Sunday, May 25, 2014

Birthday Cake On A Hot Evening

When you know that the birthday party for a dear friend will include his two grandsons, it makes sense to plan for a birthday cake. I don't know about you, but I feel almost as much joy now as I did when I was a kid when a beautiful cake topped with lit candles is brought to the table and placed in front of the person having the birthday. The traditional birthday song is sung with whatever success can be expected, depending on the singing talents of the group.  What was sweet this time is that the eldest grandson, a second grader, was asked to step over and help blow out the candles after the song. I'm not sure that the birthday 'boy' blew at all. Fortunately there were only three candles, each representing a significant chunk of his life.

The cake requested was chocolate with vanilla icing. It has been a couple of years since I've baked a frosted layer cake...sad, isn't it? I do remember that chocolate cake crumbs just love to lodge in the vanilla icing, so I decided to do chocolate whipped cream on the sides and vanilla whipped cream between the layers and on top. What I didn't count on was a heat wave that had my kitchen hot enough to melt whipped cream.

Fortunately we had a new refrigerator delivered the day before, so the old one was virtually empty, although cold. I got my workout going up and down the new front steps numerous times carting baked layers to the old freezer section to firm up, whipped cream to the fridge section, to keep the whipped cream thick, frozen layers back into the kitchen, partially frosted cake to the freezer and then back in again later for the final topping of snowy whipped cream, a sprinkle of mixed sugar decorations, and a last trip to the freezer to get that cake as cold as we could for the drive to the birthday boy's home. I carried it on my lap during the drive and watched the frosting thaw on the way. It stayed on the cake, so back into the freezer it went while we ate dinner, then onto the counter to thaw a bit as we kept talking after dinner. Worked like a charm. The icing was firm enough that it didn't slide off the cake and the cake was thawed enough to enjoy its lovely texture and great chocolate flavor.

The cake was one I had been wanting to try from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, a collection of amazingly wonderful chocolate desserts, including my favorite chocolate bundt cake, a silky chocolate pie and so much more. If you love chocolate, track down this book! I have at least a half a dozen places bookmarked to make in the future. This cake was one of them. It uses melted chocolate chips and buttermilk and is a moist, fine-grained, fairly light cake with a good chocolate flavor, but not one so intense that it would put off kids or people who don't adore chocolate. For those who adore chocolate I turn to the Sin City Cake, but I wasn't sure if it would be too intense for the kids.

The Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake recipe makes not two, but three nice layers, so it becomes a pretty impressive cake once you put it together. It is not a quick recipe, so allow time to prepare the pans, to cool the melted chocolate and the chill the baked, cooled cake layers for easier handling. Putting on icing can take some time, too. If you use whipped cream, be sure to ice with the whipped cream the same day you will serve the cake, and keep it chilled between icing the cake and serving it.

This tall, beautiful cake was a big hit and the hostess made sure to move it to her own plate after those who wanted them had seconds, so that there would be cake for breakfast! Since I have to make sure to not eat too much chocolate, that was just fine with me.

I'm not going to give a recipe for the whipped cream frosting since I was unhappy with the chocolate version and the vanilla version was just heavy cream whipped with a little sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla added once the cream started to hold its shape.

If you are keeping up with our kitchen spruce up, I painted the ceiling a flat, bright white in the old front hall and hallway on Friday and have picked out a nice gold color for the accent walls facing the barn. And there is the new Frigidaire side by side refrigerator, too...and cake! Life is good.

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

6 oz. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate morsels
1/4 cup water or prepared, cooled, coffee
2 1/3 cups sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs (graded large or extra-large) at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter (or use pan spray) three 9-inch round layer-cake pans. Line the bottoms with wax paper cut to fit. Butter (or use pan spray) the wax paper. Mix together 1/3 cup flour and the cocoa in a small bowl. Use a fine-mesh strainer to dust the mixture over the bottom of each pan and then tilt the pan to make sure all inner surfaces are coated with the flour mixture. Shake out excess. (Working over the sink makes for easy clean up because this is messy work.) Set the prepared pans aside.

Place the chocolate morsels and water or coffee n the top of a small double boiled over hot water on moderate heat and cover until the chocolate is partially melted. Then uncover and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside uncovered to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the vanilla and then the sugar and beat to mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl with a rubber or silicone spatula and beating until well mixed before adding the next egg. (The mixture might look curdled...that's O.K.) Add the melted, cooled chocolate and stir until smooth. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two additions. Scrape the bowl with the spatula and beat only until smooth after each addition.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

Place one pan on one rack and the other two on the other rack. Do not place one directly above another one.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick gently inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and dry. (I switched two of the pans about half way through the baking and turned all the pans 180 degrees to help them bake evenly.) Check each pan carefully...don't overbake. I checked 5 minutes earlier, just in case.

Let the layers stand in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 - 15 minutes. Then, with a small sharp knife carefully cut around the sides to release. Cover each pan with a rack, invert pan and rack, remove the pan and the wax paper lining, cover with another rack and invert again, leaving the layers right side up. Let stand until completely cool. I put a sheet of baking parchment under each layer before I did the second inversion...that way each layer sat of parchment as it cooled and that made it easy to move the rack and layer to the freezer when they had cooled. These are somewhat delicate layers, so freezing makes them easier to handle when icing them.

Prepare a flat cake plate by placing four strips of wax paper around the outer edges. Place one layer upside down on the plate, checking to be sure that the wax papers touch the cake all around. Ice the first layer with about 1/2 cup of your favorite icing, then put the second layer on right side up. Ice the second layer with another 1/2 cup or so of icing, then place the final layer, right side up, on top. I like to ice the sides and then the top, but many people ice the top and then the sides. Choose which ever you like. Using an offset spatula makes it easier to apply the icing. Decorate as you choose. Chill for a while if your icing needs to set, then let the cake come to room temperature before serving. Cut yourself a piece and enjoy!

1 comment :

  1. This looks fantatsic and a lovely soft crumb. Love the sound of the chocolate and cream fillings.