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Archive for the ‘Baked Goods’ Category

Chocolate Stout Cake

Chocolate Stout Cake

A week like this deserves a cake like this, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Dense, moist (for at least a week post-bake), and so rich it’s almost bitter, this is a chocolate cake and then some. There are two things I love about this cake, that make it stand out from other chocolate cakes I have made in my life, including the behemoth birthday cake 2010.

1. The texture. As I said, this cake is moist and stays moist (I’m having luck with that lately, since this was also the case with the Chai-Spiced Apple Cake). I think it’s the sour cream. This Chocolate Stout Cake is tender, not tough, and for a cake with such rich flavor, there is a certain amount of airiness going on in the crumb. I’m thinking that might have something to do with the carbonation in the stout? In any case, it makes the cake really soft but substantial.

2. The taste. This is Chocolate Cake 2.0. I couldn’t get enough of the flavor because (gasp!) there is more going on than just chocolate. The stout adds bitterness and body to the taste without taking away from the fabulous cocoa flavor (for how I feel about cocoa, check out these brownies). Adding a coffee-laced ganache adds just another subtle layer of flavor that just makes the whole thing taste more sophisticated.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Imagine my delight when it came out of the pan... whole!

This cake is brought to you by smitten kitchen… but actually, it was brought to me by one of my students, who had promised to bring my colleague and me lunch one day. Lunch was apparently a kitchen fail, but she brought this cake to say she was sorry, and I not only forgave her instantly, but promised myself I would someday make it!

Finally, a note to my mom: the cake tastes nothing like beer, the ganache tastes nothing like coffee (I know, you don’t like either flavor). And if you are worried about buying these ingredient and never finishing them, just save them until Sean and I come home. Miss you!

Chocolate Stout Cake

Chocolate Stout Cake

Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted it from the Barrington Brewery via Bon Appetite

Cake ingredients:

  • 1 cup stout (we actually used oatmeal stout, go figure)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (people prefer Dutch-process, I used the old faithful, Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (I used light)

For the ganache:

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a bundt pan well – really well, people, don’t skimp on the Pam. I have been known to brush the inside of my bundt pan with melted butter, and this time I actually both sprayed and brushed. Call me crazy, but you see, my cake came out of the pan, so in Bridezilla vs. Bundt, I won.

Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is reasonably well combined. The original recipe says the mixture should be smooth but I couldn’t get a totally even texture, and suffered no ill consequences. Cool slightly.

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on low. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the bundt pan, then turn cake out onto rack.

Ganache:

Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring. Don’t overheat, but make sure you let it get hot enough that it will pour evenly. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake.

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Chai-Spiced Apple Cake

Chai-Spiced Apple Cake

Guys, I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for this post! Last weekend, while scanning my saved recipes and pondering what to make for a Super Bowl party, I began dreaming about making a chai-spiced apple cake. As soon as I got the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I made it… and once I made it, I could hardly wait to write about it! Spiced apples are themselves a beautiful thing, but adding the chai flavor, and then baking it all into a beautifully rustic, sour cream-based cake… people, this stuff is good. I have been eagerly anticipating being able to share this recipe with you — I can’t wait for someone else to try it!

Two recipes for apple cakes found on two of my favorite blogs inspired this chai-spiced wonder cake. The first was Joy the Baker’s Spiced Apple Cake, which looked awesome & easy — and I loved the idea of using a spring-form pan. Cakes are just cleaner in spring-form pans 🙂 In terms of flavor, though, I was looking for something with a different mix of spices — I don’t love fresh nutmeg, don’t own allspice (and at a 1/2 teaspoon, is it really worth substituting?), etc. Without those spices, though, I didn’t think my cake would have a strong enough flavor kick.

