Thursday, March 8, 2007

"Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts" by Maida Heatter - New Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake

Date I made this recipe: March 3, 2007

Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts by Maida Heatter
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf
© 1978, 1980

Recipe: New Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake – p. 84

My husband turned 50 last week. Like many people turning 50, he wasn’t excited about his birthday at all. But chocolate cakes trip his trigger and so since I knew it was his birthday, I baked him a cake. And not just any cake but a scrumptious chocolate cake with a chocolate “pudding” filling and a nice, light (not!) frosting made of whipped cream and confectioner’s sugar. Yum, yum!

Except it almost wasn’t “yum, yum.” I don’t know what I was thinking when I started to make the cake, but it wasn’t until after I put the pans in the oven on Saturday morning that I realized that the cake recipe called for 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, not the one ounce bar I put in. To be sure I had indeed screwed up, I checked the wastebasket and sure enough, only one foil wrapper emerged from the wreckage.

So, I pulled out the cake pans, tossed the cake batter and started again, this time with much better results. As my dad is fond of saying, “when all else fails, read the instructions.”

Our cookbook author recommends that you make and assemble the cake the day you plan to serve it. Leave ample time, regardless of whether you make one batch or two, to put the whole thing together.

My husband just finished munching on one of the last pieces of cake left and is in a considerably happier mood than he was on his birthday. Cake, especially chocolate cake, can do that to a person. Regardless of whether or not it’s your birthday, eat cake. You’ll feel better!

New Orleans Chocolate Layer Cake – serves 12 to 14 (Note: This recipe is in three parts: the cake, the filling and the frosting)

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
¼ pound (1 stick) sweet butter
½ cup sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs (large or extra-large)
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water

Adjust rack to center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round layer-cake pans and line them with baking-pan liner paper or wax paper cut to fit. Butter the paper and dust the inside of the pan with flour, invert and tap to shake out excess. Set pans aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat and stir frequently until melted and smooth.

When the chocolate is almost melted, stir the sour cream and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.

When the chocolate and butter are melted, transfer to the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat just to mix. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating until mixed after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and baking soda and then, on low speed, add the flour, scraping the bowl and beating only until smooth. Now, on the lowest speed, gradually add the boiling water, scraping the bowl and beating only until smooth. The mixture will be thin. Pour half of it into each of the prepared pans.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes until the tops spring back lightly when gently pressed with a fingertip.

Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes. Then with a small, sharp knife, cut around each layer to release. Cover with the rack, invert, remove pan and paper lining, cover with another rack and invert again to cool right side up.

Chocolate Filling
2 cups milk
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup less 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Scald the milk in a small, uncovered, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. (Note: Maida includes directions for scalded milk later in the recipe but since I’ve rarely scaled milk before –scaling myself is another story – I’ve moved them up so you’ll know what she means: Milk is scalded “when it has a slightly wrinkled skin on top.”)

Meanwhile, place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler, cover, and place over hot water on low heat to melt. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the hot water and set aside uncovered. Note: my mom has an actual double boiler (and boy, didn’t I wish I had that with this recipe) but I’ve never bothered to get one myself. If you do not have a double boiler, place a small amount of water in the bottom of a saucepan, then place a larger pot on top of that pot. Put the whole thing on the stove and turn the heat setting to medium to high. The water in the lower pan heats the top pan to melt the chocolate without the chocolate having to be submerged in water and thus, ruined.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small custard cup and let stand.

In the top of a large double boiler (or pot combination as described above) that is off the heat, stir together the flour and sugar.

Add your scalded milk to the four and sugar mixture, stirring well to keep the mixture smooth. Place over hot water in the bottom of a double boiler on moderate heat. Stir constantly and scrape around the bottom and sides of the pot with a rubber spatula until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a thin cream sauce. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes more.

Stir the yolks slightly in a mixing bowl. Very gradually add about half of the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly, and then add the yolks to the remaining milk. Stir well and place over hot water again. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Add the softened gelatin and stir to melt the gelatin, then stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and salt. (If you wish, the mixture may be stained but it is not essential). (Note: I didn’t strain it—who has time?!)

Place some ice and water in a large bowl and place the pan of filling into the ice water. Stir occasionally at first until cool; then stir more frequently but gently until the filling is thick enough to spread-it should be like a very thick mayonnaise-it must stiff enough not to run when it is spread on the cake.

When the filling is chilling prepare a large, flat cake plate or serving board by placing four strips of wax paper around the outer edges.

Place one layer upside down on the plate. Check to see that it is touching the paper all around.

If you have a cake-decorating turntable or lazy Susan, place the cake plate on it.

Spread the thick filling smoothly over the cake—do not spread it beyond the edges. It will be almost 1 inch thick. Then place the other layer right side up over the filling. Refrigerate.

Whipped Cream Icing
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup strained confectioners sugar
Scant 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the small bowl of the electric mixer (the bowl and beaters should be chilled). Whip the above ingredients until they are thick enough to spread. (As a safety precaution against overwhipping it is a good idea to finish the whipping with a wire whisk). (Note: I used my KitchenAid mixer and used the whisk attachment and that worked out great. I even chilled the bowl as directed – what the heck.)

Spread the cream over the sides and then over the top—it will be a thick layer. It may spread smoothly or into swirls and peaks. (Note: we chose “smoothly”).

Maida indicates the cake should be refrigerated for at least an hour or so before serving. Remember to remove the wax paper strips before doing so!


Anonymous said...

Damn, ya' didn't save me a piece? Just kidding! Sounds fab - E will salivate just reading it!

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this