Chocolate Cake: Once more.

What is the idea of beauty? You may get answers infused with poetic descriptions to those with bland philosophical tinge. So, it truly is in the eye of beholder. Someone may term a rustic bread loaf with crack on top and interiors poking through as “beautiful” while others may snipe at the most invisible bubble in otherwise perfectly crafted fondant cake. And though one may play with the camera and light and angle and lenses to make a most ordinary bowl of oatmeal porridge look like the most delicious dish on this planet, it actually remains what it is: A bowl of plain oatmeal porridge. So, I just don’t get this whole humdrum of “beautifying food”. I tried joining the brigade to see if I had too rigid an opinion but that didn’t do any good and I reverted to my “cake alone” photos. To me personally, a clear picture of the food showing its color and texture in natural light is far more appealing than one styled with a hundred props and what not. Former exudes honesty and latter kind of deceit. But not many concur with my opinion and it is absolutely fine with me. We all are entitled to our opinions and live in harmony.

IMG_20170822_153635

For the same reason, I love reading Deb Perelman’s blog smittenkitchen.com. There are many other blogs but hers has what I found lacking in most others- the easiness, the honesty, and the confidence it gives the reader that “it might be difficult, but you can totally do it”. And I guess last year I came across this lovely article by her and the full article may be read here because it is such an interesting read. Therein, I found these golden lines which I always believed in and I quote, “I’m not interested in food styling: I like taking pictures that show the details of the food as it actually looks. When you see a photo of an overly styled dish that you’re supposed to cook at home, you’re going to be disappointed when your food doesn’t look like that. I can’t relate to stunning, gaudily lit photos of perfectly plated dishes arranged on an old, wooden barn table with frost-hued linen and wildflowers—that’s not my life, and it has nothing to do with the way I actually cook. My goal is to encourage people—their dish will probably look something like my pictures. I try to have good, natural lighting, and that’s about it. If people see that, then hopefully they’ll feel confident enough to try it.

Those lines, whenever I read them, feel like a comforting pat on my back. Every time I struggle to take “good” photographs of my cake and they whisper in my ears to better concentrate on baking good cakes than making them look “good” with props. And as long as the cake speaks for itself, I refuse to place a flower and a ribbon next to it with dew dangling down a leaf in the backdrop.

IMG_20170822_175854

You see here a chocolate cake slathered in meringue buttercream with ganache dripping over. The piped flowers and shells are dusted with edible glitter and it was to celebrate a petit princess turning four. You can make it with any of the chocolate cake recipes, the only meringue recipe and ganache recipe on this blog, fill the layers with buttercream and chocolate chips or compote or anything you fancy . But if you insist on knowing which one I used for this one, just leave a message and I shall update 🙂

IMG_20170822_153325

 

 

Advertisements

Fondant Cake: Chocolate Cake

I AM NOT a fan of fondant. But, then many others are and I think that is because they don’t know what it is like to work with fondant in a coastal city where temperature never touches below 35 degree C. But that’s beyond the point. The point is that some people DO like fondant and when I was requested to create a car themed fondant cake for a boy’s first birthday party, this is what I could do. The children went bonkers over the cars and cheerfully gobbled the fondant figurines in no time, like they always do. And that’s precisely the reason I agree to do fondant cake time and again even though I assert it every time, I am not a fan of fondant.

IMG_20170709_102836

IMG_20170709_103752_HHT

IMG_20170709_105443

 

 

 

Chocolate Rum Cake

Let us just say hello with the same fervor though we are meeting after more than two months. Let’s not talk about the long absence because it’s such a drag. Instead, let’s talk about a refreshingly moist and rich cake which would raise your spirits in the scorching heat of Indian summer and which is oh-so-needed. A friend in need is a friend indeed. IMG_20170530_170201_HDR_1496296813526

My quest for a “more” scrumptious chocolate cake is never ending. The chocolate cakes I have blogged about are all winners. But whenever there is an occasion for a chocolate cake, I mostly never go back to my own repertoire. It is strange but true. I search for recipes offering something new, a new ingredient, a different way to mix, or a new method to bake or make a cake without baking (other than cheesecakes ). I call it greed.

Coming to this cake, it looks a simpleton, but wins applause much before melting in mouth. Slicing the cake evokes as many ooohs and aaaahs that you can actually take a two minute break to let the hysteria subside, only to brace yourself for more to come.

