Archive for the ‘cake’ Category


It’s my blog’s first birthday. A year ago, I don’t think I knew how much having a food blog would improve my cooking. By reading other blogs, I’m constantly hearing about new methods, ingredients, and ideas. I also find that I’m forced to choose a variety of recipes from a variety of sources to keep my blog balanced. Taking photos of my food has encouraged me to think more about presentation. And being a member of Tuesdays with Dorie and the Daring Bakers has greatly increased my confidence in baking – not only because I’m baking so often, but I’m always making something new. There are far fewer tasks in the kitchen that intimidate me now compared to a year ago.


And I hear about other popular recipes. People often recommend Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake when someone asks for a great chocolate cake recipe. I already have a favorite chocolate cake, and I had my doubts that the Hershey’s one could live up to it, especially because it uses cocoa as the only source of chocolate, plus it calls for oil instead of butter. Of course the only way to really figure out which is best is to eat them side by side.

copy-of-img_9466left – Hershey’s; right – Cooks Illustrated

Hershey’s Cake is certainly easier to make. The dry ingredients are mixed, some wet ingredients are added, the batter is beaten for a couple of minutes, and then boiling water is stirred in. The result was a very liquidy batter. It was weird. The Cooks Illustrated recipe is a little more complicated, but isn’t by any means difficult.


The cakes tasted surprisingly similar. Hershey’s is a little sweeter, but CI’s has a subtly stronger chocolate flavor. The textural differences were more noticeable. The Hershey’s cake had a crust on the top (and I pretty much guarantee that I didn’t overbake it), which I didn’t care for. Cooks Illustrated’s cake had a more even texture, and it was lighter and fluffy. You can see in the picture above that the Hershey’s cake is much denser, especially on the bottom. Both cakes were moist, but I think the Hershey’s cake was more so.

The difference between the two cakes wasn’t as dramatic as I was expecting. Both were good, although I’ll stick to the Cooks Illustrated recipe. Both make for a good blog birthday cake!


I’m adding a “One Year Ago” feature, copied straight from Smitten Kitchen. It seems like a great reminder for old recipes that are too good to be forgotten.

One year ago: Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

For Cooks Illustrated’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake, click here.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake (from Hershey’s Chocolate)

2 cups sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

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For years, I didn’t make cheesecake, because I only had a 9-inch springform pan, and I rarely had anyone around to eat 12-16 servings of cheesecake. I know cheesecake freezes well, but it sounded like a hassle, with the slicing and packaging correctly to avoid freezer burn. Then I got this little 4-inch springform pan, which has come in handy a few times, and which led to the fantastic Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake. But a 4-inch springform cheesecake is really only big enough to whet my appetite. Dave and I had two tiny servings each of the apple cheesecake, and it wasn’t near enough.


The solution, of course, is more cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake is not only seasonal, but one of my favorite cheesecake flavors. I’ve tried a couple different recipes, all of which were good, but none struck me as the best pumpkin cheesecake ever, so I saw no reason not to try a new recipe. I chose the one on epicurious that had the most positive reviews.


I used a different recipe for the crust, because I didn’t have pecans, and I’m not sure I’d want them in the crust anyway. The recipe also includes a sour cream topping that I skipped because I didn’t have sour cream. And, again, it seems unnecessary.


I made one third of the recipe, which was a little too much for my mini springform pan, so I did some googling and figured out how to make cup-cheesecakes. I love it! They’re so cute and perfectly sized. I think next time I’ll just press the crust in the bottom of the muffin cup and not up the sides, but other than that, I was really pleased with this method. I followed Clare’s instructions and let the cheesecakes chill in the freezer for a few minutes before popping them out with a butter knife, and they came out fine, even though I had underbaked the centers.


