My husband's birthday was last week and even though we went away for vacation to celebrate - I was determined to still make him a cake. I'm pretty serious about birthdays and I make it a goal of mine to always make a cake for whomever I can to celebrate. First 'cause, well, cake. I don't need very much of a reason to eat cake. Second, I'll take any excuse to celebrate and for me, that usually involves food. I especially love good cake. I say good cake because bad cake is almost not worth eating. I admit, I get a little angry at bad cake for dashing my expectations. I didn't say I didn't eat it, just that I was eating it angry.
Anyhoo - I decided it was a great idea to make this cake while we were on vacation. Well, we decided – my girls agree on little, but whisper the word cake and they come running. I figured we would make the cake mostly at home and touch it up later. There was even a kitchen in the hotel suite, easy peasy right? Not exactly. I did make the cake and the ganache and some of the frosting ahead of time. Things didn't go quite to plan. (Do they ever?)
This chocolate cake is the latest in my quest for the perfect chocolate cake. Alas, like the grail so far this has eluded me. This cake is pretty darn good - maybe a little dry, but that could also be because in this crazy vacation plan, the cake was a couple of days old. The recipe is adapted from the "Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I was afraid it might be dry because so far every cake I've made from this cookbook has been a little dry (there must be something I'm doing wrong or haven't perfected yet) which is the reason I got a little coo coo and decided to make this a 6 layer cake instead of a four layer cake. Before you ask, of course I ran out of frosting. Ta da! Brilliant planning on my part. If I were to redo this cake - I'd stick to 4 layers, but make the same amount of frosting because the frosting turned out to be awesome. The cake was pretty awesome too – don't let my quest for perfection deter you.
I made my cake in the comfort of my kitchen and wrapped the layers and chilled them in the fridge. I find it easier to cut the layers if they have been chilled. This was the night before we were to leave so I took them out the next morning (while we were packing, of course) and cut my two layers into 6. I have a cake slicer to help me, but it isn't quite perfect. The slicer is really made for making a 8 layer cake, not 6. My layers came out a little uneven. It probably didn't help that we were also packing and small children were running back and forth through the kitchen. Yet more reasons to stick to 4 layers. ;)
My husband requested a mascarpone frosting for his cake. This was a new frosting for me, but I love a bit of a challenge and I am a bit obsessed with trying as many different types of frosting as I can. After a bit of experimenting and some help from the birthday boy - we were able to get the perfect consistency. This frosting is very easy to make as long as you are all about temperature control.
I layered my cake and did a crumb coat and then... I ran out of frosting...and time. New plan, now I was going to bring the cake up with its crumb coat and finish with the frosting and the ganache drip up at the hotel. A frenzy of packing later and we were away!
We made it to the hotel and yay! The cake made it intact! Yay! I remembered all of my ingredients! Yay! But... I forgot my decorating tools. Boo. Hiss. No problem, just a run to the store and... Nothing. After much searching the best I could do was a cheap spatula and a ruler. Yeah...a ruler. But I was undeterred. I made another batch of frosting, by hand this time (which was lovely but I think I'll stick to an electric mixer in the future) and proceeded to cover the cake.
Check out my ghetto top frosting layer! Actually, I think it came out pretty well considering I was smoothing it out with a ruler.
I let the cake chill in the fridge while I warmed up my ganache. Now, here is where I wish I could go back in time - I had the perfect consistency for the ganache drip, but I was nervous it was too thin so I let it cool in the fridge for a minute. Sigh - it would have been great. The thicker ganache was ok, but a little goopey - it didn't have that sexy clean finish. Next time. Also, I should have prepped my little piping bag with extra ganache before I started pouring it on the cake. I originally thought I wouldn't need it but then I wanted to accentuate the drips, make them a little more dramatic; but the time it took to prep the bag meant that the added drips didn't blend in as nicely as I wanted. (Pro-tip, I have since read that you can pop the cake in a slightly warm oven to smooth the glaze out - I haven't tried it yet but it sounds brilliant.)
