Friday, September 17, 2010
Best way to follow up a healthy post? A massive, heart stopping chocolate cake.
I was tempted to load up on the chocolate curls, ganache, raspberries and fancy piping, but in the end I decided to make something a little more basic. A big, fat, simple chocolate cake.
Don't feel constrained by my minimalism though. Add-ons like raspberries and whipped ganache would be wonderful upgrades to this moist, fine textured chocolate cake.
SO BIG! Did I mention big?
I do love making tall cakes.
Someone asked me how my cakes always look so well proportioned, like bakery cakes. It's no secret. The smaller the diameter of pan you use, the taller your cake will be. The same amount of batter used in a 10 or 9-inch cake pan will produce layers flatter than in an 8-inch cake pan. Of course one still needs pans that can contain 10" of batter, which is why I'm always recommend high-sided cake pans.
For some reason 2-inch tall cake pans are everywhere. Sur la Table, William Sonoma and your average housewares stores are filled with them and nothing else. Not only are they short they're really expensive. Why should I chose a $22 cake pan with "Goldtouch coating" when I can buy a tall $9 pan with a drop in bottom? It's mind boggling. I don't need no fancy coating.
Listen to Ms. Humble's advice here if you like baking cakes or want to get into cake baking... there are good pans out there, tall pans and they're cheaper. If you lack a bakery supply store in your area, you can find them all over the internet. Look for Ateco, Fat Daddio's, Wilton (decorative preferred line), Hillside, and Parrish to name a few. Most standard pans will be under $10. I have all of those brands in my kitchen, with the exception of Hillside (no particular reason). The two I use the most: the 8x3-inch for standard cakes and the 6x3 for smaller "mini" cakes. The removable bottom pans also double as cheesecake pans.
Okay, pan rant over.
The cake, like last weeks Yellow Butter Cake, is a high ratio cake. The cake is a little different than your average cake; it doesn't use the more commonplace creaming butter and sugar method. Instead you blend all the dry ingredients with the butter and a bit of liquid, then add the wet ingredients. The benefit is that it produces a cake that stays moist a little longer than a creamed cake. The method requires a stand mixer, or at the very least sturdy hand beaters (but a mixer is preferable). Precision is very important in this recipe, so be sure to use the correct ingredients and follow the exact mixing times and speeds when making this cake.
For detailed photos of the cake making process, see the High Ratio Yellow Butter Cake post.
High Ratio Chocolate Butter Cake
from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America
yields two 8" cakes
2 3/4 cups (318g) cake flour
3/4 cup (62g) dutch processed cocoa
2 cups (400g) sugar
1 tablespoon (17g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226g) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided
4 large (200g) eggs
2 large (56g) egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
parchment for the pans
Two 3-inch high sided, 8" round pans (link to the pans I use). The cake will rise well beyond the sides of short cake pans. If you must use shorter pans, you'll need to divide the batter among 3-4 pans and be prepared to lose more cake from trimming multiple tops.
Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly coat your pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with circles of parchment.
Cut your butter into small cubes while it still has a slight chill (it's easier to cut), and then allow to stand at room temperature until it softens. It won't take long when the butter is diced.
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract and half of the milk. Mix until more or less homogeneous and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift together the cake flour*, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. (*Tip for measuring cake flour by volume: Don't scoop. Spoon the cake flour into your measuring cup, directly from the package, and then level your cup with the back of a knife.)
Fit the bowl into your stand mixer and equip the whisk attachment. Add the butter and remaining half cup of whole milk. Beat this mixture on medium speed until smooth (about 4 minutes), scraping down the bowl with a spatula as needed.
The mixture will start out a little rough and then turn pasty and thick. Once beaten, add a third of the egg-milk mixture and mix for two minutes on medium speed. Add another third and beat on medium speed for two minutes, you'll notice the mixture beginning to increase in volume. Add the remaining third of the milk-egg mixture and beat on medium speed for two minutes.
Divide the batter between your two pans (it will be roughly 680-690 grams per pan).
Level the batter with an offset spatula and bake for 40 minutes. They will be done when the cake springs back slightly when lightly touched in the center. If you touch the cake and it feels under-baked, feel free to give it another 5 minutes in the oven to set.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans on a wire wrack. The cake should pull away from the sides as it cools. If it doesn't, slip a knife around the side to release. Once cool, remove the cake from the pan and peel off the layer of parchment.
When they're cool and you're ready to frost, level the tops of your layers with a sharp serrated knife. (The cakes shouldn't hump much if baked in light colored aluminum pans.)
Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
frosts a 8-inch two or three layer cake
1 pound semisweet chocolate, finelly chopped
6 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups or 339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese (or in a pinch, cream cheese)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Combine the boiling water and dutch processed cocoa. Mix well to remove any lumps and then set aside to cool.
Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler and then set aside to cool. Allow the melted chocolate to come to room temperature before using (otherwise it will melt your butter and that's bad), this should take 25-30 minutes.
Once the chocolate is cool, beat the butter and powdered sugar in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (roughly 4 minutes). While it is mixing, combine the mascarpone cheese with the cocoa powder slurry.
Once the butter is light and fluffy, add the cooled melted chocolate to the butter and beat until uniform, scraping down the sides as needed. Then add the mascarpone cocoa mixer and beat until well combined. The frosting should be ready to use, however if it seems too soft you can place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and it will firm up.
Enjoy the big chocolate cake and your weekend!