Who needs a reason for chocolate cake? Every once in a while, I pretend I do. Birthdays are always good excuses. It's my brothers birthday today (Happy Birthday!), so I will talk about birthday cakes
The chocolate-flavored cake is a fun one. It’s less fluffy than “normal” cakes, and doesn't actually have a lot of chocolate (thus “chocolate-flavored” and not “chocolate”), but in a way that is nice, it actually lets you add things and play around a little. I've been adding chopped walnuts or ground almonds, depending on the mood and the person I am making it for, but as it is not over-the-top sweet, you could throw in chocolate chips instead for a chocolate-chocolate cake. Possibly without making it miserably sweet to eat, even. If I try it, I will let you know, as of now, it’s just a guess. Feel free though. Worst case, you still have a chocolate cake. Just have thin slices. Which you will probably want anyway. It’s not overly heavy, but it is a denser cake than your typical fluffy confection. Around here people seem to like it. It’s becoming our new Birthday Cake. And In-Between-Cake. And Oh-Hey-I-Got-A-New-Cake-Plate-Can-You-Make-Me-A-Cake-For-It-Cake.
Not a new plate, but a new cake. Which is better, if you ask me.
So. You want a cake that is not intensely chocolatey but uses chocolate as a flavoring agent, that is dense, lightly nutty, and oddly delicious? Goes well with tea, may work for breakfast (chocolate and nuts - basically counts as nutella, right?) and will hopefully leave you without that odd sugar high that makes you wonder if you can actually hear your pancreas screaming? Let’s warm up our butter then. (It’s cake. Of course there is butter. And sugar. Plenty of sugar.)
As with the oatcakes, I found this recipe in Home Baking. It was actually the first recipe that I tried, the story and description sounded so good that it needed to be made. They describe it as a little old-fashioned, on account of the lower chocolate content and less sweetness than we are used to today, but it balances nicely with the frosting and the nuts, so if you want more sweetness, you could try a sweeter frosting (or seriously - try the chocolate chips instead of/in addition to the nuts). I don’t know if you will want it though, once you try it. It’s pretty satisfying the way it is.
Chocolate and nuts
Well-loved? (Or, this is why I use a notebook now)
You may want a mixer for this as you will be beating egg whites. A few willing roommates, or a particularly stressed friend and a whisk are suitable alternatives.
So, step one:
Remove two sticks (or one cup) of butter from your fridge. Place them on a table or counter. Or some surface of your choosing that is not back in the fridge. (I prefer food things placed above dog-nose height, or far enough back past dog-nose length. This would vary by pet availability/size/agility of course. Use your judgement. Or spike a stick of butter with chili powder and see if it happens again after that.(One dog of mine did develop a taste for spicy things though…)) Make yourself a pot of tea and go do something else for a while while the butter warms to room temperature. Should take about an hour. If you are impatient, toss it in the microwave for 10 seconds and then straight into the mixer.
Done! Time for tea.
Step one and a half: Chop and melt two ounces unsweetened chocolate, then let them cool. I usually microwave the chocolate for this, stirring it every 15-30s. Depends on the strength of your microwave. I would go for shorter bursts, maybe even at lower settings, to start, til you figure out how yours melts things. Takes less time than if you burn it by mistake.
Ready for the microwave.
Beat the butter with two cups packed brown sugar (see? plenty of sugar). They say light, I use dark or whatever I happen to have at the moment, both have worked out fine. Maybe a slightly different taste, but I have not run a side-by-side comparison. Perhaps I will at some point. My roommates would be delighted. Anyway. Beat til light and creamy. You’ll notice when it happens. If you are using a mixer, this is when you grease your cake pans. (Or at least, when I do. You’ll still have plenty of time for the next bit).
Softened butter, meet Lady Velvet.
Hello Brown Sugar.
Meet Butter. And Lady Velvet.
I think they get along well, don't you?
Separate five large eggs. The recipe calls for four extra-large eggs, but large ones happen to be the standard around here. You might want six if you are using medium or small one ones I suppose. The yolks can go in any size bowl you want, but you might as well put the whites in a mixing bowl - you will be whipping them later.
Dump the melted cooled chocolate into the butter-sugar fluff. Beat again, til it is all incorporated.
Toss in the egg yolks and a pinch of salt. Unless you used salted butter, Then add in the yolks, forget the salt. Beat until incorporated.
Sift two cups of flour. (This I also usually do while the butter and sugar are doing their thing, Have I ever mentioned how much I love my mixer?)
