Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Pinecone Cake

This is Rose's Heavenly Cakes' version of a Buche de Noel; instead of turning a chocolate roulade into a log with some meringue mushrooms, this roulade is turned into a large pineconey thing with some spikes. Mine turned out less like a pinecone and more like male genitalia underneath a brown spiky blanket, but for the sake of this post I'm going to continue to pretend it was a pinecone. I shared it with the doulas, who are kind enough to let me crash the meetings every once in awhile even though I've retired from the doula life, and they didn't care that it wasn't a very good looking pinecone; they just cared that it was chocolate, and gluten-free to boot.

holiday pinecone cake

December 15, 2011
Name of Cake: Well, I can't think of a G-rated name for my cake
Occasion: Crashing the doula meeting
Constituents: Gluten-free chocolate cake rolled up with chocolate-almond ganache and covered in chocolate fondant

The original recipe is NOT gluten-free, but as there are doulas who are celiacs in the group I decided to convert the cake. The cake is a souffle-like cake, baked in a half sheet pan. It is leavened by eggs and doesn't have much flour to begin with, so it is an easy cake to convert. I don't have a pre-made gluten-free flour mix right now--I'm out of potato starch flour and keep forgetting until I need to bake something GF--so I just made it up. I would recommend using a GF flour mix--here's the Gluten-Free Girl's mix, Thomas Keller just came out with Cup4Cup, and I've mentioned the super basic mix over here in this post. There are lots of pre-made GF baking four mixes out there in the markets and internets, so you've got LOTS of options. I remember back in the early 2000s there were almost NO options, so today's GF scene looks pretty damn great.

Anyways, back to the cake. I regret I have no process photos; this is one of those cakes where all the construction would benefit from some process pics. Alas.

The cake is a simple roulade. There are several of them in RHC and it involves some tricky egg organizing. In one mixer bowl all the yolks and half the whites and all but a tablespoon of sugar are mixed until thick and fluffy. The flour(s) are sifted and folded in, then the cocoa paste, and this bowl is set aside. In the second mixer bowl, the remaining egg whites are beat until soft peaks, the tablespoon of sugar is mixed in, and then all is beat to a stiff meringue. The meringue is folded into the other stuff, the batter is spread out in the half sheet pan, and baked for about 7 minutes. When the cake is finished baking, it needs to be rolled up while it cools.

The ganache filling is a basic ganache, with the addition of chopped toasted almonds. The recipe calls for whole almonds that you roughly chop, but I had slivered so that's what I used. Like most ganache, it needs several hours to set up. I put it back in my unheated storage room to hasten the process.

Once the ganache is ready, you spread most of it over the unrolled and cooled cake. Then you roll the cake back up and at an angle, you cut the sides of one end so that the roll comes sort of to a point (but not so severely). Those two cut pieces are spackled onto the other end of the roll to make the cake more like a triangle than a log, or rather more like a pinecone than a log.

holiday pinecone cake
this slice is from the top of the pinecone--look closely and you can see the two spackled-on pieces on either side of the actual roll

The rest of the ganache is spread over the top and sides of the cake, and your naked pinecone looking thing goes into the refrigerator to firm up.

The last ingredient of this cake is the chocolate fondant. I have been avoiding making fondant since I read Rose's recipe for chocolate fondant in The Cake Bible almost ten years ago. It just seemed so foreign, and once I tasted a cake draped in (regular, not chocolate) fondant I decided there was no need to learn how to make such unappetizing stuff. Face it people, I don't care how pretty that shit looks on a cake; if you have to peel it off to actually enjoy said cake it doesn't belong there in the first place. So it was that I would have continued to avoid making fondant for the rest of my life if I hadn't joined the Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake-through and then got all serious about truly baking every single cake in the book. Why do I have to be so literal?

So late last night I took a huge breath and tackled chocolate fondant. First up, gelatin is softened in a little bit of water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. The cup is then placed in a pan of simmering water so that the gelatin can dissolve. Then corn syrup and glycerin are added, except I didn't have any glycerin so I skipped it. The shortening is added to this cup and stirred around until it melts. After this, the measuring cup of stuff is pulled from the simmering water and the vanilla is added. In another bowl, a ton of powdered sugar and some cocoa powder are whisked together and the cup of stuff is poured in. Rose says to stir with a wooden spoon which is a good idea because this mix is stiff, but all my wooden spoons smell like onions so I used a silicone spatula.