The other apple cake inspiration was Ezra Pound Cake’s Chai-Apple Pie Coffee Cake, which had the inspirational idea of using chai latte concentrate to flavor both the apples and the cake. Bingo! But coffee cake wasn’t what I was going for — we were headed to a Superbowl party, not brunch — and let’s face it, Joy’s recipe uses both sour cream and four egg yolks. All that moisture (and fat…) in my chai-spiced apple cake? Yes please. I wasn’t about to give that up.

Chai-Spiced Apple Cake

And so the Chai-Spiced Apple Cake was born… a happy blend of both recipes, with a little bit of Bridezilla thrown in there. This was one of those amazing times when an experiment turns out just perfectly the first time around. First, the texture is perfect. It’s tender with a thin crust that has just the right amount of delicate crunch, especially on the top of the cake, where the cinnamon sugar really makes it sparkle.  And it’s moist — and it stays moist — for at least one week after you bake it, if you keep it in an airtight container.

In terms of flavor, this apple cake is the perfect sweet and spicy blend of sauteed apples and soft, chai-flavored sour cream cake — not too sweet, but definitely dessert and not coffee cake. The addition of chai is wonderful — it has a fascinating tea taste that adds a lot of depth to the flavor. This is a cake with a little something extra… one of those cakes that if you make it, people will taste it and say “What is that…. mmm, whatever it is, it’s good.”

That’s what I said, anyway!

Chai-Spiced Apple Cake

Chai-Spiced Apple Cake

Inspired by Ezra Pound Cake and Joy the Baker

Chai-Spiced Apples

  • 2 tart apples (around 1 pound), peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup chai tea latte concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Chai-Spiced Sour Cream Cake

  • 12 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chai tea latte concentrate
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • ¼ cup cinnamon sugar (whisk together around ¼ cup white sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven.  Spray a 9-inch spring-form pan with nonstick cooking spray.

First, make the apples: sauté apples in 2 tablespoons butter for approximately 2 minutes in a small sauté pan. Add brown sugar, stir to combine. Add chai concentrate, cover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Remove cover, stir to combine. Pour into a plastic bowl (with juices) and set aside to cool.

Then make the cake:  Cream the butter, sugar, cinnamon and chai mix in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until the mixture has lightened significantly in color and is fluffy. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. It may take 6 to 8 minutes, but keep beating until the mixture is light in hue and very fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, and beat between additions until the batter is fluffy and glossy.

While all that beating is going on, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.  With the mixer set on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the batter.  Mix a few times until no flour streaks remain.  Add the sour cream all at once and mix on low just to incorporate.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix on low just until no traces remain.

Stir the cooked apples once to coat them in the sautéing liquid, then drain the leftover liquid. Fold the apples into the batter with a rubber spatula.  The cake batter will be thick, but don’t fold too many times or you’ll smash the air out of it (all that air you put in during all that beating).

Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan and distribute evenly (I used an offset icing spatula to get it even).  Take a knife and run it in a singular circular motion through the batter 1-inch from the edge of the pan.  This will help the cake to rise evenly.  Sprinkle the cake with the cinnamon sugar and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the spring form pan.

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One of my favorite parts about living in Mexico was… the food. Not surprising, if you know me, but at least two parts of my Mexican-food-in-Mexico experience are worth mentioning. First: Mexican food in Mexico has almost no relationship to most Mexican food in the States. OK, maybe that’s being harsh… but most Mexican food in the Midwest, at least, derives its flavor from heaps of greasy cheese. Mexican food as I experienced it in the homes of my friends as well as the plentiful food carts serving drool-worthy tortas, tamales, and above all tacos (always soft, whether made with corn or flour tortillas), is intensely flavorful, not intensely oily. The flavor punch is delivered not only by spice, but also by citrus (lime, usually), cilantro, slow-cooked meats of all kinds, and raw onions (which, not by accident, are also good for your digestion). I could go on and on… but I’ll save most of this rant for another post. Suffice it to say that while this kind of food can be found in the U.S., it’s not going to be at any place with a drive-through window or a sombrero-wearing waiter trying to embarrass you on your birthday.