One problem with pumpkin cheesecake is that it tends to look plain. This recipe recommends a sour cream topping, and I’ve seen some accompanied by recipes for bourbon whipped cream, but cheesecake is so rich that I can’t see topping it with something else that’s so rich. I think what I want to do is make a marbled cheesecake. I’m going to try separating out some of the batter before adding the pumpkin, then swirling the plain batter in the pumpkin base. I might have to tweak the filling ingredients just slightly, but I want to keep the recipe similar.


As is though, the flavor and texture of this cheesecake more than makes up for its lackluster appearance. It was perfect – dense and creamy with just the right balance of pumpkin and cream cheese. We finished the third of the recipe that I made in an embarrassingly short time, and it was all I could do to resist making more just two days later.


Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (crust from Cooks Illustrated, filling adapted from Gourmet via epicurious.com)

To bake cheesecakes in a muffin pan, line each muffin cup with the crust mixture. Pour in the filling and bake 20-25 minutes at 350F. Cool on a rack until room temperature, then freeze for 15 minutes before using a butter knife to prop the cheesecakes out of the pan.  I’m thinking this amount of filling will made about 24 cup-cheesecakes.  You’ll probably need to increase the crust to 12 crackers, 4 tbsp sugar, 8 tbsp butter (and a teensy bit more of each spice).

5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1½ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add granulated sugar mixture to cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. In a medium bowl (or the same one), whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) until combined. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.

3. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.

4. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.


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This is the second Tuesdays with Dorie recipe in a row that I didn’t even know what it was before I made it. I had to wikipedia it to find out if I was supposed to serve it as dessert or what. I ended up serving it with some healthy omelets for breakfast.

This was not the most popular recipe we’ve made in the group. It seems like a lot of people had problems with the consistency of the dough and its rising times, and I’m wondering if some of those problems can be attributed to unfamiliarity working with yeast. A few people were surprised by how much time the recipe required, but almost all of that is spent waiting for the dough to rise. I didn’t think this was any more effort than any other yeast bread recipe.


I didn’t have any problems putting the recipe together. I can’t say I followed the directions exactly – I kept forgetting about it after I put it in the refrigerator, even though I was supposed to punch it down every once in a while. But I find that yeast breads are pretty forgiving.


I liked the texture of the bread quite a bit. It was very tender and light. The raisins were a nice addition. I wonder if it would be tasty to soak the raisins in rum instead of hot water to plump them? Or is a rum soak inappropriate for something that’s generally served for breakfast? (And do I care if it is? Probably not.)


The only problem I had with the kugelhopf is that it tasted totally flat. I was actually wondering if I had forgotten to add the salt, but now I see that quite a few people thought the bread was bland. Looking at the recipe, I can why – ¼ teaspoon of salt is a not a lot for a loaf this size. I would expect to use about three times that amount. I really need to be more careful with the salt amounts in Dorie’s recipes – I find that she tends to use less than I prefer. It’s just hard not to trust the professional in these matters.

Overall though, I enjoyed the little kugelhopf rolls, and I’m a better baker for knowing what the heck kugelhopf is. You can find the recipe on Yolanda’s blog.


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I’ve been avoiding buying apples so far this fall. I like them, quite a bit in fact, but I have to pace myself. I eat a lot of fruit, and apples are pretty much the only fruit in season for a good portion of the year. I try to maximize my opportunities to eat the fruit with shorter seasons. But it’s getting to be time to move on to apples, and what better way to kick off apple season than with cheesecake? I should start using every fruit in cheesecake to kick off its season.


Tuesdays with Dorie made this cheesecake long before I joined, and it definitely contributed to my eventual purchase of the book. I don’t know why apple cheesecake never occurred to me before, but what a fantastic idea. Dorie has tweaked traditional cheesecake to include brown sugar, cinnamon and apple cider, and I’m sure you can imagine how well that compliments the apples.


The recipe went off without a hitch, despite making just 1/6 of it in a tiny but cute springform pan. With three components, it isn’t the quickest recipe to put together, but it’s worth it even before the cheesecake – because you also get to eat the batter. My favorite is when it’s just cream cheese and sugar, but I make sure I test every stage.


