DOMINIQUE ANSEL’S CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE


Chef Dominique Ansel’s shout to fame materialized in 2013 when he created the cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. On the first day he started selling cronuts, a blogger from New York’s The Grub stopped by, had one, and raved about it in the popular blog. Poor Mr. Ansel had no idea that next morning a line of more than 100 customers would be screaming for a cronut.  You can read the whole story here. I have Ansel’s book “The Secret Recipes” which includes the method for his cronuts (they take three days to prepare).  I am not too fond of fried pastries – just don’t care for dealing with all that oil at home, and would prefer to stop by his bakery in New York and enjoy one “sur place.”  But I adore his cookbook. In the opening chapter he talks about one unusual “ingredient”: time. How important it is to consider time in a recipe and respect it. He illustrates the point with madeleines, that must be enjoyed within 3 to 5 minutes of baking. Being a timing fanatic, I was immediately captivated by his opening chapter. Today I share with you his chocolate mousse cake, with a modern look given by his unusual decoration: mini-meringues that he calls “mini-me’s.” I changed the look a bit, making the “mini-me’s” slightly bigger, and adding just a layer at the bottom of the cake, to allow the mirror glaze to shine. Sprinkled golden stars because… sometimes you need stars in your life.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE
(from Dominique Ansel’s Masterclass online video)

I don’t have permission to publish the recipe,
so I will share a very simplified overview.

Chocolate cake component:  he uses a flourless chocolate base, starting with 11 eggs, separated in yolks and whites. The yolks are beaten with sugar until tripled in volume, then a French meringue is added to the yolks. Finally, some cocoa powder is gently mixed and the batter is distributed in two half-sheets for baking. You can use any chocolate concoction you like, a genoise like this one, or a Joconde like this one, as long as you have 2 circles of cake of similar thickness, 8 inches in diameter.

Chocolate Mousse: I started the mousse preparation by blooming 2 tsp gelatin in 30mL very cold water for 10 minutes. Then 310g of whole milk was brought to a boil and poured over 310g dark chocolate (70% cocoa). The ganache was emulsified well, then the bloomed gelatin added and gently but thoroughly mixed. Heavy cream (450g) was whipped to the consistency of melted ice cream, and gently folded in the chocolate ganache/gelatin. Mousse is ready to use to assemble the cake.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze: This is not the traditional mirror glaze with condensed milk and glucose, but a much simpler variation, similar to a pouring ganache used in Opera Cakes, for instance. It starts with blooming 12g of gelatin in 60g of water for at least 10 minutes. Then, 200g sugar is mixed with 140g heavy cream and heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. Water (150g) is mixed with 70g cocoa powder in a bowl to form a paste.  The bloomed gelatin is added to the hot heavy cream (make sure it is not hotter than 80 C), mixed well to dissolve. That is added to the cocoa powder paste and emulsified well. Ideally, the glaze should be stored in the fridge overnight and used next day to cover the cake.

Assembling the cake: I like to wrap the base of a tall 8-inch ring cake with plastic wrap, bringing it up along the sides (it is easier to do if you add a few drops of water to the outside of the ring). Add a piece of acetate inside the ring to facilitate un-molding later. Place the first cake layer at the bottom, cut to fit exactly inside the ring. Add mousse, the second cake layer, and mousse to cover. Freeze overnight.

Next day, bring the mirror glaze to room temperature, warm gently in the microwave until it reaches 90 to 95 degrees F. You must minimize bubbles in the glaze, either by using an immersion blender, or passing the mixture through a fine sieve. I actually do both things to make sure it is very smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer, un-mold, place over a rack on a baking sheet. Cover by pouring the glaze at the center in a circular motion.

Decoration: make small meringues using any Swiss meringue recipe you like. I used this one. I baked mine at 175 F for 40 minutes only, then let them in the oven turned off for 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Add the meringues to the sides of the cake or in any pattern you like. Sprinkle with stars or other sprinkles.  Leave in the fridge to de-frost for a couple of hours before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe overview, click here

Comments: Just to make sure I made it clear, this recipe is NOT part of his cookbook. It is demonstrated online in his Masterclass video. Which, by the way, is excellent! He is very personable, and his attention to detail, even if not unexpected, is a joy to see in action. In the video he teaches how to make perfect madeleines, a fantastic apple tart, croissants, and this delicious cake. 