IMG_20170530_170908_HDR_1496296606662

The recipe calls for molten chocolate which we have done before, but without any buttermilk, which we have not. To turn things heady it also calls for a deadly decoction of rum and hot coffee which we alternate with flour as we mix the batter. How sexy is that! The batter is quite thin but firms up almost mousse like upon baking and cooling. Since the cake was for my favorite birthday of the year, I drenched it in some more rum before covering it in rum flavored ganache. The seconds were expected but the thirds sent the cake to the blog 🙂

IMG_20170530_170400_HDR_1496296725897

Chocolate Rum Cake:
Yields one 8 inches round cake

70 grams dark chocolate (I used 62% Cocoa)
1 Cup All purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
8 gram espresso coffee powder
½ Cup boiling water
½ cup dark rum
113 grams butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup sugar
2 medium eggs
A few tablespoons dark rum

Rum infused chocolate ganache:
200 grams good quality chocolate
180 grams low fat cream
1 tablespoon rum

Bake the Cake:
• Pre heat the oven to 165 °C
• Grease an 8 inches round cake pan and dust with all purpose flour
• Chop the dark chocolate into small chunks and melt in a bain marie without letting the vessel touch the boiling water. Cool and keep aside
• Mix all purpose flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl and keep aside.
• Dissolve coffee in boiling water and cool it. Add ½ cup rum to it and keep aside.
• In a large bowl, beat Butter till creamy. Add sugar and beat till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time and beat for a minute after each addition scraping the base of the bowl.
• Mix in molten and cooled chocolate and mix well.
• Add flour mixture and coffee-rum mix alternately, staring and ending with the liquid.
• Mix the batter well and pour into the pan.
• Bake for about 40 minutes or till tester comes out moist but clean.

Make the ganache:
• Chop the chocolate finely in a medium bowl.
• Heat cream in a heat proof bowl over medium heat just till bubbles appear on the edges.
• Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and cover it to sit for about 5 minutes.
• Add in rum and mix the ganache till its smooth.
• Pour over the cooled cake.

Pina Colada Cheesecake

On Sunday we had such fun filled birthday celebrations in Bahamas! Or so I imagined, eating this Pina Colada Cheesecake that really made up for a few misses. Well, almost.2Its been a long time since I baked a cheesecake though there often is a demand for one. As we geared for the birthday in smoldering May, a coconut cheesecake seemed the best choice. A few splashes of rum and a few chunks of pineapple make everyone merry. Did I mention hidden chocolate chips in the rum cream topping? I was ready with the plan.1WP_20160529_08_54_22_ProThough we do get mascarpone here, it’s obscenely priced and I can’t bring myself to bake with an ingredient I wouldn’t be happy buying. Luckily, you can make your own mascarpone at home and that what I do. It tastes far better than the store bought and costs a fraction. Though it takes a bit of planning as making mascarpone at home takes two days, it’s totally worth the time. I suggest you make your own mascarpone and spend that hard earned money on that Ruby woo or Nymphette, or both. Making your own mascarpone can empower you in some ways.WP_20160530_17_50_03_Pro (2).jpgI believed that Pina Colada would be a great flavor to be translated into a cheesecake and I wasn’t wrong because it’s one of the most superlative cheesecakes I have baked, and is decadent at its best. Though I trust my gut feeling while choosing a flavor, it’s the smiles, hugs and kisses which really tell it all.3Homemade Mascarpone Cheese:
(Adapted from here)
Yields around 650 grams cheese

• 1 Liter amul cream (25% fat)
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Prepare a bain marie  large enough to hold the vessel you are going to pour your cream in. Bring water to simmer.
2. Empty the cream in a large heatproof vessel and place in bain marie. Heat the cream gently till it registers a temperature of 85° C.
3. Add the lemon juice and keep stirring the cream till it thickens and coats the spatula, 3-4 minutes.
4. Take the cream vessel out and cool it to room temperature. Chill cream for up to 24 hours. It will thicken further under refrigeration.
5. Spread layers of clean muslin cloth and empty the thickened cream into it. Hang it inside refrigerator for 24 to drain out whey.
6. Store tightly under refrigeration for up-to a week.

