Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Wicked Good Cake

A recent self inventory has led me to believe I'm utterly obsessed with Halloween for one of three reasons:
  1. I'm really a demon. Makes sense. I've never taken a flash photo without red eye. This would clear a lot of things up for me, really.
  2. I enjoy the thought of being scared but not actually being scared. Horror movies, cheesy blood and gore, it's all good during Halloween. But pop out from around the corner in front of me the rest of the year, and I will deck you.
  3. As someone with intense OCD, being able to organize and create a theme for my food is an utter delight. I enjoy coming up with creepy desserts more than normal people enjoy eating them. I also really enjoyed creating this list.
In all honesty, unless someone throws Holy Water on me and I burst into flame (I do sunburn easily though...), it's probably a combination of all three. I've been regularly bursting into a medley of Halloween songs ranging from Nightmare Before Christmas to humming the theme from Halloween. You know the one. It's pretty damn motivating when you walk the dogs at 7 a.m. and feel sluggish. Try it sometime and tell me you don't feel like you're being followed. Anyway, I wanted to cap off my Halloween baking a little early this year since we're getting ready to move again, and I refuse to throw away dessert if it isn't finished before we leave. I would eat half a cake in one sitting, so I prepared early in order to avoid an inevitable decline in willpower and expansion in sweatpants size. It's been awhile since I've made a cake. A real, buttery, drool-inducing, frosting-laden cake with all the delicious fat in the world. Attempts were made at healthy switches. And then I made Baileys salted caramel chocolate frosting and all of the sudden calorie counting went out the window. Funny how that happens...
How spellbinding!

This bewitching swirl cake with "poisoned" roses (don't worry, poison is code for Baileys) is a stellar food rendition of the best parts of Halloween: macabre and death with a delightful color scheme! What? That's not why you like Halloween? Well, you weirdo, you can still make this cake yourself to be the hit of your costume parties. It looks really hard to make, but trust me, even if you don't know your way around the kitchen, I can guide you. Think of me as your fairy cakemother, or whatever the evil equivalent of that might be. Soul-sucking pastry demon? Either way, I'm here to help. I had a blast making and decorating this cake and turned half my fingers black in the process. If I want to go as a decaying zombie for Halloween, I'm already set! This is actually a cake and a half, chocolate and vanilla mix, with salted caramel Baileys chocolate buttercream. It is to die for.
Yes, I snuck pumpkin into this. No surprise.
So remember last week when I used half a cake mix to make witch hat cookies? Good. If you don't, shame on you; you need to read my delightful scrawlings more. Well, I'm happy to report the other half of the mix gets used this week. I may be evil, but I'm evil and conscious about wasting food. I'll laugh at your ugly children, but I will reel in horror if you throw away food. Priorities. To make this bewitching cake, you need:
  • One white cake mix 
    • You can make this with box ingredients, but to get a moister, richer cake, use melted butter in place of oil and milk instead of water. Extra egg for density not needed since the chocolate cake is heavy.
  • Half a box of chocolate cake mix
    • I tried a thing here: replacing eggs with pumpkin puree. Since the recipe is halved, three eggs is not a thing I'm willing or sure how to cut in half. Instead, use 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree per egg, so in this case, 1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup. This cuts about 20 calories per egg, and you cannot taste an ounce of pumpkin, I promise.
    • Also, use melted butter in place of oil and milk for water.
  • Gel dyes in black, bright purple, and neon green 
Start by preheating your oven to 350. Grease two pans (either 8x8 or 9x9). Begin by making your chocolate cake mix with the ingredients of your choice, following package directions. Once the batter is mixed, add in enough black dye to your liking. Set this aside. In another bowl, mix your white cake mix with the ingredients of your choice, following package directions. Now, take half of your white cake mix and place it into a new bowl. Dye one bowl lime green and the other bowl of batter purple:
Also needed, more spoons than you'd use in the average week.
 Now, this is where things get fun. There's really no method to the madness here, so room for error is exponential and will still yield an amazing cake. Simply scoop up a spoonful of one color batter, plop it into one of the greased pans and repeat with the other pan. Take a spoonful of another color, plop it in to one of the greased pans and repeat with the other pan. Take a spoonful of the the final color, and plop, plop away. You want to try to overlap each spoonful with a different color of batter. Keep layering and plopping all over each pan to ensure you've got semi-even layers of colors.
So it should look like a hodgepodge of Playdough, really.
To even out your layers, tap each pan on the counter firmly until everything looks smooth. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. My two 8x8 pans took 39 minutes to cook since this is more batter than usual.
*Cue evil laughter and/or cackling*
Trust me, things may look like the world's strangest camouflage right now, but the inside of this cake is BRIGHT. Let your cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling. When you remove these cakes from the pan, take an angled spatula and separate the edges of the cake from the side of the pan by scraping the edges gently in a sawing, circular motion. Then use your spatula to gently push the sides of the cake away from the edge. This is a heavy cake with so much batter, so getting the edges free will ensure your whole cake makes it out of the pan, and you don't end up with some deformed monstrosity you have to try to pass off to your family or coworkers as "melted Frankenstein's monster."
And then you'd just get drunk on the Baileys and cry. There's no winners in that situation.
While your cakes are cooling, FULLY, in the fridge or freezer for an hour or thirty minutes respectively, it's time to make the frosting. I haven't baked with Baileys in ages, and the lid was nearly glued on. I was moments away from desperately trying to gnaw the lid off or breaking the neck off bar-fight style on the counter. Thankfully, tapping the lid with a spoon worked. Who knew I'd get so much use out of spoons today? To make the Baileys salted caramel chocolate buttercream, gather up:
  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 1 2lb. bag of powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa poweder
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 6-8 TBS Baileys salted caramel flavor
  • Literally the rest of your bottle of black gel dye.
I made a TON of frosting because this is a very TALL cake and I wanted all of the ROSES. I ended up not using all of it, so I'd venture to guess you'd be okay with 6 cups of powdered sugar and 6 tablespoons of Baileys for a thick piping consistency. Cream your butter and add in two cups of sugar, the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and two tablespoons of Baileys. Blend on low and blend well. Add in two more cups of sugar and two more tablespoons of Baileys. Repeat until you have enough frosting and a smooth enough consistency for piping--firm but shiny. Now, add in the black gel dye. I wasn't kidding when I said use the rest of the bottle. You want people to ask,  "How much more black could this be?" and the answer is "None. None more black." If you did not get this reference to Spinal Tap, I am painfully ashamed for you. You go get on Netflix right now and watch it.
I wanted this cake to be as black as my soul.
 Start by placing a thick layer of frosting on top of one of the cake rounds, and then place the other cake on top of this and crumb coat your cooled cake in order to keep any "show through" happening when you pipe your roses on later. Let this set for 15 minutes in the freezer.
While your crumb coat sets, place the remaining frosting into two bags loaded with a 2D tip. 1M tips will also work, but won't yield as detailed of a rose.
Guess who needs a tall cake stand because she's tired of MacGyvering kitchen utensils?