The fun part comes when you get to put on a pair of food prep gloves and knead the fondant until it becomes a smooth, pliable, shiny mass. I added some extra water because the fondant seemed a little dry but otherwise it came together pretty well. The fondant prefers an overnight in the refrigerator to evenly distribute the moisture, so I wrapped it up and put it to bed. This morning, I rolled it out between plastic wrap and draped it over the cake. I didn't do the most fabulous job of rolling out the fondant as it didn't cover the ends of the cake, but a patch job got the ends covered adequately. Then the fondant needs to be cut into Vs and the ends curled up to mimic the spikes on a pinecone. This takes some time but one you get a rhythm going, and once you remember that the doulas don't care what it looks like because it will be chocolate and they will eat it, the spikes move along pretty quickly.

holiday pinecone cake

I gave it a quick dust of powdered sugar then it was time to head out. I got there a little late so the meeting was already in progress, but the news of chocolate cake spread like wildfire around the room. Soon the meeting deteriorated into minor chaos as doulas were getting up left and right to get cake and have little side conversations. I felt a little bad, but also quite amused. Never come between a doula and chocolate cake. Eventually the meeting got back on track and everything was fine. The celiac doulas were happy to have cake. I was happy to be amongst some of my favorite people, and to be able to pass another Heavenly Cake onto others.

The cake is deeply richly chocolaty, and like most roulades, the cake component gets lost amongst all the ganache. The chocolate fondant was not only easy to make, but it tastes pretty decent. This was a good chocolate bomb, but next time I want to make the traditional yule log instead.

I mentioned to the doulas how grateful I was that they let me still crash meetings, and the general reply was, "its because you bring cake." That is a small price to pay to spend time with such wonderful women.

holiday pinecone cake

Marie has the funniest post about her pinecone cake, plus all the process photos you'd want. Please go take a look! Here's the Last Cake, Next cake roundup; only eight bakers including Marie tackled the Pinecone, and we gave Lois a hearty welcome!

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Roundup of RHC Wedding Cakes

For the grand finale of the second round of the RHC bake-through, Jenn gave us the option of baking any of the wedding cakes in the book. At first I think many of us were wondering how to gather 100-150 people to eat a three-tier wedding cake, but later Jenn specified we could bake any one of the three layers.

I think this will be the first and last time I will lazily point to my previous efforts in this category, instead of skipping the week altogether or baking something new. I hope you will forgive me for simply doing a round-up.

DEEP CHOCOLATE PASSION WEDDING CAKE

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

I made the 9-inch version of this cake for my friend Brains' birthday in April 2010. The only modification I made was to use my favorite raspberry ganache instead of the regular ganache called for in the recipe. My lacquer glaze was a bit thick when I poured it over the cake, so I needed to smooth it out with an offset spatula. Brains waxed poetic about the lacquer glaze, and loved the contrast between the milk chocolaty insides and the dark chocolaty outsides.

GOLDEN DREAM WEDDING CAKE

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

This is the 12 inch tier of the Golden Dream Wedding Cake, for the bottom tier of Sam and Andrea's wedding cake this past July 2011. This is when I finally accepted that my little 4 quart KitchenAid cannot successfully mix the batter for a two layer, 12 inch cake. Although I filled the cake with the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream called for in the recipe, I frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream. People were initially hesitant about this cake layer, but once they tried it they loved it! I got asked if I was single and hitting the after party after one guy tried this layer, and one of the photographers exclaimed, "how can it be so dense and yet so light?!" I know, how does Rose do it?

I also made the 6 inch layer of the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake--but filled it with Midnight Ganache and frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

I have had a wonderful two years participating in this bake-through. The techniques I have learned, the complicated cakes I never would have attempted have made me a better and more confident baker. Most enjoyable, however, was sharing this journey with so many amazing bakers. I have loved looking at and reading about all of our adventures in heavenly cake baking--our beautiful successes, our brilliant modifications, and our witty write-ups. We've watched kitchen remodels, babies grow into children, couples get engaged and married, and it wouldn't have happened without Rose, Marie, and Jenn. Virtual cakey hugs to you all--see you for Rose's Baking Bible bake-through!