I bet your wondering what all this has to do with the very enticing muffin pictured above. Let me proceed quickly to point #2 about real Mexican food: Mexican chocolate. The first time my host mom made me Mexican hot chocolate, I was hooked. Mexican drinking chocolate is as spicy as it is sweet, and the spice gives it an exotic taste that is just difficult to put your finger on. The spicy-sweet richness is just plain seductive. You can actually buy Mexican chocolate in most grocery stores nowadays, but since that chocolate is for drinking and this blog is about baking, I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring this awesome flavor combination to you all.

This (finally) brings us to the muffins. A good start on the Mexican chocolate flavor combination is to add some cinnamon to dark chocolate. For months now, I have been trying every recipe I can find that combines chocolate and cinnamon, but to be honest, no recipe has gone far enough to suit my taste buds! One teaspoon of cinnamon in a cake that fits a 9×13 pan isn’t going to cut it. So I struck out on my own, and modified a chocolate chip muffin recipe that I found on Recipezaar to accommodate not only extra cinnamon in the batter, but also a cinnamon-sugar-chocolate chip layer midway through the muffin and the same combination on top.

The results were awesome! The cinnamon taste is much more present than in any recipe I have tried thus far, but isn’t overwhelming at all. The cinnamon-sugar topping is really pretty and adds that spicy-sweetness that I just really crave! The only surprise (there are always surprises when you experiment, I’m finding) is in the texture, which is more on the sturdy end, rather than the tender end. It’s a muffin — not a cupcake.

This isn’t the end of this experiment. To get a real Mexican flavor combination, you’d need to combine chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, and it’d need to be a lot more chocolatey than this muffin. But I feel we’re off to a great start with these!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light-brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease (or line) twelve muffin cups.

To make cinnamon sugar: in a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla until blended.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients, then add the milk mixture and stir just to combine.

In each muffin cup, spoon 1-2 tablespoons batter. Cover with 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar and a few chocolate chips. Then repeat the layer: top each muffin cup with remaining batter, cinnamon sugar, and chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup only 2/3 to ¾ of the way to the top.

Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean. Remove muffin tin to wire rack, cool for 5 minutes. Remove from tins to finish cooling.

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Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies

I grew up on cocoa-based chocolate treats. My favorite cookies while I was growing up were these cocoa drops that my mom made — chewy, puffy, soft, and really chocolatey but not rich. Someday I will definitely make and post them — they are a taste of home for me.

It wasn’t until I really started baking and experimenting a lot — maybe a year ago, now — that I started making a lot of recipes that use melted chocolate as a base for cakes, brownies, and even chocolate cookies. I knew how to temper chocolate, thanks to the number of chocolate-dipped candies that my mom and I make every year for Christmas (it’s an epic annual process, maybe this year we’ll document it), so for a while I happily melted and cooled and incorporated into batters for baked goods of all sorts.

Recently, though, I have been wondering what, exactly, is wrong with cocoa? I like the dusty, almost raw chocolate flavor it imparts. Buying a ton of chocolate (the higher the quality, the better, it seems) is expensive. And if I have gotten ahold of a high-quality chocolate bar, you know what I’m going to do? Eat it. That’s right. Not melt it, temper it, or coddle it until it’s totally lost its character and is ready to be incorporated into whatever chocolate creation is next on my list.

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Ok, ok….. there are some times when using high-quality, tempered chocolate is a good thing (see the Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake, for example). But sometimes I like the ease and comfort of just using cocoa. And it tastes a whole lot like home!