I had no issues to make the cake or assemble it. My favorite step – I am sure you won’t be surprised – is the final glazing. The cake was waiting in the freezer for 5 days, actually. We had a trip planned and the day after we arrived back we were supposed to attend a potluck dessert party, tradition of our department for the past few years. This was our contribution.

So, if you want to have a very easy time on the day you need to serve a special cake, consider this one. Everything can be made in advance (way in advance!), on party day you just need to make the glaze and the meringues. Which, by the way, are obviously not mandatory. The mirror glaze is so beautiful, you can add some sprinkles, or a drizzle of white chocolate and still have something super special to serve to your guests.

And… speaking of mirrors…

The day Sally photobombed her own shot!

The cake was very well-received at the party. I think it had the right level of sweetness and chocolate intensity, a very smooth and luscious mousse, with the tender cake to tease the palate. And the meringues!  Honestly, I think under-baking them a tad is the right way to go. As they sat on the side of the cake, they got a bit more creamy instead of crumbly and dry. I had quite a bit of meringues leftover.

Bogey Quit That ™ practices his paranormal telekinesis. 

😉

I close this post with a quote from Chef Ansel’s book…

We live in a world where every creation strives to be both instantaneous and eternal. To respect time as the supreme ingredient is a battle of breaking habits and changing perceptions. Nobody likes to wait; nobody likes to rush. But when you treat time as an ingredient, it changes everything.

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Roasted Eye of the Round Beef

TWO YEARS AGO: Steam-Roasted Indian-Spiced Cauliflower

THREE YEARS AGO: Creamy Zucchini-Mushroom Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Pain au Bacon

FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot and Cumin Hamburger Buns

SIX YEARS AGO: Potato Galettes a l’Alsacienne & Book Review

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

NINE YEARS AGO: Pain Poilane

 

 

DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE (AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW)

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.

Recipe Overview

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.

Cookies… Not sure how to break this for you. I’ve never had a cookbook in which every single recipe of a chapter appeals to me. This was it. Every. Single. One. He opens the chapter with Cenk’s House Cookies, a recipe that was born out of a kitchen problem with his food processor. You know a baker is great when boo-boos turn into culinary masterpieces.  Then he proceeds to temp you with all sorts of amazing delicacies:  Vanilla Bean Meltaways (his version of the Turkish un kurabiyesi), Pistachio and Matcha Sables, Lime and Ginger Cookies (with good advice on zesting citrus), Hazelnut and Caramel Cookies (OMG), Macarons… macarons so exotic they left me dreaming. The one that made my heart stop used kaymak in the filling. Many years ago, 1986 to be precise, I happened to travel to Yugoslavia and one morning, in the island of Krk, I had kaymak for the first time. Unforgettable. One of those perfect gastronomic moments. Of course, it is impossible to find in the US, and he suggests mascarpone as an alternative. Still, it’s nice to see he designed a macaron with kaymak in mind. Cocoa and Chestnut Macarons, Sour Cherry and White Chocolate Macarons, Chocolate and Lavender Macarons… I am in love.

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

 

 

THE OUTCOME OF THE IRON (CHEF) CHALLENGE

(continuation from last post...)

For those curious about which cake our IT expert chose for my challenge,
here we go:

A GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

All things considered, it could have been worse, but it still represented a big challenge to yours truly. A layered cake?  That is intimidating to say the least. I needed heavy artillery for it, so a trip  to my America’s Test Kitchen source was needed.  As you may know, they are notoriously difficult in allowing bloggers to publish their sacred recipes, but I found a very close adaptation to share with you. It comes from Leite’s Culinaria, a site that I’ve been following for a long time. Definitely worth subscribing to.

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
(from Leite’s Culinaria)

For the pecan filling
4 large egg yolks
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted

For the chocolate cake
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Make the pecan filling: Whisk the yolks in a medium saucepan off the stove. Gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. Add the sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl, whisk in the vanilla, then stir in the coconut. Let cool until room temperature.

Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Make the chocolate cake:  Keep your oven at 350°F (175°C) and adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Combine the chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl and then add the boiling water over. Let stand to melt the chocolate, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth and let stand until room temperature.

Spray two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and then line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds cut to fit. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and tap out any excess flour. Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl or onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until the sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl halfway through. Beat in the vanilla, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds.