(If you, like me, feel this is such an anti-climatic way to go out, don't worry. I still have THREE cakes left in Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and I will finish! I promise!)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Tiramisu

I was really looking forward to Rose's Tiramisu as it is one of my favorite desserts. All that creamy deliciousness! Sadly, my creamy deliciousness never thickened up and remains a very rich and yummy runny mess.

(Subpar) Tiramisu

November 16, 2011
Name of Cake: A Yummy Runny Mess
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: espresso-soaked savioardi biscuits sort of layered with a improper zabaglione/mascarpone mixture and heavily dusted with cocoa powder

A proper Tiramisu, for those who aren't in the know, should be layers of ladyfingers lightly soaked in espresso, layered with a thick and creamy substance that is partly egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine (a sweet wine) heated and whipped until thick and foamy, mixed with mascarpone cheese which is a triple-cream cream cheese (less tangy than a regular cream cheese), and lastly folded into whipped cream (or actually the whipped cream is folded into the other stuff).

I have made Tiramisu a couple of times before, both times using sheets of gluten-free biscuit instead of ladyfingers. The creamy mix was from Anna Maria's Open Kitchen. There are lots of nice how-to photos in that post if you are interested. With the second of the two cakes, the insides were perfectly creamy and thick. Sigh.

First off, you either need to bake a batch of ladyfingers, or buy some savioardi biscuits at the store. At first I was planning on baking my own ladyfingers, but when I counted up the eggs needed for both ladyfingers and tiramisu filling it came to at least 14 eggs! That's more eggs than you can shake a stick at, so I decided to just buy the biscuits and call it good.

Next up, the zabaglione. This is the egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine, which is whipped up to a thick and frothy custard. In these bacteria-laden times, the yolks need to be gently heated to 165°F. Rose suggests the double boiler method, but also says if you have an unlined copper bowl, you can put that straight on a low flame and heat the eggs that way. I have such a bowl, thanks to my mother who bought it during her copper phase in the 1970's. I have an electric stove, and I needed to turn the heat up to almost medium-low before the yolks started to heat up. This all took a lot longer than the five minutes recommended in the book, and the mixture went from light and fluffy to sticky and deflated by the time the eggs were up to temperature. Alas.

This mixture needs to cool down to room temperature before the mascarpone and whipped cream can be added, so in the meantime I got the espresso ready. A little bit of the marsala and some sugar are added to take the edge off the bitterness, and half of it is poured into a shallow dish for dipping.

I couldn't find imported mascarpone (in retrospect, I didn't look that hard), so used what I could find. The mascarpone is beat until creamy, then the custard is mixed in, then a little vanilla. In a separate bowl, heavy cream is whipped to stiff peaks with sugar and vanilla. The whipped cream is folded into the cheesy-egg stuff and there you have it: tiramisu filling!

(Subpar) Tiramisu

The ladyfingers are quickly dipped into the espresso--enough to soften the outsides but not make the cookies soggy--and are used to line the bottom of a pan. This recipe originally calls for one 9x13 inch dish, but I decided to gift most of it to Cookie and her family for Thanksgiving next week. (The tiramisu can be refrigerated for three day or frozen for three months before serving.) I used a 9x9 inch dish to give away, and a loaf pan for myself. After lining the bottom of the pan(s) with soaked ladyfingers, half the cheese mixture gets spread on top. I became really concerned about the state of my cheesy stuff when instead of spreading, it poured, in a very liquidy way, over the bottom of the pan. Now it was time to lay down the second layer of soaked biscuits and the top layer of cheese. Things were so liquidy that some of the ladyfingers floated up to the top of the dish when I was sprinkling the tops with cocoa powder.

I sighed a heavy sigh, muttered several choice curse words, wrapped my two pans of stuff in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.

The next morning I tried some of the tiramisu. Definitely soupy. Pretty darn good. I can't taste the espresso however and that bums me out. Despite being a runny mess it is still enjoyable, especially with a cup of coffee.

Tongiht I tried another little bit and the stuff seems a tad firmer, but still really loose. I'm not sure what I'll do with the larger pan. I'm not too keen on giving it to Cookie to serve to her family since it is subpar. But I can't eat an entire tiramisu myself. Perhaps I will freeze it for another day. (ETA: I froze it.)