Flour is a little lumpy.
Sifter fixed it.
Chop a half a cup of walnuts, slivered almonds, or any other nut you feel like, or measure out anything else you like mixing into chocolate cake batter. (See above.)
Remove the bowl from the mixer (if you are using one) and add in a half-cup of the flour. Beat it in with a spatula or wooden spoon (the recipe suggests the wooden spoon, I prefer the spatula. Works better for me and is easier to clean. Also, I once managed to get blisters from a wooden spoon, but my batter stayed lumpy. I'm not sure which I found more annoying.
Spatula works, too.
Pour in a third cup of milk. This is the first of three thirds (yup, one cup total). so if you are not feeling the cleaning energy, just use the same one-cup measure you have used for everything else and make your best guess. Mix until incorporated, using your spatula or spoon of choice.
Milk, one-third already in the bowl.
Now mix that in.
Step 10, etc.:
Repeat flour, beat, milk, beat, til it is all in. Now toss in your nuts or chips and mix those in too.
Find your friends/a hand mixer
Only those with opposable thumbs need apply for this position.
Walks can be discussed once the cake is cooling.
Beat the egg whites til they form “Soft but sturdy” peaks. I took this to mean peaks that fall a little when you pick up the whisk, but hold that folded-over shape without melding back into the whites.
Fold in a quarter of these soft and sturdy peaks, gently.
Already in the mixing bowl
Ready to go
Fold fold fold.
Fold in the rest. Apparently the point of doing this in stages, starting with a quarter to a third is to “lighten the dough” - I think what that is supposed to mean is egg whites are easily crushed, so you sacrifice a part of them to fluff things a little, giving the rest a better chance?
Slowly being covered.
Pour into your cake pans. Smooth tops with a damp spatula. Realize you never preheated the oven. Oops. Run, turn on oven, hope it heats up quickly and wait for that or toss the cakes in the cold oven to see what happens. (But do turn the oven to 350°F before you do. Otherwise it will take a bit longer.)
Pans of batter
Close enough- it evens out a bit in the oven.
While the cake bakes (25-35 minutes or til a toothpick comes out clean), clean up. I usually have two mixing bowls, two small and one medium bowl, plus measuring cups, whisks, spatula,
The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with only a crumb or two.
Remove them from the oven, let them cool for a while (15 minutes or so), run a knife around the edges and remove them from the pan, then let them cool completely.
Time for that walk.
Make ganache! So far I have not been able to get the ganache they talk about to work, in the way they suggest making it, my chocolate consistently siezes.
So if you do want a sour cream ganache, melt 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, together with ¼ cup sour cream (full-fat. This is cake!) in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, stirring carefully.
If you want a regular ganache, heat in a pot or microwave just til it boils, ¼ cup plus two tablespoons (60ml) heavy cream with one tablespoon of butter, then pour this boiling mixture over 4 ounces (114g) chopped bittersweet chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir til all the chocolate is melted. If you would like, add 1 ½ tsp cognac, brandy, or any other flavouring. (Bourbon, for example, might be nice…)
Put one layer of the cake on a plate, cover in ganache. Put the second layer on. Cover in ganache. If any is left, get a spoon. (Or, if you must, cover the sides of the cake in ganache.) Make sure cake is not close enough to the edge of tables or countertops to be nose-able by any furry friends that might wander by, just to make sure everything is in order.
Let the chocolate cool.
This one is easy. Eat the cake. If it’s a birthday, optionally cover in candles of appropriate number.
Chocolate Flavored Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Grease two 8-inch (20cm) round cake pans.
Cream together til pale and smooth:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks, 230g) butter, room temperature
Add in, mix til combined
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
Add, beat until smooth:
5 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt (if your butter is unsalted)
Alternately add, starting with the flour:
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted (½ cup at a time)
1 cup milk (⅓ cup at a time)
½ cup (50g) almond flour or chopped walnuts
Beat to soft and sturdy peaks:
5 egg whites
Mix one-quarter or the egg whites into the chocolate batter, then fold in the rest.
Pour the batter into the pans, smooth the top with a wet spatula, and bake for 25-35 minutes, or a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove. Let cool completely on a wire rack, frost with ganache.
Sour Cream Ganache:
Melt together, in a heatproof bowl over simmering water
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (60ml) sour cream
Heat, in a pot or microwave, til boiling:
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Let cool, untouched, for 5 minutes, then stir until all the chocolate has dissolved.
1 ½ tsp cognac, brandy, or other flavorings.