Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chocolate cake with raspberry/cream filling

A cake recipe! A beautiful, dark chocolate cake just in time for the Super Bowl (I declare formal opposition to the concept that you need a specific reason to make a cake). 

As part of my new year's goals (I dislike the word "resolution," as I can smell the failure from the far side of January), I set out to accomplish a few new things every month, rather than focus only on my daily to-do list and then heave disappointed sighs at myself when I occasionally think of all the other projects I'd like to get to.

After the end of my first month attempt, I am happy to report partial success! I gave myself various monthly options - crafting, baking, the ambiguously termed "self-improvement."
Perhaps not surprisingly, I did best on the baking goals. I still have yet to attempt macarons (sigh, my blog name is a constant reminder of this disappointment), but I did manage a from-scratch/no recipe fruit crisp, my first Swiss layer cake, and even got a chocolate soufflé (first ever!) in under the wire.

So, let's talk cake. I used a modified version of this recipe, which I had used previously back in December for cupcakes, so I felt I had a good handle on the batter thickness and the (still sometimes finicky) Swiss white flour. The full recipe is at the end of the post, if you want to skip down. Unfortunately, I made the cream filling and chocolate icing from scratch and didn't measure any of it, so while I shared the ingredients I put in , I have no quantities. I have mad respect for bloggers who come up with their own recipes - not the from-scratch part (well, maybe a little), but the ability to keep track of quantities.

Unfortunately, I got distracted by playing Civilization V being studious and productive, so the layers were in the oven for about 2 minutes longer than necessary. It wasn't enough to ruin the taste, but they lost some of the delicious moistness that a dark chocolate cake should have (imo).

Chocolate and raspberry puree. Yum. Also, shoutout to my parents and B's wonderful relatives, whose Christmas presents, brought all the way from the US, made this layer cake possible (how did I survive a year without 9" cake pans!?)
I'd already decided that I was going to fly in the face of B's preference and make a chocolate cake with fruit in it (seriously, who doesn't like BERRIES AND CHOCOLATE? Love you anyway, dear), so I bought some raspberry "fruit intensée" - basically jam on steroids. One of my big problems with cakes is that they don't have enough yummy stuff in the middle, so I put some icing under the raspberries and then spontaneously decided to put some cream filling on top.

Amazingly, the second layer is almost straight! The cream filling is peaking out in front, forget to get a picture pre-layer.
I came perilously close to running out of icing, which would have been terrible, since I used the tried-and-true approach of throwing in sugar/cocoa/cream, swiping a lick and adjusting appropriately, and I had no more room-temp butter. But I squeaked it out in the end and was fairly satisfied with the result.

It's not fancy decorating - that's a future goal. But I did (attempt to) wipe down the serving plate to improve appearances!
 I took it into my monthly writer's group, where the assessments were positive, overall: "Very nice, not too sweet" seemed to be the consensus (according to my Swiss culture book, this is actually high praise. No, really, it's the highest).

I was most pleased with the icing. Every time I've tried icing previously, it ended up gritty and a bit too runny (perhaps not enough patience with the vast quantities of powdered sugar?). This time I didn't measure anything - just kept adding, tasting, and testing consistency with a knife. Although, note to future self: cream butter at least slightly before adding sugar and cocoa. The plumes of powder reached into the living room and gave the floor a slightly gritty feel that lingered for days and will require a thorough mopping (ha, as if I own a mop - I meant wet Swiffer - that's the same thing, right?).

Should've used more raspberries. ALWAYS MOAR FRUIT.
The icing was made with a modest quantity of butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, and an immodest quantity of cream and powdered sugar.

The cream filling was mainly heavy cream whipped with a small amount of powdered sugar and a large spoonful of sour cream added (the fruit, since it was made as a jam-type puree, was sweeter than I anticipated, so I added this to give some dimension to the flavors). This also helped to make it a bit stiffer, to withstand the top layer's weight.

The cake recipe (modified from here):
Important note: this recipe is for THREE layers. I didn't trust myself to transport a 3 layer cake, despite the quality of trains in this country, so I left one layer at home (and ate it with a daub of icing/cream and slathered with extra berries).
One reason I like this recipe is because it doesn't call for coffee/espresso. This is often used in chocolate cake to enrich the chocolate flavor - which it totally does - but since neither B nor I drink coffee, it's not an ingredient we normally have. Despite this omission, I find the result very rich and satisfying.

1 cup cocoa
1 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
Combine cocoa with boiling water and mix with a whisk until dissolved, then add milk (careful not to curdle it). In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla with electric mixer at high speed for 5 minutes (I probably didn't do a full 5 mins, to be fair). At low speed, beat in flour mixture in 4ths alternately with cocoa mixture in 3rds (begin and end with flour mixture). Divide batter evenly in prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove and cool on rack.

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