The cheesecake is delicious, although I think I’ll slice the apples a lot thinner next time because I’m picky about texture. Dorie describes the texture as middle-of-the-road as far as cheesecakes go, and I think she’s right on; it’s not exceptionally dense. The mini-cheesecake was a mistake, because I definitely did not get enough.

PS – The apples decoration on top was shamelessly copied from foodie bride.


Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake (from Dorie Greenspans’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling
1½ pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
¾ cup sour cream
⅓ cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you’re using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they’ll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:
Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center-if the center shimmies, that’s just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan’s latch and release and remove the sides.


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I was excited all day about baking the chocolate cupcakes that Clara chose for TWD. I almost always look forward to baking, but I was downright giddy this time. With the variety of desserts I make lately, I guess I forgot that classic chocolate cake is my favorite!

Clara also suggested that we decorate these for Halloween. Ack…even simple cake decorating inevitably ends up as a huge mess for me, and I’m incapable of making things easy on myself. My six little cupcakes required four colors of frosting, one of which I didn’t actually have food coloring for (orange – I had to mix yellow and red) and another that involved chocolate (black – to give it a head start toward being dark enough). And I am far from an expert cake decorator, so my design options were limited to the few piping tips that I know how to use properly.

The cake itself was a little disappointing. I was getting worried that I would start to sound like a Negative Nellie when it comes to Dorie’s recipes, but this time it seems that a lot of people ended up with dry cupcakes that were a little too tame in chocolate flavor. Not that they were inedible or anything, but Dave and I didn’t need a side-by-side comparison to recognize that we like my other recipe a lot more. One nice thing, since it took a few days for us to eat all of them, was that these seemed to get denser and fudgier with time instead of tasting stale.

Whether I think it’s the best chocolate cake ever or not, I’m always happy to eat cupcakes. I made my favorite Easy Vanilla Buttercream instead of Dorie’s ganache frosting since I needed something that would pipe well. To check out Dorie’s recipe, go to Clara’s blog.

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I have a hard time believing that anyone who owns Dorie’s Baking book has flipped past the photo of this cake without their mouth watering at least a little. When most recipes for TWD are announced, I have to look them up to get an idea of what we’ll be making. But when Tammy chose this cake, I could picture exactly what it was. Dark chocolate cake with peanuts and dripping caramel is hard to ignore.

Although I think my 4-inch diameter springform is ridiculously cute, I wish the sides were a little higher. A 4-inch diameter circle has exactly one quarter the area of an 8-inch diameter circle, but my pan can’t fit one quarter of the batter because the sides are about an inch shorter. Plus I actually made a third of the recipe, not a quarter. The batter didn’t seem like it filled the pan very much, but it rose higher than I was expecting.

It did rise higher than the sides of the pan, but fortunately it didn’t spill over. I managed to overcook the cake part somehow, which is a bummer because a brownie-type cake had the potential to be amazing. It was still good, but definitely too dry.

The caramel portion of this recipe went smoothly for me, which was a relief because I hadn’t worked with caramel since the debacle with the filbert cake. Plus, Dorie specifically says that it’s difficult to work with less sugar than the recipe calls for, but I only made a third of the recipe anyway.

Before adding the peanut caramel topping, I carved off the top somewhat burned part of the cake. I didn’t put the cake back into the springform ring before adding the caramel – since my cake was higher than the sides anyway, I don’t think it would have made a difference. However, I can see why she recommends doing so – it gives the caramel a chance to set a little, so it doesn’t all drip down the sides and pool on the plate.

Even with overcooked cake and drippy caramel, this was a fun dessert. The ratio of caramel to peanut to cake was spot on. The cake was nice and chocolately, and the high rise made it attractively tall. For the recipe, go to Tammy’s blog.

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Deb from Smitten Kitchen recently recommended the cake that Michelle chose for TWD this week, and since I’m a Smitten Kitchen junkie, I’d been wanting to make it since then. I didn’t even realize it was Dorie Greenspan’s recipe at first, so I was excited when I saw that it was the assigned recipe. Plus, I just happened to have all of the ingredients the day it was chosen for TWD, including a bunch of plums. That never happens.

