Back in 2006-2007 I used to follow a food blog called Cafe Fernando. The absolute majority of food bloggers are female, so I’ve always been fascinated by men who food blog. And you cannot get more fascinating than Cenk Sönmezsoy, from far away, exotic Istanbul. He is a fantastic baker, very talented, and comes across like a super nice human being. For one reason or another, I lost track of his blog. I think in those days I did not subscribe to anything, just had some sites bookmarked and whenever the craving for novelty hit me, I would browse a few blogs. Fast forward to 2017, amazon.com hit me with a suggestion for a cookbook. You know, “based on your purchases, we think you might also like this.” That’s how the cookbook The Artful Baker jumped into my virtual basket. Only after I bought it, it hit me. Cenk was THAT Cenk, the blogger from my past, who – much to my surprise – is still food blogging today, 12 years later! I share with you today a recipe from his cookbook, in fact it is the cake he chose for the cover. A complete dream for the chocolate lover!
DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE
This recipe is a re-make of one Cenk’s recipes, in which he coupled chocolate cake with a Biscoff filling. You know, Biscoff, that spread that makes angels sing and have naughty thoughts. Cenk decided he could improve on it, because the devil should in fact wear chocolate head to toe. Who am I to disagree? It makes perfect sense. So, instead of Biscoff, or fancy pralines, he coupled chocolate ganache with… water! Yes, you read it right. He makes a water-chocolate-ganache, because it allows the full flavor of chocolate to hit you in full force, no distractions. I tell you one thing: it works.
His chocolate cake uses the creaming method, butter and sugar together as the basis for the cake. Then, eggs are beaten into it. To that, a suspension of cocoa powder in boiling water and yogurt is added alternating with flour and leavening agents.
For the ganache, chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and salt, are first combined with boiling water, only after fully dissolved, some butter and heavy cream are added to the mixture, that then sits in the fridge for one hour for perfect spreading consistency.
Why am I not giving you the full recipe? Cenk was a total sweetheart when I got in touch with him and asked for some advice on the decoration of the cake. I told him I wanted to blog about it, and he said he would be honored if I did so. But, I just don’t feel it’s right to share the very recipe that is on the cover of his book, so I prefer to publish a brief overview. As a teaser, I will show you how the chocolate shards are done, such a cool method! No tempering of chocolate involved, which makes it doable by common mortals. In fact, tempered chocolate will not work for this design, it does not break the proper way for the effect.
You simply spread the right amount of melted chocolate on parchment paper (dimensions recommended by Cenk to get the right thickness), place another parchment on top, smooth it well, and roll it. Cool it completely in the fridge. Unroll, which breaks in the chocolate into nice, curved shards. And that is all it takes.
It is basically the coolest thing you can do on a Sunday afternoon. I made a double batch to make sure I would have enough big shards to decorate my cake. They can be saved in the fridge or even frozen, and any leftovers used to decorate cupcakes, enjoy over ice cream, or sneak a bite or two as Netflix entertains you through the evening.
The filling/frosting is shiny and creamy at first, once you frost the cake it gets a more dull appearance. It is the most chocolate-y frosting you will ever taste. Basically, this is a cake for choco-holics at peace with their affliction. Cenk offers an alternative idea for decorating the cake, in case making the shards seems like too much work. Just make a double batch of the water-ganache and frost the cake with a thicker layer, making designs with the back of a spoon. Simple and elegant. Now, for some confession. I messed up the top of the cake a little bit. First I was going to do the same that Cenk did for his in the book: adding little bits of shards all over the surface. But, as I started to do so, I just did not care for the way it looked. So I stopped, removed the choc bits, and went with a wavy fork design. The only problem is that I had already compromised the surface a little bit by inserting the pieces of chocolate and the fork design did not go as smoothly as it should have. I considered a little hairdryer action, but I already had the shards placed around the cake. No major harm done, but another little lesson learned. I go through them often (sigh).
The cake was served for our department colleagues, in a farewell party for two wonderful staff members.
And now, allow me to show you why you need The Artful Baker in your bookshelf… I will walk you through the different chapters.
Brownies… Have you heard of leblebi? Probably not. Intriguing ingredient. He uses that in a brownie that is, simply put, drool-inducing. But nothing beats his “Brownie Wears Lace.” I so wish I could try it, but my artistic skills are definitely not up to that challenge, just looking at the design my hand starts to shake. I will share a picture of this beauty since it’s in his blog anyway.