With the mixer running at low-speed, add the chocolate mixture, then increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl once.  With the mixer running at low-speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat in each addition until barely combined. After adding the final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir the batter by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. The batter will be thick. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, spreading the batter to the edges of the pans with the rubber spatula and smoothing the surface.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a greased wire rack; peel off and discard the paper rounds. Cool the cakes to room temperature before filling, about 1 hour.

Assemble the German chocolate cake: Stir the toasted pecans into the chilled filling. Set one cake layer on a serving platter. Place the second cake on a work surface or leave it on the wire rack. Hold a serrated knife held so the blade is parallel with the work surface and use a sawing motion to cut each cake into 2 equal layers. Carefully lift the top layer off each cake.

Using an icing spatula, distribute about 1 cup filling evenly on the cake layer on the serving platter or cardboard round, spreading the filling to the very edge of the cake and evening the surface. Carefully place the upper cake layer on top of the filling. Repeat using the remaining filling and cake layers. Dust any crumbs from the platter and serve.

(I used only three layers, found that the cake was large enough,
more would be a bit excessive, in my opinion)

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First things first, let’s clarify for those who do not know, that German Chocolate Cake has nothing to do with Germany. The name refers to Mr. Samuel German, an English-American chocolatier who developed the special formulation of baking chocolate used in the recipe.  Having said that, it is a classic indeed: chocolate, coconut and pecans. There, I gained two pounds just typing the ingredients, but in the name of having My Precioussss repaired, I don’t mind it at all.

As I mentioned, I turned it into a three-layer cake instead of four, and trust me, you won’t miss the fourth one, it is already pretty rich and decadent. The cake is very moist, and the filling is perfect, if you like coconut, that is. Sweet, creamy, with a nice added texture given by the nuts and coconut. A winner, perfect celebration cake.

So there you have it. A challenge proposed, accepted, and conquered. Not sure I want to set myself up for another one, so I hope our gamma-counter will be ok until my retirement…   And yes, our IT man, the Performer of Miracles on All Things Electronic, was very pleased with the cake.

Mission accomplished!

ONE YEAR AGO: Thank you!

TWO YEARS AGO: Salmon Rillettes, a Classy Appetizer

THREE YEARS AGO: Linzer Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Baked Ricotta, Take Two

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Uncanned

SIX YEARS AGO: Pork Ragu

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Celery and Apple Salad

 

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FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: FEBRUARY 2017

First Monday of the month, and it’s time to share with you my favorite recipe from January. It was fun to look back at the month and realize there were so many great things happening in the Bewitching Kitchen. I had a tough time picking my favorite, but here it goes, The Carioca Cake! How could I not pick that one? One of the most stressful adventures I faced in the kitchen, but at least it had a happy ending…

If you missed it, here is the link back to it…

carioca-cake

First Monday Favorites is the blog event started by Sid. Participants share their favorite recipe from the previous month. Not necessarily the most popular by views or comments, but our own favorite. Click on the link below to see everyone else’s favorite recipe. And, if you’d like to participate, visit Sid’s website and drop her a line, we firmly believe that the more, the merrier!

 .

STAY TUNED FOR NEXT MONTH’S FAVORITE! 

😉

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

CARREMENT CHOCOLAT: THE SHOW-STOPPER


Carrement Chocolat Cake

Grab a chair, make yourself comfortable, this will take a while.

I suppose I could call this post A Convoluted Approach to Cake Baking.  I won’t publish the full recipe, as that would not be fair with Dorie Greenspan. After all, it’s the cake on the cover of her book, a cake she developed as an alternative for one of those masterpieces conceived by Pierre Hermé, and I am sure a lot of sweat and who knows, maybe a few tears were involved in her culinary quest to perfect it. Those truly interested can get a copy of her latest book, which by the way, I reviewed not too long ago (shameless self-promotion).

The cake has five components. FIVE. Which proves I was not in the right frame of mind when I decided to go for it. Let’s count them together:

1. A chocolate cake that must be sliced in half.
2. A chocolate filling, custard-type.
3. A syrup to soak the cake.
4. A ganache to ice the cake.
5. A topping of cubed bittersweet chocolate, salted. Surprisingly, those cubes are not simple pieces of chocolate that you can grab in the store. You are supposed to make them yourself.