I baked the recipe in a muffin pan because muffins are more convenient to store in the freezer and grab before going to work. And I overfilled the muffin cups because I have an annoying lazy tendency. I put what seemed like an appropriate amount of batter in each cup, but I could tell after I pushed the first plum into the batter that the cups were overfilled. How hard would it have been, really, to re-portion the dough into extra muffin cups, especially considering that I only used 10 sections of the 12-cup muffin pan, and I had extra plums. And then I would have avoided making a mess of some of the muffins/cupcakes.

Not that I minded those broken bits. They gave me a great excuse to snack on cake while I finished making breakfast. I thought the cake was really good. I used lemon zest and cinnamon, but I think orange zest would be a lot better. I’m still fighting fall, but this was a good compromise between late summer and fall flavors.

Michelle has posted the recipe.

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Oh, I’ve been looking forward to someone picking this recipe for a while. I’m so glad Amy chose it for TWD this week. Alternating layers of rich dark chocolate and creamy tart raspberry ice cream sounds like a winning combination to me.

It was also great timing, because it was chosen shortly after I got The Perfect Scoop, so instead of trying to squeeze in an ice cream recipe between all the TWD and Daring Baker desserts plus my insatiable craving for chocolate chip cookies (dough, actually), I was able to make a David Lebovitz recipe for TWD. The book has so many recipes that I’m interested in trying, but of course I was limited by what would go with the chocolate. I decided that Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream was at least somewhat fun and new, and it was similar but not identical to the raspberry ice cream Dorie suggests.

The torte may look fancy, but the recipe isn’t much work to put together. The chocolate mixture was easy to make, so it was just an issue of waiting around for each layer to freeze solid enough before adding the next layer. I worked on it while I slow-roasted some cherry tomatoes.

One thing I thought was odd about this recipe was that Dorie keeps referring to the chocolate portion as “ganache.” I’ve always thought ganache was just chocolate and cream mixed together, but the recipe included only chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs – basically brownie batter without the flour. I did some scouting around the internet, and all I came up with was ganache = chocolate + cream. So ganache doesn’t seem like to right word to use, but maybe someone who knows more about pastry can enlighten me.

Dictation aside, I liked the torte even more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, the ice cream didn’t have enough blackberry flavor to stand up to the chocolate. Dave didn’t even know I had used the blackberry ice cream until I told him, after he’d eaten his slice. The only other thing about this torte that I wasn’t really thrilled about was the texture of the chocolate portion. It seemed a little gummy. I wonder if reducing the number of eggs would help? I know some people had problems with their torte being too hard to slice, but my freezer is apparently weak. If the eggs are there to keep the chocolate soft enough to slice, I could stand to lose a few.

Regardless, yum. This is an impressive, easy, and creative dessert. The recipe is posted on Amy’s site.

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I thought long and hard about what to make for my birthday cake. The thing about this obsessed-with-baking phase that I’m going through is that the eating of the cake is almost secondary to the fun of making it. I had a fairly long list of desserts I was considering, split almost evenly between cheesecakes and somewhat-elaborate layer cakes. I settled on Dorie Greenspan’s Black and White Chocolate Cake because it seemed like a good balance between fancy and not so much work that I’d spend all day (the day before my birthday) baking. Or so I had hoped.

The cake consists of a straightforward buttermilk-vanilla cake, layered with chocolate pastry cream and vanilla cream. The chocolate pastry cream was easy and delicious, and the cake itself came together without any problems.

The white chocolate cream, unfortunately, was not so smooth (literally). This was one of the first TWD recipes, back when there were only a handful of members, so I had scanned a few of their entries and seen that the white chocolate cream might be a problem. I knew enough to use high quality white chocolate, which is less prone to problems in baking than cheaper versions. Valrhona and Guittard are recommended most often, but both require a special, out-of-my-way trip to either Whole Foods or Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve had good experiences with Green and Black’s White Chocolate, which is available at my regular grocery store.

