Wednesday, June 22, 2011

.charming chocolate cake.

to tell you the story of how she and i met may just make you jealous of how the fates line up sometimes just so right. instead, i'll fast forward three years to how it came about for me to make this sinful chocolate cake for her thirtieth birthday party. hm, maybe this little decadent number is more worthy of said jealousy than the fates are.

since my baking craze began, i've asked my nearest and dearest their favorite flavors for their birthday yummies from yours truly's kitchen. i think before i even had a chance to ask this friend, she let me know chocolate on chocolate with chocolate was where her sweet tooth called home. no problem, i thought. i'll find a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting recipe and i'll be all set.

somehow, it just wasn't that simple. there are so very many variations of chocolate cake recipes and an overabundance of possibilities. however, when i ran across this recipe for a layered chocolate cake with a surprise raspberry filling on, i knew it was the perfect match.

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
One (10-ounce) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1. Prepare cake: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. and grease two 10-inch cake pans, or three 8-inch cake pans. Spray pans with nonstick spray and then line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper- then spray paper too.
2. In a medium bowl combine chocolate with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
3. In a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add dry mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
4. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven 50 to 65 minutes, or until tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
5. Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
6. Prepare frosting: In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Add butter pieces and whisk until smooth.
7. Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (It may be necessary to chill frosting to reach spreadable consistency).
8. Prepare filling: Puree raspberries in a food processor or blender. Press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a spoon, removing the seeds. Heat the puree in a small pot with the sugar and cornstarch until mixture boils, stirring constantly. As it boils, it should quickly thicken. Let cool.
9. Assemble cake: Spread a thin layer of ganache on 1st cake layer- followed by a layer of the raspberry filling. Top with 2nd cake layer and repeat (if using a 3rd layer). If only using two cake layers, cover the top and sides with the remaining chocolate ganache frosting. Cake keeps, covered and chilled up to 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

i decided to make this cake the day before my friend's birthday party so that i'd have time to correct any disasters in case it did not turn out well. and woowee am i glad i did. there weren't exactly diasters along the way, but this was probably one of the most intricate recipes i'd attempted so far. making the cake itself was not all that intense, but had some quirky twists like melting the chocolate using a mug of hot coffee. hm, does that mean we should just go ahead and eat this cake for breakfast next time?

the first and only other time i attempted to make a three-tiered cake was my very first baking adventure. if you've been a follower of my little baking journey here, you may remember that i lost one of my three layers and ended up with a two story strawberry cake. this time, my mind was set on getting all three layers loose after the baking process and a little baking spray and parchment liners really did the trick.

after the actual cake parts were all baked and set to cool, i got to work on the ganache frosting. say it with me, ganache...isn't that fun? then again, i took a lot of french when i was younger. even, if you say it quick enough and with my new found tennessee twang, it can sound like g'awwsh.

because when i quickly glanced at the ingredients list and read cornstarch incorrectly, i missed picking it up at the grocery store. so, there my cake sat in pieces while i had to put things to a halt and run back to the store. actually, i did literally run in and out. wonder if that exercise cancels the chocolate cake that was coming my way the next day. let's just pretend that four minute dash did, please.

once i got back home and got the raspberry filling on the stovetop, i once again realized i missed something on the recipe. i'd need a really fine strainer to get all the seeds out of the raspberries so that the cake was enjoyable to eat and wouldn't need to be served with a side of dental floss. now, it was late by this point, i had work in the morning and i wasn't running (or walking) to any other stores so i started searching around the kitchen until i came across my strainer.

although it had a super small circular area of mesh to work with, it would have to do. about thirty agonizing, spatula-pushing minutes later, i had enough seed-free filling to make this happen. now listen, if this were some other occasion, i most definitely would not have been this set on making a perfect cake. however, the birthday girl gave me an instant friendship those years ago that i'll always treasure in a brand new town. she deserved a spectacular cake.

with all the components finally cooled and ready to assemble, i built the chocolate beauty. i lathered on the creamy inner and outer layers with the ease of a painter at the easel. it just felt so right and the finished product looked luscious. to top it off, i had assembled a little celebratory banner from fabric, ribbon and twine.

there was only one problem. i couldn't taste it! usually, when i make cupcakes, bars, cookies or even cake, i taste it before anyone else does. mostly, this is to ease my mind and check that i am presenting my goodies with pride and sometimes a little tweaking. but here i stood looking at a finished cake with absolutely no way to taste-test it without cutting into it. and so, i waited until the party with everyone else.

as my birthday girl's husband tied a napkin around her as a blindfold, i pulled the cake out and held my breath. after cutting everyone their piece, i bit in to a symphony of my table of friends' mms and ooohs. i closed my eyes for just a second and could taste the hard work put into this cake. but what was even sweeter than the the rich chocolate offset by a slight raspberry hint was and will always be my friendship with the newest member of our 30s club.

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