Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It Was a Dark and Chocolatey Cake...

...and isn't that how the good ones always start out? This past weekend my sister, brother-in-law, and niece came out for a visit. Since it was halfway between my sister's and her husband's birthday, I decided to make a chocolate cake of epic proportions to celebrate them both. I also hope that if anyone pities us enough to come visit and make the long, flat, arduous drive to Clovis, they'll only remember how great my cakes taste and forget about the fact that our two main attractions are a small zoo and a Chili's. I wanted to make a dark chocolate fudge cake because when I see chocolate I always ask myself, "How much darker could this be? And the answer is none" (Bonus points for understanding the Spinal Tap reference). Most everyone I know is a huge fan of chocolate, but my husband is not. While he has a million qualities I adore (hello sense of humor, swimmer's build, and charming smile that gets him just about anything), I am slightly perturbed that when he sees a chocolate cake his first instinct isn't to grab a shovel or just dive headfirst into it, but instead to inquire on the status of other dessert selections. I decided I didn't want to be left with half a cake all to myself when my family went back to civilization, so instead of going full dark chocolate fudge from top to bottom, I made the frosting a simple chocolate buttercream so it wouldn't be too chocolatey for Derek to eat. I mean, I did just get a new elliptical, but I had a horrible mental image of me eating half a cake while using it, which totally defeats the purpose...
Heeeelllooooo, gorgeous.

I'm really glad I made the alteration because the dark chocolate is complimented so well by the lighter buttercream...what a happy accident that turned out to be that I will still take credit for, a-thank-you. I know what you're thinking...'Is that a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with chocolate curls and chocolate filigree? Is she insane?' Short answer: Yes. Yes I am. And it is this kind of crazy that just so happens to translate into evil chocolatey genius territory. If you like chocolate even remotely, this will turn you into a full-fledged chocoholic. Out of all of the -oholics, this is probably the least destructive, so just hop on that elliptical while someone dangles a piece of cake in front of you. Let me break down the cake recipe, frosting recipe, how to create simple chocolate filigree, and chocolate curls. Onward to tastiness!
Sour cream...I don't know how you do it, but you make the best cakes possible.
I came across about a thousand different fudge cake recipes and kind of created an amalgamation of loads of them. The ingredients aren't too taxing, and throwing the cake together in your stand mixer is a complete breeze. You need:
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 1 cup of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa 
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 HEAPING tablespoon of baking soda (or one TBS and one TSP)
  • 1 1/3 cup of veggie oil 
  • 1 cup of heavy cream or buttermilk depending on your taste preference. The heavy cream will yield an intensely rich taste, but I opt for buttermilk to compliment the sour cream
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2 tsp of vanilla extract 
Start by preheating the oven to 350 and greasing two 8-inch or 9-inch rounds. I used 8-inch rounds to yield a very tall cake. I was going for a chocolate tower effect, if you will. My favorite part about this cake is you kind of do things backwards, but this means less dishes! Dump the flour, cocoa, sugar, and baking soda into a stand mixer bowl and mix together with a spatula until fully blended. Then add in the buttermilk/heavy cream and blend slowly. Scrape the bowl then add in the vegetable oil and blend for a minute on medium speed. While you are mixing in the liquids to your dry mix, set up a small pot and boil the water. Once boiling and your other liquids are incorporated to your dry mix, very, very slowly add a little of the water to your bowl. Mix slowly or you're gonna be slinging hot water around at about boob height in your kitchen which could lead to a disaster and a really not fun story to tell the ER doctor (thankfully not speaking from experience). Once all the hot water has been added, let the cake mix rest for just a moment so it isn't super hot (I waited 5 minutes). This way you won't curdle your sour cream and scramble your eggs because the mix is too hot. Add in the sour cream and extract and mix well. Finish off by adding one egg at a time to the mix and blending well. Pour into your greased pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cake mostly clean.
Don't forget to smack the pans on the counter. This is a very bubbly cake mix, so you want to knock out as many bubbles as you can to keep air out of the cake.
Heaven must look similar.
Let your cakes cool on a cooling rack on top of some kitchen towels until room temp. You can always place into the fridge or freezer to speed this process up, but I used the time to come up with a filigree design and place my plan into action. To make a chocolate filigree, you only need a few simple ingredients:
  • Parchment/wax paper with your design drawn on it
  • Chocolate melts or chocolate chips melted down (I used half a bag of melts)
  • A plastic baggy with a small bit of the corner trimmed or a piping bag fitted with a round tip (I used a #5 tip)
Remember, when working with melted chocolate, there is a golden window of opportunity when the melted chocolate has firmed up enough that you can have great control over it before it gets to hard to pipe with. I melt my chocolate down and load up my piping bag then let it rest for 5 minutes before piping.
I drew a simple design on my paper then flipped it over.

