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Devil’s Food Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 Jan

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We have some great friends in our neighborhood, and one of them happens to share a birthday month with me. Oftentimes, December birthdays can be a total bummer. Everyone is out of town for the holidays, people are all tied up in a billion other celebrations, and, really, if you are going to line your birthday up against a holiday, having to compete against Christmas is like trying to sink a battleship with a blow dart. As I have gotten older, birthday celebrations have gotten smaller and less important, and I can’t say I have any complaints about that phenomenon. Still, knowing the challenges of having a December birthday, I thought that, if nothing else, I could at least make a cake for my friend to help him celebrate, albeit quietly.

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It’s funny how birthday parties look when you have children. Often times, the children will outnumber the adults, and whatever fancy spread of food you dream up for the event, there will always be an incongruous pairing of baby carrots and plain pasta to accompany it. And did I mention something about a quiet birthday? I take that back. Having a birthday party when you’re a parent won’t feature any less noise that your childless birthday parties did, it will just feature a very different type of noise (i.e. loud, screaming children playing in your basement instead of loud, screaming guitars from the band playing in your basement).

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But, lucky for everyone, nearly every birthday party features cake, and for this birthday party, the cake in question was a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. There are two points I need to make about this cake. The first point is that the person who chose this cake as his birthday cake happens to be English. I have to point this out only because I found it utterly delightful that an Englishman would choose for himself a cake whose presence is so deeply rooted in the American south. The second point about this cake is that, much as I tried, I did not end up making it a typical red velvet cake. The cake I knew I wanted to make (because it is one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, and it pairs beautifully with cream cheese frosting) is technically a chocolate cake, but it does contain shredded beets, so, really, it might count as being sort of a red velvet cake, right? It’s more of a devil’s food cake, which is sort of similar because…the devil…is red?

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Okay, so none of that makes sense. But the cake was still utterly delicious. Ultra chocolaty, ridiculously moist, and covered with the most indulgent frosting imaginable, it matters not that your birthday is just days away from Christmas when you get to eat cake like this.

 

Last Year: Hazelnut Orange Pesto, and a confession about how I am consistently 3 issues behind on the New Yorker.

Devil’s Food Cake

Adapted from Cooking School Secrets for Real-World Cooks, by Linda Carucci

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup packed finely shredded raw beets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the lower middle position.

Butter and flour the sides and bottoms of 3 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch sides. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir to combine, then make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to combine. Whisk in the buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients all at once, and stir to combine completely. Slowly whisk in the butter. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in the beets. Transfer to the prepared cake pans and spread evenly, using a rubber spatula to pull the batter away from the center of the pans and out along the sides.

Bake until the center of each cake springs back when lightly touched and the sides of each cake just begin to pull away from the pan, 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool on a wire rack, still in their pans, for 10 minutes. Invert each cake onto another rack and remove pans. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely, upside down. Make sure your cake layers are completely and totally cooled before frosting, lest your frosted cake end up a dripping, melted mess.

Cream Cheese Frosting

From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

16 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature

10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened at room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla, and salt by beating on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, slowing add the confectioner’s sugar, and beat until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

26 Dec

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Sometimes the best part of making a cake is not actually knowing what cake I am going to make. When I offer to make someone a cake, I always leave the door open in regards to what sort of cake I should be making. Sometimes people immediately know what type of cake they want. Chocolate cake with coffee frosting. Spice cake. But sometimes—and, secretly, this is the type of thing I really, really love—my question is answered with just a list of elements that one might envision in a cake. Orange. Chocolate. Whipped Cream.

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And so, it began. When my husband’s cousin (does that make her my cousin as well? I am never quite sure how that works) celebrated her 30th birthday, this is the cake she wanted: something with orange, chocolate, and whipped cream. You’d think that I would take some time to mull that request over before I dove into preparing a cake, but, truthfully, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

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Featuring my favorite butter cake as the building block, this is a celebratory stack of orange-scented cake and deeply creamy, chocolaty ganache. Though I was, sadly, not able to get a photo of the final iteration of the cake (all of my daylight was gone, and my kitchen’s lighting is not at all suitable for taking pictures at night), just try and picture this cake with a towering tophat of snowy whipped cream, and you’ll get an idea of its official presentation. The birthday lady (she is 30, after all) was thrilled to receive the cake, and I was honored to be trusted with making such a special cake for such a special birthday for such a special person. Welcome to your 30s, Ms. W. It is so much fun being semi-related to you.

