Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazy Birthday Cake

This was the funniest birthday cake I've ever made. Chocolate cake made from unsweetened chocolate from Guatemala, kahlua, buttercream with vanilla from beans I brought back from Mexico, ganache, and white chocolate from Whole Foods. I was looking around for about a month for the recipe I wanted and just couldn't find one. I cobbled and adapted until I got what I wanted. It wasn't pretty, and there were some issues with the cake, but it sure is tasty.

The night before I made the cake, I had to buy another cake for my uncle's birthday at Whole Foods. I asked them to write "Happy Birthday" on the cake, and when they showed it to me, I asked the guy whether he had to pass a calligraphy test to get the job. He said, "You can do it, too," but I found his instructions (buy some parchment paper, melt white chocolate, build a tube, pour the chocolate in, work some magic to make it into a writing instrument...) too much to handle. I asked if he'd sell me one of his. He called his manager over and they just gave me the tube of white chocolate. So nice.

Chocolate Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and
Dark Chocolate Ganache


3 oz. unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
½ cup water
½ cup butter
1 ½ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. Melt the chocolate in water over low heat and set aside to cool. Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs to butter and sugar one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. Fold in the cooled chocolate and the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the sour cream, beating after each addition. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until the cake center springs back to the touch. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Allow to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup milk
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream

Cream the butter in a medium-size bowl until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla-bean seeds until they're evenly distributed. Add the salt, milk and vanilla extract, and stir until combined. Sift the sugar over the butter mixture and stir the mixture until it's perfectly smooth. If the frosting is too loose, add a few more tablespoons of confectioner's sugar, and stir until smooth. Add whipping cream and beat until really smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to use; mix well just before using.


8 ounces (227 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur.

Makes enough ganache to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) cake or torte.

Now, to assemble: Cut each of the round cakes in half to make four equal rounds. Frost the top of the bottom layer with the buttercream, place the next round on top. Then frost the next top layer, and place the third layer on top. Now, here you have a choice: you can take the fourth round and set it aside to eat all by yourself, or you can make a fourth layer...and a really tall cake! Once the layers are assembled, spread the buttercream all over the cake and smooth out with a metal spatula. Pop it in the fridge and let it sit for an hour or so. When you've made the ganache, cool it down a bit, and then pour some over the top of the buttercream frosted cake. Smooth out with a clean spatula to make a nice, shiny top. Let it sit for a bit and harden, and then decorate with a tube of icing. I used white chocolate. The advice I got from the Whole Foods guy? Don't do it as though you are writing with the icing, think of it as laying the icing down in script.

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