Have you ever seen a more beautiful brownie in your life? I swear, I cannot stop staring and dreaming…
Cakes, Muffins, Cheesecakes and Meringues… There are 21 recipes in this chapter. Honestly, I have a hard time deciding which could be my top five to share. The three madeleines call my name loudly: Sakura, Lemon Verbena, and Lavender. Three flavors I adore. The cake featured in this post comes from this chapter too, Devil Wears Chocolate. Matcha and Pistachio No-Bake Cheesecake and Monte Bianco would probably be the other favorites. Just an amazing collection of goodies. In this chapter he also writes about his first day in San Francisco. I will never forget my first day in California, when I landed also in San Francisco and then went to my first home away from home, in Mountain View. Life changing experiences.
Tarts, Galettes, Pie, Quiche, Cobbler & Crumble… Blanche is a fruit tart that opens the chapter. It is a masterpiece. It seems almost doable, because his instructions are so detailed, but I am not sure I’m ready to face it quite yet. My experience with tarts and pies is a bit limited. Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart (seems like every nice cookbook has one, but his version as usual, takes it a step higher). Peel-to-Stem Apple Pie has a very interesting ingredient that totally changes the game in terms of texture. Just like the Devil Wears Chocolate Cake, this pie maximizes the apple component. I need to give it a try. Lemon Meringue Tarts and Fig, Thyme & Blue Cheese Galette make my personal favorite list too.
Breads and Pastries… Another total winner of a chapter. Have you heard of Simis? They are Turkish breads shaped as a ring and encrusted with sesame seeds. I need them in my life. Whole-Wheat and Kefir Pullman Loaf, Croissants & Pain au Chocolat, Profiteroles, Mocha Eclairs (so so cute).
Ice Creams, Frozen Yogurts, and Sorbets… I have to quote his opening paragraph: Ice cream is to me what water is to you. Your body weight is 60 percent water; mine is probably 60 percent ice cream. About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water; more than 70 percent of my tongue’s surface is regularly covered with ice cream. When you take those words in account, you know you can trust his taste in the subject. He starts with Chocolate, moves to Three-Bean-Vanilla, and gets to Salted Caramel Ice Cream right away. But the Roasted Strawberry captured my imagination. Strawberry is a very tricky fruit to use in desserts in general, because it has such a big water content. His trick to roast the fruit makes sure the ice cream will deliver intense flavor. Blackberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt makes this list also.
Confections and Drinks… He shares recipes for caramels (like Passion Fruit Caramels!), Fernando Rocher (a labor of love, recipe he carefully crafted using home-made sour cherry liqueur), Elderflower Syrup, Hot Chocolate, are all very tempting to try.
Jams and Jellies… Well, I have to admit I am not crazy for jams to try and make my own. But I know lots of cooks have a fascination for this type of endeavor. Those will be mesmerized by the chapter, that starts with detailed instruction to make your own apple pectin, apparently an ingredient that will take your jam-making experience to very high levels. But there are two recipes in the chapter I could happily try: Dulce de Leche and Cajeta.
Base Recipes… Pretty much everything you need to pull any of the recipes in the book and also to design your own. It includes ingredients like Vanilla Wafer Crumbs, Cocoa Wafer Crumbs, Cinnamon and Ginger Wafer Crumbs, for those times in which you are ready to go the extra mile. Recipes for several kinds of pastry cream, and doughs (pies, tarts, pate a choux).
So, what’s so special about the book? Definitely the author behind it, and his commitment to making his recipes work in your own kitchen, no matter your baking comfort level. He skips no details, he carries no hidden cards up his sleeves. As I try to improve my baking skills and attempt more elaborate desserts, I notice how often quite reputable cookbooks have omissions (and even mistakes!) that can be fatal to the outcome. I won’t name names, I realize writing a flawless cookbook is a daunting task. But The Artful Baker is just that: flawless. And the talent (and humbleness) of Cenk is evident all the way through the book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is wonderful that he’s getting all the praise and recognition he deserves.
Cenk, thank you for a fantastic cookbook! I am so glad I reconnected with your blog…
ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel
TWO YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus
THREE YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers
FOUR YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree
FIVE YEARS AGO: In My (NEW!) Kitchen
SIX YEARS AGO: The Lab Move and New Beginnings
SEVEN YEARS AGO: Honey-Oat Pain de Mie
EIGHT YEARS AGO: Carrot and Leek Soup
NINE YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana 101