I can't remember what my previous tiramisus tasted like. I liked them, but was it better than this version? (Provided I made this version correctly.) I would like to try this recipe again and hopefully do a better job, and maybe if I am inspired (and have a ton of eggs) I'll make the other recipe and compare.

(Subpar) Tiramisu

Here's Marie's perfect Tiramisu which was before the group bake-through, so there's no Last Cake, Next Cake roundup.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bernachon Palet d'Or

This cake is the one on the cover of the book; a single layer, richly chocolaty cake enrobed in the shiny lacquer glaze and fancied up with currants and edible gold leaf. The recipe for the Bernachon Palet d'Or takes up several pages and looks daunting, but I assure you there are only three components and all of them are easy. If you love chocolate then you need to make this cake.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

November 21, 2011
Name of Cake: Ta-Da!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9 inch layer sour cream chocolate cake, frosted with creme fraiche ganache, glazed with lacquer glaze and decorated with currants

The cake, made with sour cream and a good amount of butter, is baked in the familiar two-stage method. Instead of blooming the cocoa powder in boiling water, it is mixed in with the sour cream and eggs. Half of that is added to the dry ingredients and butter which are beat for 90 seconds. The rest of the sour cream stuff is added in two parts. The resulting batter is so thick and rich that had I not known better, I would have thought it was a bowlful of chocolate buttercream. This gets baked for about 30 minutes.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

The ganache is made with creme fraiche, a little bit of heavy cream, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. There is the option to make the sour cream ganache, but I thought I'd try the creme fraiche version. It is not quite as tangy as the sour cream ganache but just as velvety. I made the ganache the old fashioned way, by chopping up the chocolate very finely and pouring the scalded dairy products over.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

After the cake is frosted with the ganache and all surfaces smoothed out, it is time to make and glaze the cake. The glaze is easy to make and it is always fun to pour it over the cake. I decided to do two coats, as I missed a couple of spot on the sides and it was just fun to do. It take several hours for the glaze to set, but since my kitchen is quite cold this time of year it didn't take nearly as long. I had frozen some red currants over the summer in anticipation of this cake so I defrosted some for this photo session.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

This is a wonderfully decadent cake. The cake itself melts in your mouth it is so tender, and the rich ganache and bittersweet ganache are excellent components. I think I will need a little vanilla ice cream and a cup of tea to accompany my slice of cake, which is never a bad idea. I like that it is pretty easy to put together and yet is a show-stopper of a dessert.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

It is quite dark this time of year in the PNW; not only does the sun set around 4:30 but the skies are laden with dark gray clouds. Check out how dark my living room was by 4:00!

Bernachon Palet d'Or

Anyway I brought that up because I had fun photographing this cake, on that glass plate, with my limited light.

Bernachon Palet d'Or

Bernachon Palet d'Or

Bernachon Palet d'Or

Bernachon Palet d'Or

I almost forgot! Here's Marie's Bernachon Palet d'Or from the original bakethrough, and the Last Cake, Next Cake roundup of participants.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Baby Lemon Cheesecake, and a bonus cake

The Baby Lemon Cheesecakes are everything you'd expect a Rose cheesecake to be: creamy, soft, lemony, and absolutely delicious. Rose's cheesecakes have unanimously won over cheesecake-haters, which really is all that needs to be said.

(Baby) Lemon Cheesecake

November 9, 2011
Name of Cake: A Cheesecake Everyone Will Love
Occasion:HCB
Constituents: a cheesecake, atop a sponge cake layer and topped with lemon curd

I am the opposite kind of baker from Jenn. While she makes cute, delicious, mini versions of RHC, I like to mash all the individual portions together and make one large cake. The Coffee Chiffonlets became a Coffee Chiffon cake, the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes became one 8-inch cake, and the Barcelona Brownie Bars became an 8x8 pan. So for my last project in the Babycakes Chapter of RHC, I decided to make one 6x2-inch cheesecake instead of 12 mini cakes. Much better.

I added up the total amount of batter and it comes out to 26.4 ounces, which was just perfect for a 6x2 inch cake. I forgot to take the sponge cake layer into account so I had about 1/4 cup of batter that wouldn't fit. I baked that separately and ate it as a midnight snack.

