Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My First Blogging Event

Phew! You know, when I commented on this post, I figured that this whole Tuesdays with Dorie thing would be lots of fun. It's a wonderful book of recipes, most of which I really want to make. Not only that, the recipe they had just made was a wonderfully simple and tasty Orange Berry Muffin. I can totally make muffins, cookies, scones, etc. But I was in for a surprise! When I was emailed with the recipe for the week, it was CAKE! Layer cake! Now, cake is just not something that I make. I might make a cheesecake once a year, this flourless torte once a year, and apple pies in abundance in the fall, but layer cakes? Never! They scare me like monsters under the bed scared me when I was 5 (I would run into my room and vault from the doorway onto my bed in the corner so they couldn't grab my ankles!). They can lean, the cake can be dry or crumble, the fillings don't spread easily or the ooze, and they never come out nearly as nicely as the picture in my head.

But hey, that's what these sorts of things are for, right? To conquer these fears, the baseless ones that are only here because of those gaps in cooking and baking experiences. My mom never made cakes (let alone layer cakes), and so I don't - sounds like a simple thing to conquer, right? Hmph! Reason has nothing to do with this issue.

*Deep breath*

So off I went to the store, and came out with more artery-clogging and high-cholesterol-inducing ingredients than I have seen in a long time. Heavy cream, whole milk, buttermilk, a dozen eggs, a couple sticks butter, yee-haa!! After drafting a friend to help with the constant, vigorous whisking and mixing that is called for in this recipe, we managed to get all of the components finished without too much difficulty. Assembly was also relatively easy, although those dang chocolate curls never worked out, so the poor cake top is a little nakey and pasty white.

Reflecting back on the actual bits and pieces, I wasn't too hopeful about this recipe, mostly just because of my own tastes. I don't really like whipped cream fillings, and wasn't sure that I had used high enough quality chocolate in either of the fillings. Valrhona and Guittard chocolates aren't exactly anywhere near Oshkosh, WI. I mean, this is the land of cheese, beer, and brats - not high quality chocolate! (Really, not even high quality cheese either - I have a heck of a time finding good goat cheese and mascarpone)

When I brought the cake into work on Monday morning, I found out that I was not the only one who was inspired to bake over the weekend - there were frosted heart-shaped sugar cookies out there too! But hey, I think I beat those cookies out, because after a bite of this cake, a friend at work asked if I would make her wedding cake. Ha! I win! When I finally succumbed to the siren call of the baked goods, I was pleasantly surprised. The white chocolate whipped cream gave the same flavor profile as a buttercream without the greasiness that I think is present in most frostings. The mix of both of the chocolate fillings with the cake made this greater than the sum of its parts. In the end, I consider this to be a successful foray into layer-cake-baking, not that I'm going to go and make them every weekend...

Oh, and I wasn't going to cut into this cake until I brought it into work on Monday, but I had to. The boyfriend heard that I was going to make a cake, and requested a piece. If there is anything that that boy loves, it's cake. So, in the interest of keeping the relationship together (I do sort of like the guy) I cut out a little piece for him for when he comes into town next weekend. Hopefully he likes it!

Black-and-White Chocolate Cake (Dorie Greenspan's Baking)

For the Cake
2 c. cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk

For the Dark Chocolate Cream
2 c. whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 T sugar
3 T cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temperature

For the White Chocolate Whipped Cream
6 oz premium quality white chocolate (such as Valrhona Ivoire or Guittard), finely chopped
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-x-2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To Make the Dark Chocolate Cream: Bring the milk to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk--this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle--then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly, and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to cool the cream quickly, put the bowl with the cream into a larger bowl filed with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To Make the White Chocolate Whipped Cream: Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 c. of the heavy cream to a boil.
When the white chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature--it can't be the least bit warm when you add it to the whipped cream.
Working with the stand mixer with a whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 c. heavy cream only until it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to creat an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To Assemble the Cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place one layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolate whipped cream, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup or so of the dark chocolate cream. (You'll have some dark chocolate cream left over--use it as a dip for madeleines or sables.) Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. If you'd like to decorate the top with chocolate shavings or curls, do it now.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Serving: Remove the cake from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut it. Though the cake is particularly good with coffee or tea, it also goes well with a sweet or sparkling dessert wine. Makes 10 servings.

Storing: While both the dark chocolate cream and white chocolate cream can be made ahead and kept tightly covered in the refrigerator, once assembled, the cake is best after about 3 hours in the fridge. However, it can be refrigerated overnight--just cover it loosely and keep it away from froods with strong odors.


Mary said...

welcome to the group! what a beautiful cake...I'm very impressed!

April said...

I am glad that it turned out for you! Welcome to the group!

chelley325 said...

Welcome to the group! I'm glad you had success with your first layer cake - it looks great!

Erin said...

I'm glad your first layer cake turned out well! It looks pretty!

lemontartlet said...

It looks so lovely!

slush said...

You did a fantastic job! I am really impressed with all of us. So glad you joined us!

Peabody said...

I am quite sure that this cake beat out the heart shaped cookies. A wonderful job.

Nikki57 said...

Welcome! I'm so glad you won the best baked goods at work "contest" :)

Jhianna said...

Great job! I was scared to death too!

Tartelette said...

What a beautiful cake! You did a fantastic job!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

this looks great! much tastier than cookies, i'm sure. :)

MrsPresley said...

glad to have you join us. i think you did a wonderful job, esp if this was your first layer cake! :) sorry i picked another baked good that you don't make so often, but i hope you enjoy the cheesecake!