That was the cake chosen to celebrate my 6 years of blogging.  Excuse me while I wipe tears from my face, I laughed so hard I cried a little…   Moving on…

The cake is a typical French layer cake, supposed to be shorter than your regular American type layer cake. Short and sweet… A single cake, baked in a 8 x 2 inch round pan, sliced in half, etc etc.  Please notice that the composite photo below clearly shows two cakes instead of one. Has Sally gone mad? I won’t answer this specific question. Let’s just say that I allowed the first cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then inverted it on a rack  as instructed. One fourth of the cake stayed inside the pan, laughing at me (insert crass language here). I scraped it all as carefully as I could, pasted the pieces together, but of course realized that slicing that poor baby in half would be impossible for someone with my skills. Quickly, I assembled all the ingredients again and baked a second cake. The level of distress was getting a bit high, and it was only 8:30 am on a sunny Saturday.

composite
For the second cake, I used parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan, and greased the living bejesus out of it. I also waited 30 minutes to invert it. That cake unmolded like it was baked by an expert  on Ace of Cakes. I danced a little to celebrate, and moved on to the making of the chocolate custard filling. The recipe starts mixing whole milk with sugar, so I promptly mixed the 3 tablespoons of sugar called for in the ingredients and proceeded to warm up the milk, only to find out that in that stage you add only 1.5 tablespoons of sugar.  The remaining sugar is beaten with egg yolks a little later in the method (Sally visualizes Dorie Greenspan giving a small lecture on how to read a recipe carefully before starting to make it). Poured the milk down the drain (please, don’t lecture me on waste), started all over.  The custard almost curdled on me, but it did not.  I danced a little to celebrate, and moved on to the making of the salted chocolate cubes and shards.

SaltedChoc

That involves melting good quality semi-sweet chocolate, gently and carefully, and adding the correct amount of Maldon salt flakes.  I did all that, but thought that the amount of chocolate seemed a little small. What the heck, Dorie knows what she’s doing when it comes to cakes. Placed the concoction in the freezer, where it would stay until next day. In theory. Not in practice. Later, much later that day, while I was making the icing, I noticed something under the stove peeking out. Four squares of semi-sweet chocolate that somehow found their way there, and only by a miracle were not consumed by Buck, the forever famished Jack Russell who sniffs and swallows food items within a mile in 1 second flat.

Puzzled, I tried to find out in which step of the recipe I lost that chocolate. I had just weighed the chocolate for the icing, and those pieces were the exact weight I expected them to be. So the missing pieces had to be for the chocolate cubes, the salted chocolate now in the freezer. Hummmm… that doesn’t bode well, does it?   Already worried, I went to the freezer, grabbed the salted batch, unwrapped it, whacked a little piece and tasted it… Aaargh!!!!!!  Way way WAY too salty, absolutely horrible, it would have ruined my cake…  Back to square one, I quickly re-made the salted chocolate and put it in the freezer at 9 pm on a Saturday evening that felt as if I had run a marathon in Arizona, mid-July.

Next day, the big day of assembling my masterpiece!  I had an important decision to make, go for a single cake sliced in half, or do a double cake using both layers.  Thinking back, I should have used the good cake, sliced in half, and frozen the other one to make something like a trifle, maybe? But I got greedy. Made the simple syrup, spooned some on the first cake, placed it over a rack on a baking sheet.  Added the filling. Topped with the second cake, added syrup, and placed the whole thing in the fridge for one hour.  I have a picture for you from that stage, and those who are experienced cake bakers might be able to see the type of trouble I set myself for.

fridge

Two problems… I think the cakes, although baked in the exact same pan (I simply washed it after the first cake played that nasty trick on me), ended up with slightly different diameters, so the top one was just a tiny bit bigger. I did not even notice at first.  Second problem, I did not allow the filling to ooze out, thinking that it would be too messy.  I am the daughter of my Dad, and we both hate any type of sugary mess. That was a major faux-pas, because I did not end up with a smooth surface in between the layers. Once I was done covering the cake (with not enough icing, I should add), the whole thing looked like Pillsbury Dough Boy going out for a karate lesson with the belt tightened too tight.  No bueno, folks, no bueno.  By then, I was in complete distress, rushed to the backyard where the husband was covered in sweat and mud while trimming trees, and informed him that my cake had been ruined. I also informed him that I would never ever be taking a picture of that “thing”, or any other cake again. And, finally I made it clear that my blogging days were over. I know for a fact that he rolled his eyes to the skies above, but he refuses to admit it, saying it was my imagination. Still, after pointing out the harsh reality that I often receive a lot more sympathy from our dogs, he promised to go back inside and help me out. Then, he reminded me that his Grandma was a fantastic cake baker and he’s got her genes (insert my own eye roll here, it’s appalling the type of stuff I have to put up with; I’ve got some great genes too, just don’t walk around bragging about them).