All this to say, that when I saw cocoa brownies on smitten kitchen, I knew I’d have to try them. These are really low-maintenance, rich brownies — look at how dark they are in the pictures! With only a quarter-cup of flour, these babies are intensely fudgy, which is my favorite kind of brownie. I had some leftover Andes baking pieces that I added (you could use regular Andes mints and break them up). The mint was fantastic, and complimented the dark cocoa flavor perfectly. Speaking of cocoa, I used Hershey’s Special Dark. I read somewhere that it is half dutch-processed, half regular. It certainly is very dark, and gave the brownies an intense flavor and that beautiful black color. This recipe prove that cocoa-based treats can be just as chocolatey as chocolate-based ones — if not more than!

I made these for an info session I had for some students at work, and they loved them. I left the rest out for my colleagues the next morning, and by noon they were reduced to crumbs (who eats brownies at 10am? A lot of people I work with). Try them!

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (I went with the 25-count size)

Ingredients

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Andes baking pieces or broken Andes mints (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t worry — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the Andes, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at few minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Andes Cocoa Brownies

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Beer Bread

Beer Bread

I discovered this recipe right before Christmas and have made it three times since then! It is amazingly simple (5-10 minutes of prep) and wonderfully delicious. I love LOVE love bread….. I am famous in my family for this trait….. so being able to have fresh bread basically whenever I want it is a huge improvement in my quality of life.

In my last post I used a lot of space to proclaim my love of a buttery texture, and this bread definitely adds to that butter-loving theme. The original recipe actually calls for an entire stick of butter to be poured into the pan and on top of the dough before baking, but I make do with a half a stick just fine. If you’re interested in what beer to pour in there — I dunno, I bought a six pack of Newcastle and used four bottles to make bread, so I can’t recommend anything else!

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Adapted From Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 1 loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 bottle (12 ounces) beer

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then move the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. Slide a baking sheet onto a lower rack to catch any butter that might overflow from the loaf pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately. If you can’t eat the whole loaf all at once (not recommending you do this…) the bread is also fantastic for about 5-7 days after baking, toasted!

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This is a good idea.

I really love chocolate chip cookies — who doesn’t? I use the recipe from the back of the Nestle Toll House bag, just like my mom does. I like the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar (half and half), I like the good amount of butter, and I honestly like the way the cookies spread in the oven. A couple of years ago the New York Times published a very popular article about the best way to make chocolate chip cookies, and it recommended letting the cookie dough chill in the fridge for a few hours — up to 24 — to give the cookie a more cake-like, puffy texture. Letting the dough rest reduces the spreading and some of the greasiness.

Ok, but I like the spreading, and I like the greasiness — buttery-ness, to put it more nicely (if less grammatically). When I make cookies, I may let the dough rest for a few minutes before scooping and baking, but not that long. I don’t mind a thinner cookie, if it means that I get some nice buttery sweet-and-salty flavor.

What I don’t like are nuts, those crunchy interruptions in the smooth buttery texture of my chocolate chip cookie. I am really selective about where I like nuts, and my choices almost never include baked goods. I can handle the occasional peanut (especially when accompanied by peanut butter), but put a walnut in my brownie or a pecan on top of my hot fudge sundae, and I just won’t touch the stuff.

So when it comes to getting some texture variation into my cookies, my options are limited. I don’t want dry, and I don’t want nutty. However, a little bit of tasty crunch, or a slightly taller cookie, might interest me. Enter Rice Krispies (… or generic rice puff cereal, I used the Aldi kind).

Putting just a cup and a half of rice krispies into my favorite chocolate chip cookies didn’t detract from the buttery texture I love, and it didn’t necessarily introduce a new flavor, but it did add a nice crunch and some body into the cookies without drying them out. Try it!

Rice Krispie Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Nestle

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies)

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚ F

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in cereal and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake

I was told several times that it was both crazy and “sad” to bake my own birthday cake (how’s that for encouragement…?) but I don’t think this project deserved either of those two misnomers! This was the first layer cake I have ever made and aside from the occasional freak out, the experience was totally rewarding! I spent a long time researching how to make a layer cake (if you are looking for good instructions, I love Deb’s here), reading about crumb layers, leveling layers, freezing layers….. and of course then discovered that working with a layer cake was going to be different from reading about a layer cake.

