Thursday, February 04, 2010

Comfort food - chocolate cake

I don't know about you, but chocolate cake holds a special place in my heart. When I was young, my mom used to make a chocolate cake recipe. It was baked in a 9x13 cake pan. It wasn't too light (denser than a angel food cake) and wasn't too dense (lighter than a brownie). Most of the time my mom didn't put any icing on it. It was cut into 2" x 2" squares, the perfect size. Perfect.

Chocolate cake is comfort food. It's not pretentious. It's not expensive. It can be eaten warm or cold, with icing or without. Like I said, perfect.

A couple of weekends ago I made Devil's Food Cake for a good friend's 40th birthday. As you can see, there wasn't much left of it after the party. I got the recipe from the February/March edition of Fine Cooking. The recipe is fancied up a bit; it's layered and has been given a ganache icing treatment. But take those things away and it's pretty close to my mom's recipe.

I repeated the recipe the following weekend, splitting the cake into two smaller ones. One for us and one as a gift for one of Tara's co-workers (who went way out of her way on a Friday afternoon to help out with Tara's studies). I made a few tweaks the second time and I think it came out a little better. I used four 6" pans for the two cakes. But it you want to be a purist, you can find the original recipe here.

I'm sure each and every one of you can do a better job with the icing than I did. I wanted to get it really smooth, but the more I tried, the less smooth it got. I'm sure there are many tricks of the trade for icing a cake, but it's never been a skill I could master.

Devil's Food Cake with Ganache Icing

The Cake
(all ingredients at room temperature)
3/4 cup butter plus 2 tbsp for buttering the pans
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp for flouring the pans
2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa power
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup butter milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise

  1. Preheat the oven to 305F
  2. Cut out 4 circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the four pans. Place the parchment in the pans and butter the parchment and sides of the pans. Dust with flour.
  3. With a mixer, whip the butter, sugar and vanilla together for a minute or two (until it is light and fluffy). Add the three eggs to the mix, one at a time until they are completely incorporated.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl.
  5. Whisk the buttermilk and mayonnaise together in a third bowl (or large measuring cup).
  6. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the butter milk mixture, add the two mixtures to the butter/sugar a third at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter into the four pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.
The Ganache
2 cups whipping cream
1 pound chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 Tbsp butter
  1. Boil the cream in a medium pot.
  2. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Gently mix the cream and chocolate until homogonous. Stir in the butter.
  4. Let cool to room temperture.

Put it all together
  1. Slice cakes in half.
  2. Assemble 2 cakes as such: cake slice, ganache, cake slice, ganache, cake slice, ganache, cake slice.
  3. Apply a thin coat of ganache on the sides and tops of the cakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the ganache set.
  4. Apply a thicker coat of ganache to the sides and tops. Re-refrigerate to set the ganache. Remove from the fridge 60 minutes before serving.


Carolyn said...

As someone who was fortunate enough to sample the cake, the pictures do not do it justice. (Not that I think your photography is worse then your cooking, just that your photography does not taste as good as your cooking)

I think you need to make a cake for everyone who reads your blog.

Mary Hughes said...

I second the motion to make a cake for everyone who reads your blog. I was home last week following the death of my Dad - the community brought in enough food to feed an army and the best by far, in my opinion, was a massive chocolate cake!

Snides said...

I'd like to jump in on the cake for blog readers motion!

It looks amazing, Richard. Maybe a good candidate for Valentine's?