Staring at the cake, he said “it’s not that bad.”  That, in Phil’s speech means “Holy cow, you really screwed this one up big time!”.  He analyzed the situation and asked me to make a second batch of icing. At that point the cake was already costing me three times as much as it should, but who am I to count pennies in such a situation?  A full batch of icing was made and cooled while we had dinner. Late that Sunday, my dear husband put perfect icing music on, and patiently covered all boo-boos, smoothing out the surface as best as he could. Then I topped the cake with a properly salted batch of chocolate cubes and shards. And collapsed on the sofa.

Slice

THE OUTCOME

All the struggle was more than worthy!  The cake was absolutely delicious, rich, decadent, and the topping of salted chocolate, salted just right, by the way… was the perfect match for the cake underneath it.   My advice for those who want to try it:  read the recipe carefully, spread the preparation over a couple of days, and make it short and sweet as intended. One cake, sliced in half, no need for more.  Squish the cake filling so that it oozes out, like a competent brick layer would do with cement. Don’t worry about the mess. It will ensure that the layers will be well matched, and the icing will cover it all as icing is meant to do. On a side note, there must be some type of literally prize for someone who manages to use cake filling and cement in the same phrase. No? Well, that’s a shame!

Dorie, thanks for a fantastic recipe, it was a great opportunity to push my limits.  And of course, a special thank you to the man who stands by me when even I can hardly stand myself… Thanks to him, I shall keep on blogging…

Most important lesson learned: never underestimate your opponent. Never!

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Salmon Sous-Vide with Miso-Maple Glaze

TWO YEARS AGO: Avocado “Hummus”.

THREE YEARS AGO: Moving is not for sissies!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Awesome Broccolini

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pizza! Pizza!

SIX YEARS AGO:  From Backyard to Kitchen

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS FOUR!

cake2
June 16th, 2013

My beloved blog turns 4  years old today! To celebrate, I assembled all the cake suggestions my readers offered two years ago, assigned numbers to each of them, and drew the winner cake. Celia’s suggestion was the lucky one, so I gathered all ingredients, took a deep breath and made her White Chocolate Bundt Cake to celebrate the occasion…

She wrote a great post about this cake, one that made the process almost pain-free to a person who hyperventilates with just a glimpse of a Bundt pan. Those crevices are evil. To make matters worse, the cake included that dreadful step of creaming sugar with butter.  But, a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. I did not run away from it, kicking and screaming. Sometimes it is good to resist a first impulse.

WHITE CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE
(from Celia’s  blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial)

for the cake:
450g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
250g unsalted butter, softened
440g white sugar
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
5 large (59g) eggs, at room temperature
115g white chocolate, melted and still warm
250g thick Greek yoghurt
115g  white chocolate chunks or chips

for the topping (optional):
115g (4oz) white chocolate
65ml (¼ cup) heavy cream
115g (4oz) milk chocolate

Heat oven to 350F.   Spray a 12 cup bundt pan with oil.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Slowly beat in the melted white chocolate. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour mixture to the butter in thirds, alternating with the Greek yoghurt. Beat for 45 seconds after each addition. You want to end with flour rather than yoghurt (improves the final texture of the batter). Place the batter in the pan in three layers, separating each layer with the white chocolate chips.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, but start checking after 45 minutes.   The top will be brown and a sharp thin knife inserted in the center will come out with a few crumbs on it. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then gently loosen around the edges before inverting onto a wire rack to allow the cake to finish cooling at room temperature.

Topping:  In a glass or ceramic bowl, heat the white chocolate with the cream until just melted. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then drizzle over the cake.  In a separate bowl, heat the milk chocolate in the microwave until just melted. Stir until smooth.  Drizzle over the cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Things went extremely well with this cake from making the batter to inverting the pan to reveal a perfect cake in all its gorgeous glory!
I was already thrilled because contrary to 99.5% of the cake recipes I’ve tried, this one actually produced enough batter to fill the pan to proper capacity.  Every other recipe leaves me wondering if my kitchen has some type of black hole that sucks cake batters and takes them to another dimension.  Now, this is a nice looking Bundt pan, ready to be baked.