Luckily I had coerced a friend into helping me make the frosting, assemble the cake, and decorate it. That’s one advantage to baking your own birthday cake…. it’s your birthday, people feel sorry for you, they’ll feel moved to come alongside you, even amid total cake craziness. This friend had actually made layer cakes before and, as it turns out, is much more courageous with a large knife. Emily did the layer splitting and the chocolate chopping, and generally talked me through my swiss meringue buttercream crisis. That sucker takes a looong time to make…

But that is getting ahead of ourselves. The frosting crisis came very late in the game.

Eat me! Eat me!

First there was cake baking, requiring cake flour making, achieved through this clever method from Joy the Baker, which turns all purpose flour + cornstarch into cake flour. If you are going to do this, though, be sure to sift the cornstarch into the flour several times — Joy says five times, I did six, and still ended up with little chewy cornstarch lumps in my cake. Yuck. Luckily the cake itself and the frosting were so delicious, I’m not sure anyone noticed but me!

No major notes on the cake recipe… it is fussy and requires a lot of beating (as Jen mentions in her original post), but really, it was so worth it. The cake batter was extremely fluffy and light, almost the texture of a mousse. It stayed light but cakey throughout the entire baking, cooling, freezing, thawing, cutting, frosting, and assembling process, so in my book, this recipe is a winner — and the beating is worth it!

Once the cake was baked, into the freezer it went:

Flash-frozen goodness

I really liked this tip, also from Deb (see  above) — I took the cake out of the oven, sat in on the counter for a bit, and then threw it in the freezer, cooling racks and all. Once it had been in the freezer for about a half hour or so, I triple-wrapped those suckers in plastic wrap, and let them hang out in the freezer until my birthday, when we needed them for frosting and assembling. The cake itself stayed incredibly moist — I was SO worried that after a few days of banishment in the freezer, it would be hard and dry, but the plastic did its job! This was so useful because there was no way that all these steps were going to happen in the same day. The cake was also a lot easier to work with while it was cold.

Flash-forward two days later, when we took the layers out of the freezer and started making the frosting (chocolate espresso swiss meringue buttercream) and ganache (chocolate espresso). Our goal was to make both frosting/filling, assemble, and then frost in time to have it ready to eat after my birthday dinner. It was a big goal, but we eventually got there!

Let’s start with the buttercream, which starts with…

Don't be scared of the butter!

Yep, that’s four sticks of butter. But… we’re talking about a big cake here, folks. You’re not going to be eating four sticks of butter at a time.

Does that make it better?

Oh, and it’s my birthday. That definitely makes it better.

Moving on quickly… this was my very first time making swiss meringue buttercream, and let me tell you, it’s kind of nerve-wracking. You have to coddle (ok, whip) the egg whites over a double boiler while working some white sugar into them. You wait until the sugar has dissolved (Jen says the mixture should measure 140 degrees F) and then whip them (using a stand mixer) into a meringue. This is the start of a very very long whipping process that had Emily and I getting quite anxious and our patient husbands running out of the kitchen to escape the terrible Kitchen Aid noise. The idea is to get the egg white cool to the touch, after you have just so carefully heated them up… see why it’s a little annoying?

Once you have a very wonderful meringue, you proceed to ruin it by dropping insane amounts of butter into the mixer and watching your beautiful, fluffy egg whites dissolve into greasy, soupy chaos.

And then, by some miracle, after whipping the whole thing for a long time (see Deb’s comments, “whip whip whip” — I think it was honestly 15 minutes of whipping), the whole thing comes together in a very smooth, buttery way. The frosting was the perfect consistency and I think that unless I am in a serious hurry, I may never make other buttercream frostings again.

The ganache was a home run as a cake filler, but we ran into problems when we refrigerated it during the assembly process… see my notes on the recipe below.

