making French pastry fun and accessible, a le cordon bleu paris pastry chef in Versailles
Does your head start spinning when you need a cake last minute? Mine does! I always want to find the perfect cake for the person and occasion so I can spend hours looking for a recipe. But when something comes up, take for example this Wednesday when our secretary reached out and asked me to make a cake for our HR person’s birthday that was the next day, go with a classic!
This recipe has become my go-to for last minute cake requests. It’s delicious, easy, and sure to impress any crowd.
When I was young my mom would make us a chocolate cake for our birthday’s. Always from scratch and always completely amazing. The house would smell delicious and everyone couldn’t wait until the celebration. When you make a chocolate cake, the recipe usually calls for a hot liquid to cause a reaction to happen between the baking soda and other ingredients, making it light and yummy. My mom adds hot water to hers, this recipe adds coffee.
Coffee is like the secret super agent of chocolate. Together they pack a powerful punch. POW! If you’re not a coffee person, I can in all honesty tell you that you will not mind the addition of coffee to this cake. In the finished product you actually don’t taste coffee, instead it works with the chocolate to enhance its flavor.
I found out that our HR person loves fruit so instead of icing in the middle I did a raspberry filling. Raspberry filling is a fancy way of saying I put jam in the middle. Granted I thinned it out just a bit and ran it through a strainer to get rid of the seeds. So maybe the extra steps are what qualify it to be called raspberry filling :-).
A tip here that I wish I’d thought of earlier, jam will squirt out the sides of a cake, just like it will in a pb & j sandwich. I had a little volcano action going on when I got to work. whoops!
To fix this, put a little icing in a plastic bag, cut about a half inch off a tip to create a wide opening. Use this to create a dam around the edge of the first layer to keep the jam in. To do this, draw a circle with the icing on top of the first layer around the edge, then fill with jam. Even with the added icing barrier, don’t put too much!
This is a great way to personalize any cake. Find out what fruit the guest of owner loves, and add it as a filling. As long as it goes with the cake flavor, of course! For chocolate cake, raspberry, strawberry, even cherry would be delicious.
I am definitely not a cake decorator. I actually love the homey look of swirled icing. The easiest thing that I have found to finish off a cake is to add a couple flowers on top. Cut the stems off right at the base of the flower, give a little rinse, pat dry and place on top right in the center. It always looks beautiful and add an elegant touch. If your cake receipent is a guy, chopped nuts or toasted coconut patted on the sides or sprinkled on top looks quite nice indeed.
You probably don’t want to get me started on this icing recipe. It is divine! Use it for cupcakes, cakes, or just lick it off the spoon! The icing uses semisweet chocolate instead of cocoa making it rich and delicious. A tip here, when you’re mixing in the melted chocolate, try not to pour it on the side of the mixing bowl. There it will harden quickly forming chunks of chocolate in the icing when it’s incorporated. Not a bad thing, but it makes icing the cake a little difficult.
Beatty’s Chocolate Cake
Recipe Courtesy of Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa at Home.
· Butter, for greasing the pans
· 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
· 2 cups sugar
· 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
· 2 teaspoons baking soda
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
· 1/2 cup vegetable oil
· 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
· Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch x 2-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 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting (or fruit filling). Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
Chocolate Buttercream with SemiSweet Chocolate
· 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
· 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
· 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
· 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
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.