Last week was my friend/neighbor/home teacher Eric's birthday. So to thank him for being all of those things (yes, even the neighbor thing, because I really do have to borrow cups of milk sometimes, and neighbors are so obliging), and to wish him a happy birthday, I decided to bake him a cake.
I have several cakes on my list of recipes to try, and this one was next. It's a dark chocolate cake recipe I pulled from Martha Stewart's website. After this experiment, I don't think I trust Martha Stewart anymore (there, I said it. Now all the Food People can lynch me). Why? Well, a lot of reasons. Maybe she just doesn't have a dinky basement kitchen with a terrible excuse for an oven at a relatively high altitude. Because I really don't think my exchanging part of the semi-sweet chocolate required for the 100% stuff I found at the farmer's market really should have made that much of a difference, and I don't know what else it could be!
Black label: The Good Stuff.
The batter turned out to be more like dough, even after adding a little extra buttermilk, and beating the mixture as hard as I could (who needs an electric mixer? I'm getting buff!).
Anyway, the edges and bottom of each cake layer burned (I made it a three layer cake instead of a two layer one, and no, I don't think that created a problem because the dough was still very stiff). I was quite sad. But I was able to try out a bunch of things that will make your cake look pretty (I think I will do a separate post on those tips, so look for that in the future), and they worked pretty well. I did end up wasting the edges of the cake by cutting them off, though, even though they were burned. I just wish that hadn't happened, especially after I spent the money on the chocolate (hoo boy).
I'm also trying to find uses for leftover ingredients, so I don't have to waste as much. I have a whole half carton of buttermilk left (pancakes? waffles? biscuits?) and a ton of frosting (cupcakes? cake?), so that should be fun for me :)
If you're curious about how the cake ended up tasting, Eric and my other friend Kevin (the two who tried the cake while I was around) say that it is delicious-- way better than boxed mix cake, and you'll need a gallon of milk to get through a small slice. I sort of wish I'd been able to try some, but I think it's weird to ask for part of what you just gave someone. And it was such a tiny cake in the end... But hey! At least I got all that extra frosting, right?
Decorated with almond slivers to make it pretty, and distract you from the fact that it is half the size it's supposed to be.
Dark Chocolate Cake
from Martha Stewart
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans -I'm in the market for free Dutch Process cocoa, just fyi!!! But if you don't have generous donors, go ahead and use regular cocoa, that's what I did
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted -Or mix in some darker stuff if you can find it, and if you feel up to the richness!
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Dark Chocolate Ganache (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350. Butter two (or three if you're like me and you wanted a second chance after the other cake) 8-inch round cake pans; dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (or your Governator arm strength), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in chocolate and vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and buttermilk in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture. -Like I mentioned earlier, I had to add extra buttermilk and my "batter" still turned out like soft bread dough...weird)
Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes -Mine only had to cook for about 30 mins, and like I said, they burned! So keep a close eye on them, especially if your batter ends up like mine did. Cool in pans 15 minutes; run a knife around edge of each pan, and invert cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. -I usually refrigerate/freeze my cakes pre-frosting for about ten to fifteen minutes so they're nice and firm for the frosting process, but that was probably a bad idea in this case, because the edges got nice and hard-- as in too hard to allow for a cake I was giving to someone else.
Set a rimmed baking sheet upside down on a work surface -Yes, thank you Martha, that seems excessive. But go ahead if you want to. Place one cake on sheet, and spread top with 1/3 of ganache. Place second cake on top, and spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Using two wide metal spatulas, carefully transfer frosted cake to a serving platter.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil. Remove from heat; add 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, and let stand, without stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk just until combined. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until spreadable, about 1 hour. -You can pop it in the freezer to speed up the process, but make sure you keep a VERY CLOSE eye on it so it doesn't get too hard, especially around the edges. This WILL happen. Trust me. If you neglected it (hum...like me...) and it gets a bit too hard, let it sit out for a while, or maybe put it in a warm area until it softens. But don't let it soften too much, or you've begun a vicious cycle.
P.S. Please pardon the grainy pictures. Even with my super-fancy $100 Cosco camera that serves me so well, I live in a basement with no light, and it was after dark anyway. So there.