(Baby) Lemon Cheesecake

The first step in this cheesecake is to make the sponge cake layer. The recipe is attached to the Caramel Apple Charlotte, and to me it is a very confusing recipe. I had to re-write it, Cliffs Notes style, to make sense of it:

(Baby) Lemon Cheesecake, biscuit recipe cliff notes

(I did something similar when baking the Chocolate Apricot Roll.)

After cutting out a round to fit in the bottom of your pan (or cupcake molds, if you are making the individual cakes), it is time to make the cheesecake batter. Mixing up a cheesecake is so dead simple I keep thinking I've missed a step; in fact, Rose spells it out in only four sentences. There is no other cake in this book that only takes four sentences to tell you how to mix it up. The cream cheese and sugar are creamed in the mixer, then the eggs are added, then the lemon juice and salt. Lastly the sour cream, or in my case full-fat yogurt, is beat in. Like all of Rose's cheesecakes, there's more sour cream/yogurt than cream cheese which is probably why it comes out so creamy and light. One of these days I'd like to use full-fat greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute. (Or have I already?)

The cheesecake gets baked in a water bath until the insides register 160°F. I have made cheesecake soup, so I really like having the internal temperature to go off of now. Unfortunately I can't recall how long it took to bake the cheesecake as I was baking by temperature. It took more than 30 minutes but less than 45.

(Baby) Lemon Cheesecake

The cheesecake will still jiggle in the middle but all is well. The cake gets wrapped up and refrigerated for at least an hour before the curd is applied, and gets another 2 hours afterwards. Since I made a larger cake I chose to refrigerate it overnight before serving, just in case. I also unmolded the cheesecake before adding the lemon curd.

For the lemon curd, I already had some homemade curd leftover from January of 2011, plus I also had an open jar of store bought curd from a different previous project (the Lemon Meringue Cake). I was able to use up all the homemade and most of the store bought for the topping. The curd needed to be hot to pour over the cheesecakes, so I cooked it over low heat, stirring constantly until hot and pourable. Once the curd is on the cake it goes back in the refrigerator for at least two hours to firm up.

Like I said, this cheesecake is everything you'd expect from Rose: creamy, light, rich, and not too sweet. The lemon curd pairs perfectly with the cake. The sponge cake is lost amongst the cheesecake, but it does make a nice presentation. My cheesecake was quite wet--from using yogurt instead of sour cream maybe?--and the sponge cake layer did a nice job soaking up the liquid. Honestly, I'd prefer the classic cookie crust, be it graham or gingersnap.

bonus chocolate-raspberry roulade

I turned the extra sponge cake (I needed less than a quarter for the cheesecake) into a bonus roulade using leftover ingredients from other cakes. I defrosted the 1/4 cup of caramel ganache leftover from the Big German Chocolate Cake, I used up the last of the raspberry puree from the Moist Chocolate Raspberry Ganache, and the last of the raspberry whipped cream from the Almond Shamah Chiffon. I love raspberries and chocolate so this is a nice little extra cake to have around.

Here's Marie's Baby Lemon Cheesecakes from the original bake-through, of which she made proper individual portions, and right before her daughter's wedding! Lady, where did you find the time?
The Last, Cake, Next Cake round-up for these cakes includes lots of variations; worth checking out!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Almond Shamah Chiffon

A lovely and light cake with the warm flavor of toasted almonds and paired with a simple raspberry jam whipped cream. Although this dessert would seem more appropriate in the spring, the toasty nuts make this just as good for a crisp fall day. And as I have said elsewhere, pink frosting makes everything cheery.

Almond Shamah Chiffon
although i just said pink frosting is cheery, i presented you with a photo of pink frosting on a dark gray morning and didn't process it for light, so instead of cheery i see dreary. oh well!

November 1, 2011
Name of Cake: Toasty!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: two 9 in layers of almond chiffon cake, filled and frosted with raspberry whipped cream

I am fascinated by chiffon cake. Not quite a genoise and too light for a butter cake, chiffon cake straddles the middle between light and spongy, and substantial and rich. This cake, in particular, blurs the boundaries even more by not being rubbery like standard chiffon cakes, baked in layer pans like genoise cakes, and employing ground toasted almonds like a nut cake--or even a financier.