The basic technique of the drip layer is pretty simple. You start with an iced cake that has been chilled and start pouring the ganache in the center. Then you careful but quickly put the ganache to the edges, allowing it to drip over the sides at random intervals. Then, if you want to add to the drips, you can take a piping bag or ziplock with some of the extra ganache and the corner cut off and add a bit of ganache to the very edge of the cake (maybe where it is dripping anyway) and let it drip down. This needs to be done quickly so that the ganache blends together and it looks like it naturally dripped that way. It really helps to have a little turntable for this part - but I got by without one in my little vacation kitchen, so it isn't make or break.
After the drip layer is finished, you can either leave as is or cover with any number of gooey toppings. In my case, I sprinkled some sugar stars and I bought the tackiest birthday candles I could find - I figured the love of my life deserved nothing less. ;)
Chocolate Fudge Cake
Adapted slightly from "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
- 1 1/4 cups (4 oz) unsweetened cocoa (dutch processed)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 4 cups (400g) cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups (2 sticks, 6 tbsp) unsalted butter (softened)
- 2 2/3 cups (578g) light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9" by 2" cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment and grease the parchment.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and the boiling water until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with an electric mixer) beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions.
5. Beat in the cocoa mixture and the vanilla. Add in the flour mixture in two additions until just combined.
6. Divide the batter between the pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted near the middle comes out clean and the cake springs back with lightly pressed in the center.
7. Let the cake layers cool in the pans on racks for about 10 minutes and then invert layers onto racks (you may need to run a spatula around the edges first). Carefully peel of the parchment off the bottoms and reinvert so that the cake is upright. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Cake layers may be made 1-2 days ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap at room temperature or up to 5 days in the refrigerator, but this cake is best the day it is made.
To frost and finish cake:
1. Prepare frosting and ganache (recipes follow).
2. Take each layer and cut in half so that you have 4 layers total. Stack and fill layers of the cake with the frosting and then cover the cake in a crumb coat. Allow the cake to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Cover the cake with top layer of frosting, being careful to make this layer as smooth and crisp as you can. Put the cake back into the fridge for a few minutes.
4. To make the ganache drip - first, make sure your ganache is a nice pouring consistency (I was nervous about this so I let it thicken a bit - it was too thick then and gooey - oops). Put some of the ganache (maybe a 1/4 cup) into a piping bag or a ziplock and set aside.(This is just in case the drips don't "drip" as much as you would like and if you have it prepped beforehand it will blend better - learn from my mistakes :)
5.Take the chilled cake out of the fridge and place it on a turn-table (if you have one). Pour the glaze on the cake, starting in the center and working your way out. (If you are afriad of dumping too much you could spoon it onto the cake). Using a spatula or the back of a large spoon, spread the glaze around the cake until it reaches the edges. Slowly continue to push the glaze over the edge and let it run down the sides.
6. Optional: If you would like to excentuate the drips, take your piping bag you prepared earlier and working quickly - carefully pipe some additional ganache, right the edge of the cake and let the ganache run down the sides. Randomly continue around the cake until you achieve the amount of drips you want.
7. Last step - you can either leave the cake as is or decorate the top with cookies, donuts, meringue, candles or whatever you would like.
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Honey Mascarpone Frosting
Honey and mascarpone frosting, simple yet elegant.
- 3 cups mascarpone
- 4 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste
- 1 cup heavy cream (room temp)
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. In a large, microwave safe bowl - combine mascarpone, honey, vanilla, salt and whisk with a hand mixer until smooth. [Note of caution: the alcohol in vanilla extract could denature the cheese, using a vanilla paste eliminates that problem.]
2. Gradually beat in the cream. The mixture may curdle at first but continue beating. If it doesn't smooth out within a couple minutes, put the whole bowl in the microwave for 15 seconds and try again. It may take a couple of tries, but it will smooth out and thicken a bit. Beat until you have soft peaks.
Makes about 4.5 cups.
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Dark Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate glaze for the Chocolate Fudge Drip Cake
- 8 ounces dark chocolate (I like 62% or 70% scharffen berger)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1. Coarsely chop the chocolate into very small pieces. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. Heat the cream over medium-high heat until it just begins to boil. Pour over the chocolate and add the salt and butter. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes - allowing the chocolate to melt, don't stir (stirring will change the temperature too quickly and it will give the ganache a grainy texture).
3. Gently stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature.