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!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream

Hello everyone. I disappeared for a little bit, didn't I? I was out of town, I've had house guests. The usual reasons why I stop posting for a bit. However I am back, I am four cakes behind in the bake-through, and fall is here.

Time for Pumpkin cake.

pumpkin cake with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream

October 11, 2011
Name of Cake: A Fall Cake
Occasion: House guests, and HCB
Constituents: a pumpkin bundt, frosted with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream

This is a wonderfully moist and spicy cake that can be baked in a 10-cup bundt pan or, if you like specialty pans, can be baked in a pumpkin mold. Guess which option I chose? If you guessed bundt, you are a winner. The cake assembles fairly easily and quickly, especially since it is an oil cake so there's no butter to warm up. Sadly, the cake doesn't need an entire can of pumpkin puree, so if you got ideas for the leftover pumpkin, leave a handy comment. With the toasted walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg, this cake is quintessentially fall. The fact that it is made with my favorite light muscovado isn't a bad thing, either.

The bundt unmolded with such a lovely crust that I was reluctant to cover it up with frosting, but I did it anyway. I was curious how the burnt orange frosting would pair with the pumpkin cake, which is traditionally frosted with the popular cream cheese frosting.

pumpkin cake with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream

Rose's Silk Meringue Buttercream is her version of the more ubiquitous Swiss or Italian Meringue Buttercream. The latter buttercreams require stabilizing a meringue, either by warming the whites and sugar over a double boiler or adding a sugar syrup to the beaten meringue. Then the butter is beat in, then the flavorings, and the frostings are complete. The Silk Meringue Buttercream starts with making a creme anglaise, in this case a caramel creme anglaise. Then an Italian meringue is made. Then softened butter is creamed, the anglaise beat in, and lastly the meringue and any other flavorings (in this case, orange zest and orange juice concentrate). In comparison, the Swiss and Italian Meringue Buttercreams are easy, richly buttery and silky smooth. Not too sweet, and capable of a good flavor punch. The Silk Meringue Buttercream is impossibly light, silky, and offers another big flavor punch. It takes more time, but at this point in my RHC journey, all the steps are easy. My one complaint about the Silk etc Buttercream is that is it really persnickety: if the butter, creme anglaise and italian meringue aren't between 70 and 75°F, the mixture will not emulsify. There will be curdling and oilyness and it will not be outstubborned by vigorous beating like a Swiss or Italian etc Buttercream. Obviously this has happened the three times I've made this frosting, so I am kind of on the outs with it.

Although it does not say so in the recipe nor its header, the cake and frosting really don't come into their own until after 24 hours. The night I made the cake, I shared it with the Stooges and Cabbage. It was only ok; the frosting just tasted orangey and didn't blend with the cake, which just tasted of spices. Cookie thought we were eating carrot cake. However the next day, and even on the third day, the cake was still moist as day one but had the pumpkiny flavor we had expected, and the orangey frosting finally felt like a team player. I am sorry to say that the caramel tones in the frosting have diminshed over time--or at least don't hold up against the orange and the cake. I do think the Burnt Orange buttercream would be a nice compliment to a dark and spicy carrot cake.

pumpkin cake with burnt orange silk meringue buttercream

A great fall cake that stays moist and flavorful for days. The frosting, although time consuming, is also delicious but I would prefer it on another cake. This cake just doesn't need the extra bells and whistles.

ETA: This week, the HCB are baking the Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes, which were a terrible failure for me. Read my woes here!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

Jeremy, aka Cabbage Jello, is having himself another birthday. He is kind of ho-hum about his birthdays, but secretly I think he likes to do something to celebrate the day. At least he likes a peanut butter-chocolate cake on his birthday. I usually bake up a couple of chocolate cakes and frost them with a peanut butter-cream cheese frosting, but this year I wanted to shake things up.

Peanut butter CAKE and chocolate frosting! I know, crazy!

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

September 20, 2011
Name of Cake: A Cake for a Cabbage
Occasion: Cabbage's Birthday
Constituents: two 6x1.5 inch peanut butter cakes filled and frosted with sour cream ganache

For some reason, in the last few years poor Cabbage's birthday falls right at a time when I am super busy. This means that I don't have much time to do a lot of fun stuff with his cake, like frost it in peanut butter frosting then glaze it in ganache, or make the peanut butter ganache from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. It means that I have time to defrost a tub of sour cream ganache and fill and frost with that. Not that I think it won't pair well, I just hope it won't overpower the peanut butter cakes. Cabbage likes at least a 50/50 balance of peanut butter to chocolate, and would prefer to tip the balance in favor of peanut butter.

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

I did a quick search around the internet to see if there were any peanut butter cakes I would want to try. The first link I clicked on, Eat, Live, Run had a nice one layer cake that she said was really light and fluffy. Further tooling around the internet found this same recipe repeated everywhere, and I discovered it originally came from Bon Appetit in 2005.

The original recipe was a three layer 9x1.5 inch cake, filled with a peanut butter-chocolate ganache type goo and frosted with a cream cheese frosting and topped with butterfinger bits. Holy cow, people. Can we say too much? However, I was pleased to see the recipe used natural peanut butter instead of that hydrogenated sugared crap most recipes lean on.

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

I converted the original recipe to grams (OMG why can't the baking world please just accept the metric system) and cut it in thirds for two 6 inch cakes. I subbed light muscovado for golden brown sugar and scaled it back so that it was equal weight with the flour. I rounded down the egg to one, and increased the leavening to a total of 3/4 teaspoon.

In hindsight, I should have remembered that I have 2 inch pans and if you're only stacking two layers, two inch high cakes look better. I would have cut the recipe into half instead of thirds. As it is, the little cake layers look short. But they do smell peanut buttery, like a peanut butter cookie.

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

The mixing of the cake is really simple: butter and peanut butter are beat until light, the sugar is creamed with the butter, the eggs are added in, and the dry ingredients are alternated with the buttermilk.

The cake itself was light and fluffy, as promised. The peanut butter flavor was present, and delicious. Sadly, as I feared, the sour cream ganache overpowered the cake. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will think about RHC's peanut buttercream as frosting, and maybe a light whipped ganache as filling, or glaze the cake in the lacquer glaze. And maybe jam as the filling. So many options! All in all, this cake is a peanut buttery winner.

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache

Jeremy's Peanut Butter Cake with Sour Cream Ganache
Jeremy's Peanut Butter Birthday Cake
adapted from Bon Appetit's Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake with Cream Cheese and Butterfinger Frosting
makes two 6x1.5 inch cakes

  • 121g bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 tsp non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp baking soda
  • pinch sea salt
  • 47g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2.5 tbsp natural peanut butter, preferably salted and crunchy
  • 121g light muscovado sugar (light brown sugar is an ok substitute)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 tsp vanilla
  • 81g buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F, place a rack in the bottom third of the oven.
Prep the cake pans: grease the bottoms of two 6x1.5 or two 6x2 pans, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, and grease and flour the pans.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together until light. Beat in the sugar, then the egg, then the vanilla. On low speed, or by hand, mix in the dry ingredients in four parts alternating with the buttermilk in three parts.

Divide the batter between the two pans, even out the tops with an offset spatula, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then turn out the cakes, reinvert so that the tops are up, and let cool completely.

Fill and frost as you like, but too much chocolate ganache will push the peanut butter off the stage and steal the show.