The Almond Shamah Chiffon, named after Rose's former assistant David Shamah, starts with toasting the almonds, then grinding them up in a food processor with the wondra flour and baking soda. The recipe calls for an equal weight of egg whites to yolks, which means you'll be freezing extra whites for a future white cake, or egg white chocolate buttercream, or italian meringue buttercream, or...you get the idea. (A large egg has about 30g egg white to about 19g egg yolk.)

The yolks and half the sugar are whipped up to the ribbon stage, the oil and some warm water and flavorings added, and whipped back up to a frothy mass. The ground nut mixture is sprinkled over the top and set aside while you tend to the egg whites. The egg whites are beat to soft peaks, the other half of the sugar is beat in until stiffish peaks. Then the meringue is folded, in three parts, into the yolky stuff.

Almond Shamah Chiffon

What you get is what Rose describes as a very thick batter.

Almond Shamah Chiffon

This batter fills the pans about 1/3 full and bakes for about 20-30 minutes. The cakes need to be unmolded as soon as they are pulled from the oven and set upright to cool.

In the meantime, I made the sugar syrup for the cake. This is super easy: the sugar and water are combined in a small pot, brought to a boil, covered and pulled from the heat. That's about it. Once the syrup cools, the liqueur can be added. The original recipe called for Amaretto, but I choose to go with something I already had in my pantry: Tuaca. This is a lightly citrusy/vanilla liqueur and I thought both the citrus and the vanilla would go well with the almondy cake, as well as the raspberry frosting. To be honest, in the final product I can't really taste it. (However it hasn't been 24 hours yet, maybe by tomorrow it will be more boozy?)

Almond Shamah Chiffon

Once the cakes are cooled, the top and bottom crusts are removed and the syrup painted on. Then was time frosting time. The frosting was just about as easy to make as the sugar syrup. Heavy cream is whipped until beater marks leave traces, then the raspberry jam is added in, and the whole thing whipped to stiffish peaks. I had homemade raspberry jam left over from when I made it for Coleen's big birthday cake last December, and was happy to use it up.

Whipped cream frostings apply to cakes very easily and so filling and frosting were a breeze. The cake needs about 24 refrigerated hours to set up and let the flavors sort themselves out. After about nine hours I decided it was time to try a slice. It was delicious. The cake is soft, but it still has tooth. The toasted almonds and the raspberry jam play off each other in a way not unsimilar to peanut butter and jelly. A simple cake, with lots of delicious flavor that could be dressed up for a dinner party or left casual for tea time (or breakfast).

Almond Shamah Chiffon

Almond Shamah Chiffon

ETA: Here's Marie's Almond Shamah Chiffon, which she took the day off work to bake. Apparently not a lot of bakers made it through to the Last Cake, Next Cake round-up, but Vicki was named featured baker.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black Chocolate Party Cake

Last weekend, I made a jaunt up to the Seattle area to visit some friends. My first stop was to see a high school buddy and his hilarious wife. I was also visiting the lovely Raiuchka, and was hoping to share cake with everybody. Alas for poor Raiuchka and her family, the cake I brought up didn't make it past Port Orchard.

I wanted a simple, easy cake that could live without refrigeration and last for several days. Out of the cakes left, I chose the Black Party Chocolate cake. It has party in the title--it has to be good, right?

October 20, 2011
Name of Cake: It Has Party in the Title!
Occasion: HCB, and hostess gift
Constituents: one chocolate-walnut bundt, syruped with cocoa-kahlua syrup and served with vanilla ice cream and rum sauce

I have ONE photo of this cake, so I will try to keep my blog post brief.

The cake is a butter-sour cream bundt with toasted walnuts replacing some of the flour. It is quick to mix and bakes for almost an hour. While the cake bakes, a cocoa syrup is made by bringing cocoa powder, sugar and hot water to a boil over low heat. Once it comes to a boil, the syrup is removed from the heat and left to cool a bit before the vanilla extract and Kahlua are added in. Then it needs to stay hot until it is brushed on the cake.

