Sunday, March 21, 2010

Super Special Birthday Cake


Today is Lance's grandma's birthday. We were supposed to go up and take her to church and have lunch on her, but then we got a foot of snow:


Crazy. Anyway, with all the snow, we postponed special meal until (probably) tomorrow, though I have to fit my 12 mile long run in there somewhere. She requested a chocolate/coffee flavor combination, which gave me lots of options. I've made this espresso chiffon layer cake before, but I wanted something different. Fancier.

So I pulled out my awesome baking book, In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley (a great resource for bakers, FYI) and found a recipe for a walnut layer cake (note to self: make this cake later) with espresso buttercream. Not a chocolate cake, so it didn't qualify, but I liked the idea of the frosting. So I consulted another cookbook and found a recipe for an intense chocolate cake. I decided to bake that cake with the espresso buttercream and decorate it with melted chocolate and chocolate-covered espresso beans. It turned out extremely well, and the buttercream is amazing--not a "quick buttercream," (which is just butter and powdered sugar and is usually way too sweet for my tastes) but instead one that involves meringue and obscene amounts of butter.

The beautiful, lovely buttercream:


Spreading the beautiful buttercream on a layer:


The layers all stacked up:


The finished cake:


The cake was lovely (I tasted the bits I cut off to somewhat level the layers), the buttercream is not too sweet and is also lovely (I may never make a quick buttercream again), and the cake looks beautiful and special. And as soon as the roads are clear, we'll be heading up to share it with her!

And in case you want the recipe, here it is!

Super Special Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream

Chocolate Cake (from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook):
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup freshly brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour 3 cake pans. Line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper and lightly grease the papers (can skip this step, but it helps to get the layers out of the pan)

In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa, coffee, water, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set both bowls aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in the eggs one a time, then beat in the melted chocolate. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the liquid mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, in three additions. Do not over mix.

Divide the batter among the three pans and bake 20-25 minutes, until cakes are done. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, the remove from pans at let cool completely on the wire rack.

Espresso Syrup (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):
  • 1/3 cup freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/3 cup brandy or rum
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Mix all together until the sugar dissolves (I had to heat mine slightly).

Espresso Buttercream (adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen):
NB: good quality butter and eggs are a must, since they'll really add to the flavor of the buttercream.
  • 4 large egg whites (be careful not to allow any yolk or fat to drop in)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1-1/2 tbsp hot water, cooled
In a pot, bring an inch or so of water to a simmer. Lightly beat the egg whites, the add the sugar and whisk until frothy. Set the bowl over the water and whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very warm (but not hot), about five minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl and whip the egg whites until it is cool to touch, about 8-10 minutes. If it's not cool enough, the heat will melt the butter and give you issues, so don't be afraid to beat it. The meringue will be stiff and glossy.

Beat in the butter, a little at a time, making sure it is completely incorporated before adding more. Don't be afraid to beat it and make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla, then add the espresso mixture a little at a time, beating well.

The frosting should be glossy and smooth. If it's not (and it wasn't for me) or if it starts to separate or look funny, put the bowl over some hot tap water and whisk it until it gets smooth. It smoothed out beautifully for me (as you can see from the pictures).

To assemble the cake:
  1. Brush extra crumbs off the layers, and level them off. Brush the top of the cake with some of the syrup (I didn't use all of it--it is optional and helps to keep the cake moist.)
  2. Put a dollop of buttercream between the layers. Brush off crumbs.
  3. Frost the cake (Smitten Kitchen has some good tips--I like putting the crumb coat on, chilling briefly in the freezer, then applying the top coat.)
  4. Melt 2 oz. dark chocolate and use a fine tip on a pastry bag to make the criss-cross. Put a dab in the center of the diamonds and place a chocolate-covered espresso bean on the chocolate dots.
A perfect cake to share with a loved one for a special day.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

*cough* update? *cough*

Cake looks delicious btw. I'm sure Lance has already passed along that comment, lol.