Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Cake Love" - Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Date I made this recipe: October 18, 2009

Cake Love – How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown
Published by: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
ISBN: 978-1-58479-662-6
Recipe: Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – p. 128-129 (cake) and 154-155 (frosting)

Time flies when you’re having fun.

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I decided to make my own birthday cake and was going to do it the next day but then I got derailed and so didn’t make it until a week later. Such is life. Let me just say that the saying “another year older and deeper in debt” has never been more true; my law school student loans are ridiculously high, such that I’m pretty sure that I will die before I pay them off. Lest you think I’m kidding, I’m now scheduled for payoff when I’m 74. Hahahaha…..

So speaking of law school, Warren Brown, author of today’s featured cookbook, had the right idea. Warren was a D.C. lawyer before returning to his first love, cooking. He founded a bakery called Cake Love and went on to have a show on the Food Network (that I loved, by the way) called Sugar Rush. I left business to go into law and have nada to show for it. Would that I had Warren’s expertise in baking or even cooking because then I might have been “a contenda” (just like Marlon Brando in the movie, On the Waterfront).

Anyway, when Warren came out with a book, I just had to have it and when I saw the picture of the chocolate sponge cake with buttercream frosting, I did indeed experience Cake Love.

Except, folks, I am not at all a cake kind of gal. But I am most definitely all about the frosting. (And in my world, you either like cake or you like the frosting but I almost never hear of anyone who likes both.) To me, the cake is just to conduit to the frosting and my, how I love the frosting. I am always the person who eats the corner piece with the most frosting…but when I say “eat” the corner piece, I really mean that I eat the frosting off the piece and leave the cake behind. My husband and I have a deal where I eat the top of the cake and he does cleanup on aisle 12 and it works beautifully.

As far as cakes go, this one was pretty good and I had several comments from tasters that it was more like a European cake than an American one…in other words, this cake was dense. Warren commented that sponge cake is often dry but I thought it was fine…what I ate of it, of course!

But oh, reader, the frosting, the frosting! It was positively divine and there was enough left over for me to nibble at for days to come. I have been known to eat frosting right out of a can and this is no exception. My only question is: does frosting freeze?!!

Take it from me, you will LOVE this CAKE.

Chocolate Sponge Cake – yields two 9-inch-round cakes
Cake Ingredients
8 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (8 ounces) extra-fine granulated sugar. Note: Most bakers weigh their ingredients rather than measure them by cups, tablespoons, etc. and I followed suit. But be warned that eight ounces of sugar weighed is way more than 1 cup measured. I was worried that the cake would be too sweet but it was fine.

Dry Ingredients
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (1/12 cups + 3 tablespoons)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla power (note: I found this locally at Byerly’s grocery store)

Liquid ingredients
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Whiskey, 2 tablespoons (optional)

Frosting ingredients
Yolk mixture
6 large egg yolks
2 ounces (1/4 cup) extra-fine granulated sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Milk Mixture
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces (1 ½ cups) extra-fine granulated sugar

Flavorings and Butter
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chocolate-covered cocoa nibs (optional)

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 (conventional) or 335 (convection). Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

Set out the ingredients and equipment. Crack the eggs and yolks into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment and set aside. Measure the sugar into a bowl and set aside. Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring. (Oops…it always helps to follow the instructions. I didn’t sift and everything was fine). Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside. (Note: I weighed all the flour and sugar dry ingredients as well as the cocoa and confectioner’s sugar but didn’t weight the teaspoon items such as salt and baking powder).

Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, w2hisk to combine and set aside.

Add the sugar to the eggs and yolks and whip on high speed until a thick ribbon is formed, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium for about 30 seconds to stabilize the foam. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.

Using a large spoon, gently sprinkle a third of the dry ingredients evenly over the top of the foam and folk in with a rubber spatula. Repeat in two more additions until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. This step should take a total of about 30 seconds.

Slowly fold in the liquid ingredients until combined. (Note: I had a tough time combining all the ingredients and so what I did was to mix in a little of the combined ingredients with the dry pockets at the bottom of my mixing bowl so that they were the same consistency - more or less – as the rest of the batter. When cooking, though, each pan formed a squishy little center where the remixed ingredients settled. Just keep an eye on the time and test for doneness at more frequent intervals and you’ll be fine.)

Prepare the pans; line the bottom of each pan with parchments but do not spray the sides.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans by depositing the batter into three separate areas of each pan and smoothing it out with the rubber spatula or an offset spatula. (Note: yeah, right! No offense, Warren, but come on, how on earth do you manage to get three separate areas in a 9-inch pan? I kind of plopped and eyeballed and it was fine).

Baking time is 20 minutes for those folks who live at sea level and 34 minutes for those who live in high-altitude areas.

Once the top of the cakes appear smooth, dry, don’t dent when touched, and are even in color, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of a cake. When the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.

Cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes, before removing from pans. Use a small offset spatula to loosen each cake from the rim of the pan (or just use a dinner knife like I did—works great!). Place a cardboard cake circle or plate over the pan and invert. Remove the parchment from the bottom. Assemble immediately or wrap cakes tightly in plastic and store.

Cake storage: store an unfrosted cake under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge, for up to 1 week. If frosted, store under a cake dome for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store unfrosted cake longer, label, date, and store the plastic wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

To make the buttercream:
Set out the ingredients and equipment.

Separate the yolks into a large bowl. Add the 2 ounces sugar, potato starch, and cocoa powder and set aside. Place a damp kitchen towel under the bowl to prevent it from sliding.

Measure the milk mixture ingredients into a 2-quart heavy bottomed saucepan and set aside.

Measure the flavorings into two separate bowls and set aside.

Bring the milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking slowly in small circles at first and ending with broader strokes until fully combined. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Return the saucepan to the stove and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly but not rapidly, for about 4 minutes (3 minutes at high altitude). The key is to keep the pastry cream moving so it won’t scorch the bottom of the saucepan.

When you begin to see lava bubbles-large, slowly forming bubbles that burp steam- reduce the heat to the lowest setting and whisk briskly for 1 minute to pasteurize the pastry cream. Note: 1 minute is not enough as my mixture was still pretty soupy. Keep going until it starts to look like a frosting instead of a syrup.

Pour the pastry cream into the bowl of the standing mixture fitted with the wire whip attachment. Whip the pastry cream on high speed until it’s cooled to room temperature, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time followed by the cocoa nibs and vanilla extract. Whip on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

So okay, we’ve made the cake and the frosting and now it’s time for assembly. Warren would have you slice the two cake rounds into halves but I say “screw that.” And let me just say that frosting this thing was a nightmare. So I frosted as best I could and after cleaning up the ridiculous mess that the buttercream created, tossed the entire thing in the fridge without so much as tasting one bit. The day after I made the cake, I took half of it to work where it was gobbled up in a heartbeat. So sure, one could follow the rules but one could also go rogue and the results are the same: one damned good cake!


MSEH said...

Please. Bring. Cake. Now.

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