Friday, January 8, 2010

Lessons Learned from Chocolate Cake

Yesterday was a complete waste of makeup. I won't go into it here, as I whined and complained plenty to close friends yesterday. You know who you are, and I thank you.

A few days ago, my friend Karli sent me a link to one of my new favorite blogs, The Way the Cookie Crumbles. The author had recently baked a recipe for a Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake that looked to die for. Yes, the photo above is from The Way the Cookie Crumbles. I might post photos of my cake later. Let's just say this cake is a prime example of why counter irritants do not help.

In my distraction, everything that could have gone wrong in the icing and construction of this cake went wrong, wrong, wrong. I forgot to tightly wrap and chill the cakes so they wouldn't be so crumbly, and BOY WERE THE CRUMBLY. I forgot that one part of the cake was so fresh that it split in half when I took it out of the pan, and of course that's the second one I picked up, so the two halves are going their separate ways on top of the cake. I tried to stitch it together with toothpicks but only used two, lest it become a frankencake.

The good side is it's such a fresh, moist, succulent, fluffy cake that it just falls apart and melts in your mouth. Meanwhile my grandmother is rolling in her grave that there is such a crumbly-iced cake sitting on the island in my kitchen.

I covered it with sprinkles. Everybody loves sprinkles. (Please click on the link. You'll laugh. I promise.)

It looks dreadful, but you know what? It tastes damn good. Best chocolate cake I've made in a long time. And I figure that's a good lesson to take from it. Sometimes life doesn't look so great. Often it's discouraging and things don't work out the way you want them to. Too many plans are forgotten or dissolve, confusion and disappointment ensue, and stuff just plain falls apart.

But at the end of the day, it's still sweet.

Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I used 1 full teaspoon to make a fluffier cake.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper.
  3. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
  1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  3. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is thoroughly blended into the butter.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, then the yolks one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  5. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 portions and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); mix only until each new batch is blended into the batter.
  7. Scrape down the bowl and, if you want, add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a rubber spatula.
  8. Divide the batter between the cake pans.
  9. Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans.
  10. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners.
  11. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (Once the layers are cooled, they can be wrapped airtight and left at room temperature overnight or kept frozen for up to 2 months.)
  1. Place one layer top side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
  2. Frost the top of the layer, then cover with the second layer, top side down.
  3. Frost the sides and top of the cake, either smoothing the buttercream for sleek look or using a spatula, knife or spoon to swirl it for a more exuberant look.
  4. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day, if that’s more convenient) to set the frosting, then bring it to room temperature before serving.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting (frosting pictured here)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about) (Give or take a cup, depending on how thick you want the frosting to be.
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Cream the cream cheese and butter until fully incorporated and smooth.
  2. Add the powdered sugar until desired sweetness and consistency is reached.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream, whip until light.


Jess said...

Loved the analogy! Good one Fran!


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