My cake tested done at the lowest bake time, so I pulled it out, immediately poked the cake with a skewer and brushed on a third of the syrup. The cake immediately sighed a huge sigh and sunk at least two inches. I hoped that was normal. After letting the cake set up for ten minutes in the pan, it is turned out onto a bunch of plastic wrap on a cardboard cake round. The rest of the syrup is brushed over the cake, the plastic sides pulled up to squoosh any wayward syrup back into the cake, and the cake is left to cool completely.

My bundt was so short and stubby, and when we cut it open we could see that the cake's texture was dense and in places, gummy. I don't know if it needed a few more minutes to bake, or if I did something to weaken the structure. Despite being dense, the cake was still soft and tender and very chocolaty. The cocoa syrup didn't penetrate the cake much at all, so I'm not sure if it really contributes much flavor, but it did seal the sides in nicely. I liked the toasted walnuts with the chocolate--they were a nice pair. This cake goes really well with ice cream, but then Beck had the sudden inspiration to make a rum sauce to go with the cake. Best idea ever.

black chocolate party cake with vanilla ice cream and rum sauce

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate Ingots

The HCB baked the peanut butter ingots this week, which I baked the first time around. I didn't love them, but I didn't hate them, either. I was compelled to then bake a batch of peanut butter cupcakes and frost them with the lacquer glaze, which tells me they were just not peanut buttery enough.

In HCB solidarity, I decided this would be the week I tackled the Chocolate Ingots.

Chocolate Ingots

October 25, 2011
Name of cakelettes: Chocolate cakey thingums
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: chocolate finaciers, with caramelized cocoa nib pieces

Rose's financiers recipes are not that hard to execute, and generally come together quite quickly. This recipe has an extra step of caramelizing the cocoa nibs but that isn't too difficult. I've been eagerly saving my cocoa nibs that I bought in Mexico for this recipe. The best before date was for sometime in 2010, but I used them anyway.

Chocolate Ingots

Cocoa nibs smell like a cross between chocolate and roasted coffee beans. To caramelize them, they are tossed around in a medium-hot saute pan with some sugar until the sugar dissolves. Then a tiny amount of butter is added and the caramelly nibs are poured out onto a silicone liner to cool. Once the nibs are cool, they are crushed and set aside.

Chocolate Ingots

The only other part of this recipe that may take time is making the beurre noisette. Earlier in the bake-through I browned a pound of butter and stored it in the freezer; whenever we've needed any for financiers or genoise I've just shaved off what I needed. Sadly, today I needed more brown butter than I had stored in the freezer so I had to make more.

The beurre noisette is kept warm while the rest of the recipe gets under way. Almonds are toasted and ground fine with flour and cornstarch. I used my immersion blender and the nuts weren't evenly ground. I'm ok with that, however. Cocoa powder is also blended in with the dry ingedients.

Chocolate Ingots

Egg whites and sugar are mixed together by hand, the dry ingredients are added and also mixed by hand. Then the most interesting part of the recipe: mixing in the beurre noisette. This needs to be slowly added to the eggs and dry ingredients over five minutes of mixing time to properly emulsilfy the batter. I timed myself this time, and found that by three minutes I had already drizzled in half of the butter. I guess when Rose says drizzle, she really means it. I had all the butter in by 4 minutes of mixing, but the batter seemed ok to me. It was very pretty: thick and creamy and nicely aerated. The last ingredient to be added is the caramelized cocoa nibs, which also get sprinkled on top of the cakes before they bake.

Chocolate Ingots

Normally these would be baked in a financier mold, but I opted for silicone cupcake cups. I used the same amount of batter per cup as is prescribed for the financier mold (30 grams). They baked for about 20 minutes and filled my apartment with a caramelly-chocolate aroma. Nice!

They are pretty good little cakes. They have a nice crisp crust and a moist interior. The almonds and cocoa nibs complement the chocolate (and all that butter) nicely. I like them, but I don't love them. They do make nice little chocolate snacks, and for that I can't complain.

Chocolate Ingots

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moist Chocolate Raspberry Genoise

In an attempt to catch up with the rest of the group I thought I'd squeeze in another cake between the Pumpkin Cake and next week's upcoming cake. I had chocolate on the brain, so chose the Moist Chocolate Raspberry Genoise.

