Sunday, November 3, 2013

Garlic and Sapphires and Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Saturday morning I decided to bake a cake I first read about in one of Ina's cookbooks, Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  The recipe seemed a little um, maybe contrived?  I have a pet peeve with recipes calling for 1 cup of flour AND 1/4 teaspoon, for example.  Yes, baking is a science and all, but that seems a little overboard.  So instead of following the recipe step by step, I made the cake the way I pretty much make every cake.  Cream the butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients . . . you know the drill.  I did not sift all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients to that bowl.  No.  I did it my way.  The cake baked and smelled heavenly.  Five minutes before it was due to come out of the oven I had a deja vu . . . this looked like a cake I made many years ago.  A sort of "wet" chocolate cake.  Not fudgy and more than moist.  It looked and smelled familiar.  The 8" pans came out of the oven and were placed on racks.  In five minutes the middle of both cakes fell.  A big hollow pit in the middle of each.  No worries.  Frosting will save the day.  I used my regular buttercream (because why stretch myself?) and added some cocoa and some melted milk chocolate.  Except in my haste I added too much milk.  Nothing was right.  But you can always salvage a chocolate cake, right?  So I began to frost the beast.  The more I worked on this little project of mine the more frustrated I became.  I tossed it.  The entire frosted cake went in the trash and I picked up my book and walked away.

Except I couldn't let it go.

Four hours later I started again.  This time sifting the flour and sugar and cocoa and baking powder and baking soda and then adding the wet ingredients to the bowl.  Precise and with precision.  And yes, the cake worked. The frosting was different than anything I've made before . . . lots of butter but little confectioners sugar.  It was light and lovely and stayed that consistency overnight.I still love this recipe, but Ina's is incredibly moist and lovely.  A completely different crumb.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake (Serves 8)

Butter for greasing the pans
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

I think I learned a real lesson yesterday.  This is now my "go to" chocolate cake.

The book I left because I wasn't willing to let that recipe win?  Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl.  What a fun read.  She walks you through her tenure at the New York Times as their food critic, documenting each disguise and persona she adopted before visiting various establishments.  Then you read her actual review of those restaurants.  Sometimes she visited a restaurant five times before settling on the number of stars.  And sometimes readers were more than unhappy with her assessment of a New York institution.  But it's a decadent read and completely enjoyable.  Her career is the the most enviable there is . . . as much as I dreamed of cracking this recipe (and but good) I dream of her life as a food critic.  That's the job that got away...

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