Then all I needed to do was trace over the design with my piping bag full of chocolate. Make as many or as few filigrees as you like. I made 8 with the intention of using 3 and the knowledge of knowing my clumsy hands would break at least 2 while assembling onto my cake and the hope of having an few extras for snacking. Leave the filigrees alone after piping for about 15 minutes. Then use a spatula to place on a plate or tray and put into the fridge to keep cool until you're ready to use.
Chocolate curls are cute and fun, like me after a glass of wine. To make you just need a chocolate bar, baking bar, whatever...chocolate in some bar form and a vegetable peeler. I made short and long curls by peeling the short and long edges of the baking bar respectively. Put more pressure onto the bar to make curls that have more loops. I then placed these into the fridge to chill until I was ready to use them.
The makings of greatness.
Buttercream + chocolate = a marriage of tasty convenience. When your cake is almost cool, begin making your frosting. Gather up:
  • 1 cup of Crisco/shortnening
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup of Hershey's Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 cup of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder (if you want an even lighter chocolate flavor, omit this and use 3/4 cup of the regular powder instead)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6-7 cups of powdered sugar
  • 6-8 tablespoons of milk or heavy cream (heavy cream yields a richer frosting with more flavor)
 Start by creaming together the Crisco and butter for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add in the cocoa powders and vanilla extract and slowly blend together. Add in two cups of powdered sugar, blend on low and then add in two tablespoons of heavy cream/milk. Repeat this until you've mixed in all 6 cups of sugar and all 6 tablespoons of milk/cream. If you want a stiff consistency of frosting, stop here. If you want something you can also decorate/pipe with later, add in the extra cup of sugar and 2 more tablespoons of milk/cream.

What a tall drink of water. Or cake.
 Assemble the cake by slathering a nice layer of frosting on the bottom layer and affixing the top layer to that. Go ahead and crumb coat so that the dark chocolate cake is mostly hidden:
Like so.
Stick in the freezer for 30 minutes to set, then come back in and put a final layer of frosting on top of your crumb coat. Try to get it as smooth as possible, but know you can smooth things out later with a Viva paper towel. Place back in to the freezer for another half an hour and then smooth out any unevenness with the paper towel trick. 
I wanted a rosette border on top and bottom of the cake, so I used a #18 tip on a bag of the chocolate buttercream and started my border. I simply piped a bit of frosting out in the center of my rosette and swirled around to the left until I had come all the way back around to my starting point and stopped piping and pulled the tip away slowly.
And repeated until the bottom was bordered.
I did the rosettes on the top of the cake a bit larger, and at the ending point, I left enough space to pipe a small star and jazz things up a bit. Gorgeous! You could stop there, but then you'd have a lot of filigree for nothing.
Still edible, but prettier on the cake than in the fridge.
I needed a platform to place the filigree into, so I piped a large mound of frosting on the middle of the cake. Then I inserted three of the filigrees into the mound, only breaking one! A miracle! But then I had four leftover filigrees, which even by my standards was a few too many. To finish off, I took my piping bag (still with the #18 tip) and piped small stars around the filigree's base.
Like a filigree graveyard.
I finished off the cake by sprinkling the chocolate curls on the top and around the filigree. This is a seriously awesome-looking cake that does take a small amount of work to bake, but the decorating is so unbelievably easy while it looks unbelievably intricate and hard. So we'll keep that between us because you can totally handle this and make it your own. If my clumsy left-handed self can do it, anyone can. I'm the poster child of enlightening self-deprecation.
You get a filigree! And you get a filigree! Everyone gets a filigree!
Mmm..words cannot really express how this combo of dark chocolate fudge cake and light, airy chocolate buttercream just tastes so right. But, yeah, this cake was extremely tall on its own and adding the filigree on top made it so tall I couldn't use a cover on my cake safe. It was like the supermodel of cake that had legs (or in this case, filigree) for days. Due to this I kept it in the beer fridge until my family arrived and could help me eat this giant, gorgeous tower of cake. Know what goes really well with dark chocolate fudge cake? Beer. So it was almost fortuitous that the cake ended up in the garage beer fridge anyway. As for how my non-chocoholic husband felt about it? Well, we watched the Game of Thrones finale last night, and Derek was either eating his feelings or just that interested in seeing what this cake tasted like, so we each had a piece to stifle the pain of being a fan of this show. Valar morghulis, I suppose. That means "always eat the cake" if you're not a GOT viewer...'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You make Jon Snow's death a little less painful, chocolate cake tower.

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