 Starting at the bottom of your cake, pipe roses all the way around the entire cake. To pipe a rose, start with your frosting tip about half an inch up on the cake. Start piping a small mound and swirl out and around until you complete one circle. Try to go around twice. Here's an amazing video to help. Once you've created the first row of roses, start immediately above. You'll have three layers total on the sides of the cake. If you see blank or open spaces, pipe small stars in them by gentle pushing on the piping bag and pulling away quickly.
Honestly, another way to not use SO much frosting would be to layer the top of the cake in orange or black sprinkles when the frosting layer is still wet. But I like what is traditionally known as a "buttload" of frosting on my cake.
Buttloads never looked so good.
 Finish off by piping roses on the top of your cake. Again, any areas where you have weird space or can't fit an entire rose, feel free to pipe little stars or overlap roses on top of one another. This design is incredibly forgiving, but it still turns out to be breathtaking:
Just call me Wednesday Addams 'cause I would love a bouquet of roses this color.
Lest we forget, the real magic of this cake is on the inside. Now, depending on how you make the cake and what healthy substitutions you make will account for your calorie content. But if you made it (strangely) exactly as I did, count about 400 calories a slice. I will gladly skip an afternoon snack to accommodate this cake. Baileys chocolate buttercream people. This doesn't come for free, but it is delicious. Plus this is a huge cake, so it will yield 16 slices easily. Unless your goal is to Homer Simpson it up for Halloween or go as a bloated corpse, I recommend the 16-slice ratio for this cake.
IT'S ALIVE! ...with color.
I was so giddy with delight when cutting into this cake. I probably shouldn't be that happy when wielding a large knife, but it is what it is. This cake looks so freakin' Halloween-y on the inside I died. But then I came back to life because that's what demons that have an entire cake to eat do. It's not all stealing souls and bargaining, there is actual work on occasion. Clearly it's been awhile since I made a regular, full on cake with little care about caloric intake. When I ate a slice of this, I was reminded why chocolate + vanilla + boozy frosting = the greatest gift to taste buds next to ice cream. You know what would go great with this cake? Ice cream. Yep. Try it. Tell me how good it is because I'm still in a land Blue Bell forgot. Either way, this cake looks beautiful as a party centerpiece before you cut it open to receive massive amounts of applause. I know I called it a bewitching swirl cake with poisoned roses, but this could just as easily be called "Leftover Frank" or "Frank's Remains." You know, because the color scheme accurately reflects the cartoonish rendition of Frankenstein's monster. I say go big or go home with the ghastly, ghoulish delight you can only pull off on Halloween because the other 364 days of the year if you want to wear a witch's hat and say things like, "I smell children" when you're in a shopping mall, people will judge and/or commit you. But enjoy your Halloween celebrations! We'll be doing it up big here in the ABQ for our last weekend here. So I'll be taking a break from blogging until mid November when we're settled in Florida. If I'm melting from the heat, butter for baked goods will be, too, so I'll see you back here then 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
...Frankenstein's monster, is that...is that, you?
Oh hush, don't be surprised the English teacher obsessed with Halloween knows Frankenstein was the doctor and not the monster. I told you, you need to read more...

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