A few weeks ago I made a wedding cake for a friend. This is not something that I do often by any means. I will admit that I took classes in wedding cakes and sugars and such back in school…but that was a few years ago, and I can’t say that I’ve really kept up on the skills in the meantime. Suffice it to say I was more than a little nervous about the cake, but it turned out well and the bride was very pleased, so that’s what matters. Perhaps someday I’ll write more about the whole big thing. This is about the test run I did for the chocolate layers.
If you see one, tell me.)
I tested out a few different chocolate cake recipes, but I had an idea this would be the one before I baked any of them. By the time I had the batter mixed, I was positive this was the winner. When it came out of the oven, I decided to skip the third recipe I had planned to test altogether. Seriously. This cake really is that good – moist, rich (but not too rich) and chocolaty. AND it’s sturdy enough to hold up as a wedding cake.
I’d never made a recipe that called for mixing cocoa powder with boiling water. I was quite surprised to see it turn into something resembling ganache. Guess there’s always something new to learn. Other than that, the recipe is easy as hell on top of everything else. What’s the downside? (Really. If you see one, tell me.)
I made a raspberry Swiss meringue buttercream for the top, also a test run for the wedding cake. Well, the wedding cake got just plain SMBC, without the raspberry…but I had to do something special for the test run. I didn’t want them to feel too bad about being just a test run afterall. I know I’m nowhere near the first person to talk about how great SMBC is, but it really is amazing. Buttercream, but light and fluffy without that “I just ate a spoonful of Crisco with sugar” mouthfeel. If you’ve never made it, it’s well worth the few extra steps.
When making Swiss meringue buttercream, remember: Just. Keep. Beating. At some point you’ll think you’re almost done beating the buttercream. It will start to look a bit like frosting and you’ll think it’s ready, then suddenly you’ll have a bowlful of egg white soup with little chunks of floating butter. You’ll want to throw your mixer across the room and slink back to old reliable royal icing…even if it’s not good, you can’t screw it up. But just keep beating it a while longer and it will come back together into a bowl of fluffy white lovely.
Oh. The title of this post. For almost two weeks leading up to the wedding, I had that old Bill Cosby standup routine running through my head. You know the one…
Adapted from Gourmet, September 1996
I made a half recipe for my test run. Unless you’re actually making a wedding cake, a half recipe should be plenty. Unfortunately, none of the fractions come out so well in halves. Oh well.
Makes 1 6″ cake, 2 3″ cakes and 5 cupcakes (or if you want to be reasonable, I’d gues 2 8″ – 10″ cakes)
7/8 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
7/8 cups boiling water
2 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
4 ounces sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 7/8 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350° F. and line 2 buttered 7- by 2-inch round cake pans and 2 buttered 9- by 2-inch round cake pans with rounds of wax paper. Butter paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.
Put cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk in boiling water in a stream until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Stir mixture until smooth and chocolate is melted and cool mixture. Whisk in sour cream and vanilla.
Into a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl of a standing electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down side of bowl. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until batter is combined well.
Divide remaining batter between pans and smooth tops. Bake cupcakes and 3″ cakes 20 to 25 minutes, 6″ cakes 25 to 30 min and 8″ or 9″ cakes 30 to 35 min, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering. Let cakes cool in the pan on a rack about 10 min, then run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and cool cakes completely. Cake layers may be made 2 days ahead and kept at cool room temperature, wrapped well in plastic wrap.
Adapted from The Whimsical Bakehouse
The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but I used 2 sticks salted and one stick unsalted and got a really nice sweet/salty flavor.
Makes about 4 cups
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites (about 6)
3 sticks butter at room temperature, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry jam (I prefer with seeds)
Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, boil for 7 minutes. After about 5 minutes, begin whipping egg whites at high speed. Whip until stiff; they should be done when the sugar is done.
With the mixer on high speed, slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites, pouring the syrup to the side of the bowl to avoid the whip.
Continue to beat until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly add the butter and continue beating. Add the vanilla.
Beat until light and fluffy. At some points the mixture might will look curdled. Just keep beating; it will become smooth again.
Once the buttercream is light a fluffy, add the raspberry jam and continue beating until it’s light and fluffy again.
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