This cake is moist and light and rich, all at the same time. Oh, and deeply chocolaty.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

October 17, 2011
Name of Cake: A Chocolaty Contrast in Textures
Occasion: HCB catch up
Constituents: two 9x2 inch layers chocolate genoise, filled and frosted with raspberry ganache

This cake, which doesn't seem like it would take all day to bake, took all day to bake.

Partly because there are lots of steps in this recipe, partly because twice you're supposed to bring something to a boil over low heat which in my kitchen took about an hour each time, and mostly because I needed to take lots of breaks. There's also two one-hour cool downs, and I know, I am whining.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

The genoise starts out with the funky instructions to cook over 300 grams of dark chocolate with some water until it reaches a puddinglike consistency. This was the first instance of bringing something to a boil over low heat, and eventually I gave up and cranked up the heat to high whilst vigorously stirring. In mere seconds I got the chocolate to look like pudding. This hot chocolate stuff gets covered tightly, and left to cool down to room temperature (about one hour). In the meantime, I roasted some squash and got the rest of my mise together for the cake.

After the chocolate cools, the eight eggs are whipped up to a lovely fluffy mass. Then the flour is supposed to be sifted over the eggs in three batches and folded in, however I chose not to sift. Because I am stupid. As I watched the flour clump into little balls as I folded, I thought, "oh HELL no. THE DREADED FLOUR BALLS." After the flour is incorporated, the chocolate is folded in and the batter is finished. The cakes bake for about half an hour, during which I ate my squash.

I fumbled one of the cake layers when I was turning it out of the pan in such a way that the cake was a bit deflated and dented even on one side. The other layer looked perfect.

While the cakes cooled, I made the raspberry puree. This is simply defrosted raspberries; the juice is concentrated and the berries are pressed through a fine mesh strainer. I overconcentrated the juice a tad, but I also had more pressed berry mass than called for so I figured that evened everything out. Once the puree is assembled, it can hang out for up to one week in the refrigerator and frozen for even longer.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

Next up I made the raspberry ganache. Now this is my most favorite ganache of all time; I love the tangy undertones and slightly reddish color. Usually I am a good girl and I follow the instructions and use the food processor. This afternoon I decided I didn't want to make space on my counter for the processor, nor did I want to clean it up afterwards. So I decided to finely chop the chocolate and stir it together by hand. That also took longer than was necessary. I will totally use the food processor next time, I promise!

At this point, three of four components were made, my sink was full of dishes, and my counterspace all used up. The last component was the cocoa syrup, which also needed to come to a full rolling boil over low heat. While I waited for that to happen I did all my dishes. Then I futzed for a bit until the syrup had come to a decent boil and pulled it off the stove. Instead of adding the optional black raspberry chambord I added a tablespoon of the leftover raspberry puree.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

Then it was time to peel off the top crusts of the genoise and split the layers into two. Rose says to save the top and bottom crusts as they can be crumbled and pressed onto the sides of the cake. She says the top crust especially will be sticky (it was) and will need to dry out at room temp for an hour before processing. I found that I needed to dry it out in a 200°F oven for a bit before I could process them into fine crumbs.

As I scraped the bottom crust off I found lots of the dreaded flour balls. I picked put as many as I could, then when I split the cakes into two I found more in the centers of the cakes!! Heed my warning, friends: SIFT THE FLOUR.

The one genoise cake that deflated a bit made two skinny layers, and without thinking I syruped those first and heavily. By the time I got to the layers from the non-deflated cake there wasn't much syrup left. The third layer down in the photograph below only received a whisper of syrup on only one side, but this genoise really is very moist on its own. The syrup isn't super necessary, methinks.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

After all the syruping shenanigans it was time to stack and frost. There is just enough ganache to thinly fill and frost this cake, and really a thin layer is all you need. By the time the cake crumbs were dried and processed, the ganache had already firmed itself up enough that the crumbs didn't really stick. They do give a nice visual texture to the cake which I am in favor of. I think the leftover crumbs will mix nicely in some vanilla yogurt, or sprinkled on top of some ice cream.

moist chocolate raspberry genoise

The cake really is soft, and rich, and light, and moist. I love how Rose can juxtapose such different textures in one cake. Rich and decadent chocolate cake without being heavy, dense, and cloying? Yep, it can happen, so long as you've got Rose to show you how.

Here's Marie's cake from the original bake-through. She has lots of great process photos so go check it out!