Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Sweet It Is

March is just full of sweet opportunities. A number of my scholarship sisters have March birthdays, so does Sweetie, and so do other family members and friends.

For Sweetie's birthday we had a deluxe dinner at home...just the two of us...and I made a variation of the March Daring Baker I'll tell you about it when I post about the challenge later in the month. I can tell you that the birthday version included shamrock cookies since it was St. Patrick's day. I can show you a photo of those cookies.

Then the Darling Mother had her birthday...and DM asked for a vanilla cake with chocolate icing. My Mom (who is darling in her own way, but not DM) teased me about having to make a boring, same old same old cake.

Now I could have made a yellow cake from a mix and swirled on some chocolate icing from a can. But, really, can you imagine that I would? Much more fun to delve into some cookbooks and old files and come up with something just a little different and way more sophisticated.

For starters I took the Perfect Party cake that the Daring Bakers baked last year and made it a vanilla instead of lemon cake. I think I over baked it because it was drier than I would have liked,but had great flavor.

For the filling I made a chocolate custard from a recipe in a great cookbook called Butter Sugar Flour Eggs by Gale Gand that was like a very deep, dark chocolate cornstarch pudding.

I used some Bensdorp Dutch-process cocoa from King Arthur...very delicious stuff...and it made the filling very intensely chocolate.

When I filled the layers it slipped a bit so the cake was a bit lopsided. I was worried that the filling wouldn't set up enough and that when it was cut that it would fall apart. Fortunately the cake was dry...I guess it soaked up some of the custard's extra moisture.

The top and sides were slathered with semi-sweet chocolate ganache. I love the stuff, but it sure is messy to work with.

There was some left after the top and sides were finished so I chilled it a little bit and then whipped it to use to decorate the bottom edge with tiny stars and to make some swirls on the top to hold candles.

It was a hit with the birthday girl and sure did look pretty.

Now I want to try making the full recipe that the filling came from. It's called Brooklyn Blackout Cake and is a cocoa chocolate cake with the cocoa filling and crumbled cake on the top and sides. Sounds wicked good! Might have to make it for one of those later in the month birthdays.

Jazzy Vanilla and Chocolate Party Cake

Vanilla Party Cake
based on Perfect Party Cake in Baking: from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if you want a really white cake, use clear vanilla extract)

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl or a stand mixer bowl, cream the sugar and the butter, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.

Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.

Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

Chocolate Custard Filling
from Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs by Gale Gand

3 cups water
2 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 ½ cups cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
Scant 2/3 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pour 2 ½ cups of the water, the sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Dissolve the cornstarch in ½ cup of water. Whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan and return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.
Fills a three or four layer 9 inch cake.

Ganache Frosting
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (use your favorite…you will really taste the chocolate)
8 ounces heavy cream (I use whipping cream)

Set the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl.

Pour on the cream and mix well.

At half power in the microwave, heat the mixture for a minute. Stir well. Repeat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let the ganache stand and come to room temperature before using.

If it thickens too much to frost with and get a nice shiny glaze, reheat at half power for 30 seconds and stir. If it is too thin, let cool some more to thicken a bit.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. (I was sooo glad I used wax paper strips because the ganache was sooo messy...or else it was because I was sooo tired that I was messy...either way, use the strips)

Spread it with one cup of the chocolate custard.

Top with another layer, spread with one cup chocolate custard and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used about half the custard - reserve the rest for another use).

Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake.

Pour the ganache frosting over the top and use a thin spatula to spread evenly. Use the spatula to frost the sides with more ganache. If it seems too liquid, let cool a bit until firmer before frosting the sides. Let remaining ganache, if any, cool some more until firm, then use to pipe a shell or other decorative border where the cake meets the serving plate.

Chill until frosting is firm, about 15 minutes, then remove the wax or parchment paper strips (if using) and discard them.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is chilled, but you can let it sit and set for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; the ganache is too firm when served cold.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.


  1. Oh yum the cake looks so decadent. Love the idea of the chocolate custard filling.

  2. With so many cake recipes we'd like to bake don't you think it would help if we had month birthdays and then a yearly round-up birthday ;-)
    Beautiful cake!

  3. Thanks for the recipe. I'll try it out soon.

  4. I really like the new header, Elle.

    Now, the cake is beautiful. Perfect for special occasion!

  5. I would have liked a cake like that for my eighth birthday, too. ;)

  6. My cakes always shift. Which is why I hate making layer cakes. Sigh. It looks good and I bet it was super tasty.

  7. Katie, this wasn't as excellent as some of the cakes you have made, but it was a good cake for a birthday party.

    Tanna, My month birthday will be a little over a week from now...what cake should I bake? Sounds like a great idea!

    Amanda, Super.

    Anh, Thanks, although it does change.

    Andreas, if you multiply the candles by another number, it equals the actual birthday :) Didn't want to cover the cake with candles.

    Peabody, It was delish and no one minded the off centeredness...matches my personality I guess :)