The white chocolate cream is made by melting white chocolate with cream, then adding that mixture to cream that’s been whipped to very soft peaks and continuing to beat until firm peaks are achieved. Firm peaks. Not stiff peaks. I guess I should have considered the difference between those two more carefully. I knew, knew, that there was the potential to overbeat the mixture and cause curdling, and I was so careful, only beating for about a second at a time, then checking the consistency. I was waiting until the peaks could hold their shape.

But the mixture curdled first. I tried to save it, the same way I’ve saved curdled buttercream in the past, and I thought for a while that it might work, but it didn’t. I kicked myself over and over for not stopping whipping the cream mixture early enough. Then I mentally berated Dorie for not being more specific. She gives such wonderful detailed instructions sometimes, describing exactly what the food processor should sound like when tart dough is ready, but she can’t add a warning about this “firm peaks” issue. Bleah.

Even if I’d had the right ingredients, which I didn’t, I wasn’t enthusiastic about trying the white chocolate cream again. Instead, I made a white chocolate buttercream. But I accidentally only made enough to give the cake the thinnest of coatings. I was tired of dealing with fussy white chocolate, and I’d already incorporated raspberries into the cake, so then I made another buttercream, this time flavored with raspberries. But I was frustrated and bored by this time, so I screwed up the buttercream, twice (cooked the egg whites), because of I was inattentive.

So much for my relatively straightforward cake. To assemble, I mixed a portion of the white chocolate buttercream with some raspberry pastry cream I had leftover from another project, and used that as the white chocolate layer in the cake. I used the white chocolate buttercream as a crumb coat and the raspberry buttercream as a final layer.

I wasn’t disappointed in the final product. For one thing, it was really pretty. The cake itself was tasty, although it probably could have used a quick brush with a simple syrup. The dark chocolate pastry cream was fantastic. I wasn’t totally happy with either the white chocolate or the raspberry buttercream, but neither detracted from the final product, even if they didn’t add much. All in all, a satisfactory birthday cake.

Black and White Chocolate Cake (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

Makes 10 servings

For the Cake
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk

For the Dark Chocolate Cream
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temperature

For the White Chocolate Whipped Cream
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate (such as Valrhona Ivoire or Guittard), finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

Chocolate shavings or curls, dark or white or a combination, for decoration (optional)

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 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 a 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); scrape 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 ¼ 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 large bowl filled 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 ½ cup 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 the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup 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 create 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.

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 foods with strong odors.

The Raspberry Buttercream is the same recipe used for Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, with raspberry puree substituting for the lemon juice. The White Chocolate Buttercream is the ingredients in this recipe using the method for Dorie’s buttercream.

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I couldn’t figure out at first whether the banana loaf Ashlee chose for TWD this week was supposed to be a cake or a quick bread. Eventually I realized that it’s in the cake section of the book, only a few pages after the pound cake recipe. But that didn’t stop me from baking it in a muffin pan.

Other TWD members had a lot of problems with this recipe, claiming that the batter was too liquidy. I didn’t really have any issues, although the batter was curdled at the end and looked really gross. Also – for something that I thought would be pretty straightforward, this used a surprising amount of dishes.

My correctly-sized loaf pan is in the freezer full of mushroom lasagna, so I had to bake the recipe in smaller dishes. That meant I could play around with some different methods of combining the batters. I was eager to try polka-dots.  It was fairly successful; I think they’d work better in a larger pan, but this was a good learning experience.

But I thought it was really good. Dave said that it was good but not something that he’d ever really ask me make, so I must have liked it more than he did. I thought the little cakes had a nice texture – they’re really moist, but also nice and firm. The banana flavor is pretty subtle, which I don’t prefer in banana bread, but I liked in this cake.

The recipe can be found on Ashlee’s blog.

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