Coleen is a wonderful friend of mine; she is caring and nurturing, and she believes in feeding whoever walks through her door. On Sunday she turned 50 something, but make no mistake--she still is a wild child. She dreams of studying the secrets in the shadows of steamy green jungles in South America. In the meantime, she works in the health care industry and tends to a yummy garden in NE Portland.
And she likes chocolate.
Last year I baked her an experimental Turtle Cake which was pretty darn good and all, but this year I have outdone even myself. If I may say so myself.
December 15, 2006
Name of Cake: Super Chocolate Cake
Occasion: Coleen's Birthday!
Constituents: two layers chocolate fudge cake filled and frosted with milk chocolate buttercream
If you are at all interested in baking the best cake ever, please buy RLB's The Cake Bible. I am serious. People always marvel over my cakes and how they taste good but they aren't too sweet. Come on people: it is possible to have a tasty dessert whose predominant flavor isn't sweet. It could be, oh I don't know, CHOCOLATE! Or, VANILLA! Or, ANYTHING BUT SUGAR! Dare to dream my friends, dare to dream.
So this cake, the chocolate fudge cake, is different than regular chocolate cake because it is made with brown sugar instead of regular sugar. The molasses in the brown sugar gives the cake a slightly bitter, earthy edge and brings more moisture to the cake. You can just barely detect that something is different about this cake; there is a more complex flavor due to the brown sugar which is very enjoyable.
Also, RLB uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate for her cakes. This gives the baker the ability to control the amount of sugar in relation to the amount of chocolate--if you use melted chocolate you will always be adding sugar when you add the chocolate. Also, cocoa powder gives you control over the amount of moisture being added and in what form. RLB believes that using milk in conjunction with chocolate brings out an unpleasant bitterness, so she uses water and cocoa powder. To the traditional cake baker this may seem like a terrible thing to do, and that you would lose some of the richness and flavor to use water instead of milk, but believe me that is not the case. What you get is a full, unadulterated, non-diluted chocolate taste.
So what did I do to make this cake so damn good?
1. Followed the recipe precisely.
1a. I mean, I weigh all the ingredients, and I even weigh the egg yolks and egg whites separately. Why? The egg yolk conspiracy.
2. RLB instructs you to boil the water and add it to the cocoa powder, stir thoroughly and let it cool to room temperature. Basically you are making a cocoa paste. And what none of us realised until the blessed Aaron came along, is that we were losing precious moisture as the water evaporated off while waiting for it to come down to room temperature. So after it cooled, I re-weighed it and added back in the 6 grams or so of water I had lost. This, my friends, is the real reason why my chocolate cakes have become incredibly freaking amazing. I owe it all to Aaron, may he be blessed, and RLB, for providing a forum where we can all share our passion for baking.
(moment of silence)
3. Also, for the brown sugar not only did I use the far superior muscovado sugar--which is better because it is REAL brown sugar, not white processed sugar with the molasses added back in like "regular" brown sugar--but I decided to use dark muscovado. Which smells heavenly. Really, you need to go out and buy some of this stuff. The difference in smell and feel and energetics between a white sugar and a less refined, more natural sugar is amazing.
4. The cocoa powder I've been using lately isn't anything really gourmet, it's just Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder. It turns out a rich, chocolaty, almost black cake. Simply stunning.
As I checked on the cakes while they baked, I got nervous because I thought they were burning, they were turning so dark. I freaked out and turned the oven down to 300, and tented some foil over the cakes. I tried to figure out what happened--the oven had never done that before....ten minutes later the cakes were getting darker but still not fully baked...then I realised my cakes weren't burning, they were just that dark. I turned the oven back up and let them finish baking.
Quick tip for those who are baking in a hurry:
If you want your cakes to cool down quicker, take advantage of the near-freezing temperatures and place them in front of an open window. That arctic wind will blow right over your cakes and will cool them down to room temperature in about 30 minutes. Yes, you'll have to put on your coat and scarf, but you'll be ready to frost in about half the time!
For the frosting I chose the Milk Chocolate Buttercream which is super duper easy. There are three ingredients: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butter.
I decided to use Guittard chocolate, which I've never used before. They have milk chocolate chips in a bag (which would make excellent cookies) and they were deliciously creamy, smooth, and chocolaty, with a hint of cinnamon in the background. I bought the dark chocolate couverture (spelling?) in convenient little wafers. The dark chocolate was 72%. (Didn't taste it)
The only problem I encountered when making the frosting was our cold kitchen. The arctic cooling technique made our already really cold apartment even colder. I had to keep the mixer going to keep the butter from hardening up in the mixer. The chocolate took forever to melt. And as soon as I took it off the double boiler to add to the butter, it began to HARDEN. ALREADY. There were little chunks of chocolate in the frosting, but really, that's not much of a problem.
After frosting the cake, I tried to drag a bread knife over the frosting to make neat lines but it didn’t really work. So then I decided to make a cool tonal design using cocoa powder. I placed the bottom of a 6 inch springform on top of the cake and sifted cocoa powder around the edge to make a dark brown border. In the middle of the circle, I hastily poured the cocoa powder in a big C. Ooooh. Fancy.
The cake was amazingly dark, moist, chocolaty, complex, and deeply satisfying. The frosting was intensely chocolaty and kind of was a distraction from the cake. As seriously tasty as the frosting was, I would have liked less of it. The cake was that good.
Coleen and I took photos with her camera since mine decided to die. I will post them once I receive them from Her Lady Coleen.