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Last Year: Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps

This cake is part of my Go Mighty goal of making 50 cakes for 50 people. You can read more about it here.

Orange Butter Cake with Chocolate Ganache

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup finely grated orange zest

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 cups cake flour

1 cup half-and-half or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix well, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Sift together the salt, baking powder, and cake flour.

Add about one half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then beat on low speed until well blended. Add about one half of the milk and beat well. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until mixed well. Add the rest of the milk and continue to beat well until the mixture is completely combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center, and a cake tested inserted in the middle of the cakes emerges with just a few moist crumbs attached, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to continue to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup heavy whipping cream

In a double boiler or large, heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water, slowly melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, until it is just melted. Remove double boiler from heat, then whisk in the heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, thick, and shiny.

When cakes have cooled completely, set one cake on a serving plate. Slowly pour half of the ganache over the cake, concentrating the ganache in the middle of the cake. The ganache will pool out towards the edges of the cake on its own, but, if you want, you can help coax it to the edges by gently spreading it with a spoon or an offset spatula until it just reaches the tipping point. Place the second layer of cake over the ganache, very gently pushing it in place, just to secure it a bit. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top of the cake, again gently spreading the ganache towards the edges.

You can serve the cake as is, or you can top the whole affair with a mountain of freshly whipped cream.

Chocolate Orange Cake Bread

24 Oct

The logistics of how it happened are almost irrelevant. Maybe there were no logistics. Maybe it was just pure luck, or happenstance, or, on the other side of the coin, the other guys’ back luck coming into play at the worst possible time. Like I said, it doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series, and now, because who knows how they managed to come back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit many, many times over, I can’t stop making black and orange foods because What If. What if the black and orange foods were the missing piece of the puzzle? Do you see what I am getting at here? I can’t stop now.

And so I continue. Today’s installment in the veritable cornucopia of evidence that I’ve compiled for the case against my sanity is a dense, intensely chocolaty little number that is flecked with orange zest and plumped up with orange juice. It’s a meet-up of those friendly flavors, chocolate and orange, and, once again, an entry into that familiar category of bread-or-cake. Not that it matters what you call it, of course. I mean, aside from delicious.

You can, of course, make this bread as depraved as you want. Depending on how rich and aggressive you like your chocolate treats, there is nothing stopping you from adding a handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate to the batter. If you are truly batty for the combination of chocolate and orange, you could also hunt down the ubiquitous holiday chocolate orange, chop it up, and throw in some bits for an even stronger kick of chocolate plus orange. However, I think this bread/cake is just perfect as it stands, with a deep chocolate flavor that is merely highlighted by the brightness of zesty orange. As for whether or not it can supply the same good fortune as black and orange foods of past? Well, we’ll find out in just a few short hours.

Last Year: Creamy Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa (seriously–I have dreams about this salsa, it’s so good)

Chocolate Orange Cake Bread Recipe

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

¾ cup Dutch process cocoa

1 tablespoon espresso powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Glaze:

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 9” by 5” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the vegetable oil until ingredients are uniformly coated by the oil. The mixture will look quite pebbly, but that is all right.

In a large measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest. Slowly pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, whisking slowly until the mixture is just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake in center of oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Place pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then run a small knife around the perimeter of the cake to help release it from the pan. Turn pan over and gently invert cake out onto a wire rack, then turn cake upright and leave on wire rack to cool completely.

When cake has cooled, prepare glaze by combining ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until smooth. Pour or brush glaze over the top of the cooled cake.

Makes 1 9″ by 5″ loaf. Serves 8 to 10.

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