.) I swirled the icing on the top of the cake to complement the concentric circle look of the flower. I liked the symmetry, and we all loved the cake.

I wasn't sure how different this would taste from my usual chocolate cake recipe. The ingredients and even the proportions are really close, and yet... it's different! It's lighter, less dense, and while the taste is nice and chocolatey, it's not overwhelmingly rich. As a non-coffee-drinker, I was skeptical about adding an entire 12 ounces of coffee, and I may have skimped by brewing the weakest cup of coffee known to man. However, I trusted what I know - that a small amount of coffee boosts chocolate flavor. As expected (and hoped), not the slightest evident hint of coffee, just a delicious chocolate flavor. What surprised me is that the recipe calls for no vanilla, (what cake doesn't have vanilla?) but I committed to following it to the letter. One final note: my usual cake is a one-bowl recipe. While this requires dirtying one more bowl (to mix the oil, eggs, and milk), the batter comes together really smoothly and quickly, and I think it reduces the possibility of cocoa lumps. I will test out this method with my other cake next time!

Appearance-wise, I liked how nice and tall the 8" layers came out!

As for the frosting recipe, it's like a tweaked ganache. You heat the cream with sugar, then add the chopped chocolate (plus butter) and wait for it to cool and thicken. I'm not sure why you have to cook it for six minutes, other than to make sure the sugar dissolves completely? I'm sure you could just as easily omit the sugar and use bittersweet chocolate, but again, trying to follow the rules the first time.

Like ganache, it tastes rich and fudgy, but man, this recipe is a pain in the you-know-what. Cooking it and keeping an eye on the stove is a time-suck. (I multi-tasked by chopping chocolate while the sugar and cream simmered.) Then you have to whisk it and refrigerate it and whisk it some more until it's ready to use. It's definitely the slowest frosting I've ever made. Not only that, I wasn't sure this would yield enough volume. I've taken to being pretty liberal with frosting, between filling, crumb coating, final coating, and decorating. Since it took so dang long to get to the right consistency, I didn't want to have to make another half-batch midway through decorating. Instead, I defrosted some leftover chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate sour cream frosting, beat them together, and used them to fill the cake. I quite liked the result! A lighter (in color, taste, and texture) filling, and a darker, richer, ganache on the top and sides. In fact, I think it might have been too rich using the given frosting recipe throughout. Ultimately, I had about a cup leftover, so the recipe as written would have worked if I limited the filling, but it would have been cutting it close.

As I said, the family really loved it (even the non-chocoholics). The kids licked their plates, but then, they're not known for being discerning. I would absolutely make this again! 

*That* Chocolate Cake
Adapted from The Essence of Chocolate
Makes one 3-layer 8" cake

3 cups (600 grams) sugar
scant 3 cups (425 grams) flour*
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (135 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups hot coffee

*Note: 425 grams of flour = 15 ounces, which makes three, 5-ounce cups. I typically follow the King Arthur measurement of 4 1/4 ounces of flour to one cup. However, in this case, I used the more specific weight measurements provided; that is, 425 grams.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line three 8" round cake pans with parchment and spray with cooking spray with flour. You can use 9" pans instead, but the cake will be less tall.

In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and mix on medium low until smooth. The batter will be soupy.

Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes. When the cakes spring back when pressed lightly with a finger, or when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Assemble the cakes using the frosting recipe below (or your favorite frosting recipe). 

1 3/4 cups (350 gr) sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
7 1/2  oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring the sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer the cream and sugar for six minutes. Be careful not to let the saucepan overflow.

Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter until they have completely melted. (At first, I just stirred it, but the chocolate refused to incorporate until I used a whisk, and then it took about two seconds.) Stir in the vanilla extract.

Let the frosting cool completely, whisking every now and then during cooling.  (You can do this step in the refrigerator to speed up the process)  Once completely cool at room temperature, the frosting will thicken to a spreadable consistency. 

Note: If you use a different filling, as I did, you can begin frosting the outside when the frosting is cool, but still relatively goopy; this will make it incredibly easy to smooth on the sides and top of the cake. However, if you want to pipe decorations, you'll have to wait until it is completely cool and thickened before it will hold a shape. To fill the cake with this frosting, you'll also have to be patient; otherwise, the filling will zlich everywhere. Once frosted, the cake firms up nicely in the fridge.

Print this recipe.


The Procrastobaker said...

This is abbbssoluttellyyy STUNNING! No wonder your family loved it! It looks delicious and beautiful, what more could you ask for :) Happy birthday and anniversary to your relatives, this sounds like a mighty fine way to top of the celebrations :)

jami said...

Thank you, Procrastobaker!!

justJENN said...

Go with a STRONG cup of coffee next time. You'll notice the chocolate flavor become a lot richer.

autumn said...

This is so elegant. Wow. I've been trying to come up with a cake for my birthday and this might be it, although I know mine wouldn't be half as pretty.

jami said...

@Autumn - go for it! Check out the My Cake School link for more pictures and tips on the flower. The cake itself is easy, and the icing (while a pain to make) is really easy to work with!!

KayB said...

might be a pain-in-the-*** but it looks amazing! And that flower is gorgeous

natalie said...

oh wow! this cake is gorgeous!!

Gozde said...

This cakes is amazing. I would love to try it. Looks stunning and delicious.

The Food Pusher said...

What a beautiful cake! I loved the details you put in your narrative, too.

The Waspy Redhead said...

So beautiful, I could reach right in the screen to eat it. I'm adding the icing recipe to my "to try" list. Love ganache frostings.

Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes Cardio) said...

Cute flower! I'm going to have to try that technique out.

jami said...

Thanks for the nice comments, everyone!!

The Food Librarian said...

Jami, This is stunning! Love the cake and the flower. And I love the analysis you put into your blog post. Very helpful for the rest of us! - mary

jami said...

Thanks, Mary! So appreciate the sweet comments!

Leah said...

I can confirm. It tasted fantastic and it looked so beautiful. Thanks, sistor-in-law!

Marie | yellowhousecook said...

This is really lovely. I love the flower detailing, such a pretty touch. I suspect I would totally botch something like this, but may have to give a whirl anyway!

Steph (desserts for breakfast) said...

This is so beautiful! I love the purple ruffles with the swirl on the cake. Glad you tried and liked the recipe!

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