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I baked the cake, allowed it to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, chronometer in hand, heart pounding fast. And voilá, when I inverted the pan, this is the vision I was rewarded with:

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Is this a thing of complete beauty or what?  I BAKED THAT!  I know, I know, unreal…   I did several victory laps around the kitchen island, then a few around the house. Oscar followed me, wagging his tail, Buck got scared and ran away to hide.  Chief?  He slept through the whole celebration, but I won’t take that personally. A 14-year old dog earned his right to sleep through anything!

Time to ice the cake. That’s when the road got a little bumpy.  I should have read Celia’s post more carefully. She added a note to say that the white chocolate ganache is usually too liquid, so she prefers to simply melt the pure white chocolate to drizzle on top.  Well, my ganache was so liquid it disappeared into the cake.  I also did not do a very good job with the dark chocolate drizzle, so in the end I covered the whole cake with powdered sugar on top of the drizzle for cosmetic reasons.  Over-kill? Maybe.  I do agree with Celia, though. This cake is so amazing, a simple dusting with powdered sugar is more than enough.  We took a platter to the department and everyone loved it!

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One thousand four-hundred and sixty-one days blogging.  Food blogging brings many wonderful things with it. First, the virtual connections made with readers and other bloggers. Too special for words.  Second, it provides a journal of our adventures: travels for work and/or pleasure,  a sabbatical with its nano-kitchen challenge, the move of our home and lab to Kansas.  Third, it is a valuable database of recipes we tried and enjoyed. I normally don’t blog on a recipe that didn’t work, unless I feel it’s worth re-visiting it.  Sometimes I like to pick a recipe at random from the index, and read about what was going on with us at the time. Were we in Los Angeles when I baked that? Was that post written during a dreadful ice storm in Oklahoma?  Was Pits, our beautiful dalmatian still hanging around in our kitchen, stealing butter and T-bone steaks from the countertop? Has it really been four years?  😉

A very wise and dear mentor, Leon Rosenberg once told me: “Memory fails. Keep a diary.  You will be glad you did”.  I am sure glad I started this site, the closest thing to a diary I can keep up with…

To my readers, followers, fellow food bloggers, friends in real and virtual life, thanks for stopping by and warming up this place with your presence!
Now, I invite you to join me as I start the fifth year of Bewitching Kitchen!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three!

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns two!

THREE YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

GOT STOUT?

Make a chocolate stout cake!

This wasn’t just any stout beer …it was a stout made by Chuck, a graduate student in our lab, who is soon to become Dr. Chuck.  In my husband’s opinion he already deserves a PhD in beer making.  We like to think that growing bacteria in our lab on a regular basis helped him master the brewer’s yeast, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.  What matters is that Chuck has been producing amazing beer, and he often shares his favorites with us. I love to cook with beer, so when he gave us a couple of bottles of his oatmeal stout I immediately reserved one  to make this cake.  As an added bonus, it gave me a chance to use this very cool baking pan, that was sitting ignored in our kitchen for way too long, from my cake-phobia.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE
(from Bon Appetit, September 2002)

1 cup stout beer
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
Heat the oven to 350°F.  If using a bundt type pan (or the flower pan I did), make sure to coat all the ridges with melted butter, using a brush.  Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is fully  smooth.  Allow it to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, beat eggs and sour cream until blended, preferably using an electric mixer.  Add the  beer-chocolate mixture to the egg- sour cream and beat just until combined. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a spatula, fold the batter to make sure everything is well mixed, with no clumps of flour remaining.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35to 40 minutes for a single cake, or 25 to 30 minutes for a 6-single cake pan. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack.  Serve with a dust of powdered sugar on top, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

To my taste, this cake is close to perfect!  The bitterness of the beer cuts any excessive sweetness, making this chocolate cake a “grown-up” dessert.   The original recipe called for a ganache coating, but I opted for a light dusting of powdered sugar instead.

The flower pan makes for a nice presentation, but one cake might be a bit too big for a single person.  I was happy with half, saving the other half for later.  About 5 minutes later, that is…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: The Odd Couple

ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf and Yeasty Dogs

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