The assembled cake

The cake is assembled!

Once assembled, the cake is put bake into the fridge — at which point we were all starving and went to dinner! When we came back, it was time to frost and eat… they even sang Happy Birthday.

All told, this project was a wonderful success. You can find the original recipe here, but I have put it below also because I have some advice and notes-to-self (in blue). There are a few things I would do differently next time — but I think that has more to do with my learning several new techniques at one time rather than faults in the recipe!

Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake
modified from Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers/use real butter

chocolate cake
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsps unsalted butter, melted (for pan prep)
2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose flour at 8500 feet elevation)
2 tsps cake flour (for pan prep)
2 tsps baking soda (I used 1/2 tsp baking soda at 8500 feet elevation)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups light brown sugar, very tightly packed
4 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream

espresso ganache
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps unsalted butter
2 tbsps granulated sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp instant espresso powder

chocolate espresso buttercream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsps instant espresso powder
1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat the insides of 2 9×2-inch cake pans with melted butter. Flour each pan with 1 tsp cake flour, shaking out the excess [I just used nonstick spray].

Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate in the top half of the double boiler and heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Combine together in a sifter the remaining 2 cups of flour, the baking soda, and salt. Sift onto wax paper and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on high for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat on high for another 1.5 minutes. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating on high for 30 seconds after adding each egg. Scrape down the bowl after each addition, then beat on high for 2 more minutes. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl.

Heat 1 cup water to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan. While the water is heating, operate the mixer on low while adding a third of the sifted flour and 1/2 cup sour cream; allow to mix for 30 seconds. Add another third of the flour and the remaining sour cream and mix for another 30 seconds. Add the remaining sifted flour and the boiling water and mix for an additional 30 seconds before removing the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter, until it is smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, spreading it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans for 15 minutes at room temperature. Invert onto cooling racks and refrigerate uncovered until needed. Or, cool and then stick it in the freezer, let it freeze and then triple-wrap it in plastic, freeze until using.

Ganache: Heat the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and espresso. Let sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.

Buttercream: Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, and 2 teaspoons espresso powder in top half of double boiler. Allow to heat for 8 to 10 minutes, transfer to a stainless steel bowl and stir until smooth. [We needed to heat the mixture longer — that’s why our frosting looks speckled, the chocolate wasn’t melted after 10 minutes — I would make sure it stirs smoothly before taking it off the heat]. Set aside until needed.

Place egg whites and sugar in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl. Set bowl over 1 inch of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently until mixture reaches 140°F. Remove from heat and set on Kitchenaid mixer with balloon whisk. Whisk on speed 4 until stiff. Turn down whip speed to 3rd and whip until cool to the touch (this takes a while [about 10 minutes or more] – should be cooler than your hand). Gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces. Whip, whip, whip — this could take 15 minutes. Once desired consistency has been reached, fold in cooled chocolate until well incorporated.

Assembly: Trim off domed tops of the two cakes. Slice each cake horizontally into 2 equal layers. Place the top layer of a cake onto the bottom of a closed springform pan. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of buttercream over cake in the pan. Place a layer of cake over the buttercream and gently press into place. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the ganache over the cake layer, spreading evening to the edges. Refrigerate remaining ganache [this did NOT work for us — the ganache got very hard — to hard to spread, and no way to re-melt it]. Place the top layer of the second cake on the top of the ganache and press into place. Spread 1 1/2 cups buttercream evenly over this layer. Place the remaining bottom cake layer, cut side down, onto the buttercream and gently press into place. Cover the entire cake and pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with star tip with 1 1/2 cups buttercream. Remove the cake from the freezer. Cut around inside edges to release the cake. Using a cake spatula, evenly spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour [didn’t do this]. Fill a pastry bag fitted with star tip with remaining ganache. Decorate the cake as desired. Refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting and serving [didn’t do this]. Bring slices to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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