October’s cake is squeaking in under the wire, but I guess it’s fitting since I made a Halloween banner for it. I guess I just can’t help myself. After last’s month wine fueled cake assembly, the goal of this month’s cake was to keep it simple.
No elaborate fillings or icing decorating. Cake. Icing. Done.
Ok… it turned into: Cake. Banner. Icing. Done. But there’s something cathartic about wielding a glue gun, so it didn’t feel like extra work.
Throughout this challenge I’ve pulled inspiration from a variety of places: cookbooks, blogs, Pinterest. The one source that truly makes me stop cake production and say “This is really good cake!” (and then force Hubster to try a sample) is Nick Malgieri’s “Perfect Cakes.” His cakes showed up in March’s Cookie Dough Layer Cake and again in May’s Strawberry Cream Layer Cake. So I knew right where to go when I needed a no fail, easy cake.
The girls at work have been clamoring for chocolate, so I opted for Nick’s chocolate fudge cake along with his suggestion for a light chocolate buttercream. I knew Nick wouldn’t let me down, but
This cake is ridiculous, off the chain, “I want to eat it ALL. No, seriously, I will try to make good on that statement, so please get it out of the house,” good eats!
The cake is more reminiscent of a brownie in both production and finished consistency. It packs a serious chocolate punch. The icing is a nice contrast, with enough air to be fluffy but still enough flavor to be welcome at this “chocolate only” party. The entire cake is up for “Best of Show – 2012″ and the icing may have just made it’s own division so it can be recognized separately for “Best Icing.”
It was my first attempt at a meringue style buttercream, which involved whisking egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water. Nick’s instructions made it easy, but supporting a large bowl over a hot stove whilst whisking constantly is not something I would recommend if you’ve just started a new crossfit-style workout regimen that turns your arms to putty (looking at you burpees). Of course, making a layer cake that calls for 2 pounds of butter is not something I would recommend if you’re being serious about a new workout regimen…
There are only 2 months left in this challenge. (Where did the year go?!) And I honestly have no idea what I’m making for November or December. I’m sure no one will be surprised if I steal more inspiration from my new bff, Nick.
Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate buttercream
From “Perfect Cakes” by Nick Malgieri
Butter for cake pans
1 lb butter
8 oz unsweetened chocolate
6 large eggs
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 large eggs)
1 ½ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lb butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup water
Place the butter for the icing on the counter to soften.
For the cake
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9” cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with wax paper and coat the paper in butter. Cut 1 pound of butter into 12 pieces and melt in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into ¼” pieces. Let the melted butter bubble for a few seconds so it is really hot. Remove from heat and add chocolate, swirling the pan to submerge and melt the chocolate. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar in a stream and whisk as you go. Whisk in salt and vanilla. Whisk the chocolate and butter mixture until smooth, then add it to the egg mixture, stirring to combine. Fold in the flour. Scrape the batter into the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges with some batter still clinging to it, but not completely wet. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold and place on a rack to cool completely.
For the icing
Put about ½” of water in a 1 ½ -quart pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat so the water simmers. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the ingredients are hot and the sugar is dissolved.
Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk attachment on medium speed until the mixture is cool, about 5 minutes. The outside of the bowl should feel cool. Remove the whisk attachment and attach the paddle. Beat at low speed and add the butter in 8 to 10 additions. The buttercream will look soft and fluffy.
Meanwhile, chop the chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl with the water. Microwave in 5 second bursts, stirring between each interval, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
After all of the butter is added, increase the speed to medium and beat until the buttercream is thick and smooth. This may take up to 5 minutes. At one point, the buttercream may appear to be separating. This is a normal point before the mixture becomes smooth. Keep beating.
Once the buttercream is firm and smooth, add the melted chocolate a little at a time, beating until smooth.
Once the cakes have cooled, level each with a serrated knife, if necessary. Place one layer on a cake stand and spread with a generous cup of icing. Top with second layer and cover with a thin layer of frosting. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of the cake.
Notes: The recipe calls for 9” cake pans, but I only have 8” ones. The sides were a little more done than I would have liked so I suggest grabbing 9” pans for the best result. Also be sure to fully incorporate the flour. I ended up with a lot of lumps. When making the icing, don’t panic when it starts to look separated after the butter is added. Just set a timer so you don’t go longer than 5 minutes and wait until it smooths out. The cake should be stored in the fridge, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving. At work I left it out for 6 hours before slicing.