Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chocolate cake...plain and simple.

I had a craving today.  I wanted dark and dense and moist with hints of vanilla light peaking through.  So I made it.

Chocolate Cake


For the cake

6 eggs, room temperature and separated
1/2 cup dark, Dutched cocoa powder (I used King Arthur Flour Black Cocoa)
1/2 cup scalding hot coffee
1 1/2 cups cake flour (sifted before measured)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond oil (can substitute canola oil)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (only real, for goodness sake.  No artificial)

For the buttercream

5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 pound unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature


For the cake

•Preheat oven to 325º.  Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and spray the bottom of the sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Avoid hitting the sides of the pan with the cooking spray.  Set aside.

•Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & powder and 1/2 cup of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, start the mixer running on medium speed and add the oil, vanilla and egg yolks.  Mix until smooth.  Slowly add the coffee with the mixer still running and continue mixing until the batter is very smooth.  Transfer the batter to a large bowl.  Clean the bowl!

•Add the egg whites and salt to the clean mixing bowl.  Mix on high with the whisk attachment and once the egg whites have become foamy, start adding the remaining 1 cup of sugar very slowly, continue.  Add all the sugar and turn the mixer speed to high and whisk until you achieve stiff, shiny white peaks being VERY careful not to over mix to the point of dry.

•Add 1/4 of the egg whites to the chocolate batter and stir to lighten.  Add the remaining egg whites and fold gently until no white streaks remain.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

•Divide the batter evenly among the prepared sheet pans and smooth with a large offset spatula.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake just springs back when gently poked.  BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO OVER BAKE!  Once the cake starts to pull from the sides of the pan, it's done...perhaps too check that puppy after 25 to 30 minutes.

•Allow to cool and then trim each cake into 4 even 4" x 10" rectangles (cutting vertically from the long side).  You'll end up with eight 4 x 10" layers.  Keep the scraps.

•Break up the scraps and the worst looking layer onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 200º for 15 minutes to dry out the pieces.  Allow to cool and transfer the pieces to a food processor fit with the blade attachment.  Pulse until the cake turns into a fine, powdery crumb.

For the buttercream

•In the CLEAN bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, vanilla and pinch of salt.

•In a saucepan, stir together the sugar and 1/3 cup of water.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar has melted and then heat to 234º.

•Whisk the egg whites until frothy and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites, making sure the sugar pours down the side of the bowl before hitting the egg whites so they don't scramble.  Whisk on high until stiff, white peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch.

•Add the butter, a small piece at a time, until the buttercream comes together into a smooth, spreadable frosting (you may not need all the butter).  It will start to look curdled and chunky just before it starts to come together.  This is perfectly normal.

To assemble

•Place a cake layer on a cake round.  Spread an even layer of buttercream, between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick over the entire slice.  Continue alternating between cake and buttercream until all the layers are stacked.  Cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow to set in the freezer for 20 minutes.

•Remove the cake from the freezer and gently lift from the cake round.  Place the cake on a serving platter, turning the cake on it's side so that the horizontal layers are now vertical.  Spread a very thin, crumb coat of buttercream over the entirety of the cake, making sure that it's perfectly smooth.  Freeze for 10 minutes to set.

•Spread the remaining buttercream in a perfectly even layer over the cake.  Using a piece of parchment, tear jagged strips from the parchment and lay over the top and sides of the cake, gently pressing to adhere.  Press the cake crumbs onto the cake so that they adhere to the exposed buttercream and gently brush off the crumbs sticking to the parchment.  Carefully remove the parchment.