Pina Colada Cheesecake
(Adapted from here)
Makes a 9 inch round cheesecake

Ingredients:
For the Crust
• 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 3/4 cup digestive biscuits crumbs
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled
• 1/4 cup sugar

For the filling
• 680 grams cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 3 tablespoons corn flour
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup canned cream of coconut, unsweetened
• 1/4 cup rum

For the topping
• 400 grams amul cream
• 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
• 2 tablespoons rum + a handful of chocolate chips (optional)
• Small chunks of freshly chopped pineapple

Bake the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 176° C. Brush 9-inch-diameter springform cake pan with 2.5-inch-high sides with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; lightly brush paper with some of melted butter.
2. To roast coconut, scrape a fresh coconut and roast at 176° C for 7-10 minutes, tossing the coconut regularly till it turns very light golden. Cool and keep aside.
3. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture tightly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 150° C

Prepare the filling:
1. Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating for a whole minute before adding the next. Beat in cream of coconut and rum.
2. The batter will be thin. Gently pour batter over crust.
3. Place the pan on a big sheet of heavy duty aluminium sheet such that you get over-hangs above the edges. Secure the overhangs to make it a watertight contraption.
4. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan.
5. Cover roasting pan with foil and bake cake 1 hour.
6. Remove foil. Bake until cake is pale brown, puffed, and just set in center, about 40 minutes#. Cool cake in water bath 2 hours. Remove from water; run knife around cake to loosen. Chill cake in pan for minimum 6 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

#My cake took more than two hours at this step and I almost became impatient. A frantic google search enlightened me by the fact that it was alright to bake as long as the center was jiggling and that the baking time has a lot to do with the temperature inside the oven. Mine being an old equipment, took more than two hours but you really need to keep a check to avoid over-baking. The key is to turn off the oven when its still jiggling in the center and leave it in the water bath inside the oven where it will keep on setting with time.

For the topping:
1. Chill the amul cream at least for six hours. Remove the thickened cream in a bowl and discard the separated water. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat gently to lighten the cream.
2. Add in the rum and beat once more. Mix in chocolate chips if using.
3. Spread over the cooled cheesecake and decorate with pineapple chunks and cherries.

Eggless Vanilla Cake with Rich Vanilla Buttercream

When I thought that I knew American buttercream like the back of my hand, this happened:

WP_20150918_16_30_11_Pro

You see those tiny bubbles in the buttercream? I don’t like them there. Its true that this buttercream still pipes well, tastes divine and is devoured by kids and grown ups alike,  but truth be told, I was a bit disappointed when they appeared. But more than success, its failure that makes us strive to learn further. It urges us to find ways we wouldn’t have otherwise known. So, it was back to reading about bubbles in buttercream. There are many reasons bubbles are formed in the buttercream and I would love to compile them in another post. There is nothing wrong with the buttercream recipe. Its just the technique, a point that I have missed. I would update as soon as I find out.

As for this cake, its an eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I bake with eggs all the time, so this one made me push the envelope and the result was a moist cake bursting with vanilla flavor. Dress it up with buttercream or chocolate ganache and sandwich with cream and fruits for celebrations. Or sprinkle it with tutti-fruity if you aren’t feeling too fancy. Either way, this cake will make you happy, and that’s what a good cake is supposed to do.

WP_20150918_16_29_56_Pro

Eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting
(I made 2.5 times of the recipe to make a two tier cake)

1.5 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ cup water
½ cup oil
¾ cup fine sugar
5 tbsp yogurt/curd
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
• Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an 7 inches pan.
• Sift the cake flour with the baking powder. Add a pinch of salt to the sifted flour.
• Add the sugar to the oil and mix well and keep aside.
• Whisk the yogurt till smooth. Add 1 tbsp vinegar. Then add baking soda into the yogurt and stir.
• Now pour the oil-sugar mixture, ½ cup water and the frothing yogurt-vinegar-baking soda into the sieved flour. Add vanilla extract.
• Fold quickly to make a lump free batter, Avoid over-mixing.
• Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Tap the pan a number of times to release the trapped air bubbles.
• Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-35 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
• If the cake starts browning too quickly, cover the top with an aluminium foil tent.
• Once baked, let the cake cool at room temperature before frosting.
• The cake can be baked a day before and frosted the next day.

Rich Vanilla Buttercream
(I made 1.5 times of this recipe to fill and frost the two tier cake)
1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream

• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes
• Carefully sift the icing sugar over it. It helps to remove any lumps and gives a better texture to the buttercream. It is also important to use fresh icing sugar as it really builds the taste.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.

Chocolate Oreo Cake

Not so long ago, my pantry turned into an “Oreo and chocolate” storehouse. No, I do not buy cookies or chocolates for my girl, because if I start buying on top of what she already gets from her doting father and our circle of over-indulgent relatives and friends, it will be a crime. It came to a point where I had to put my foot down and evict all those packets from wherever they were in my kitchen. The girl was obviously not happy, and even accused that she never knew I was “that” kind of mamma. But since there is no other option, she has made peace with the truth. Before you scoff at me, let me tell you that she does get her chocolates and Oreos once in a while.  But this time again, I took away a whole packet. Ya I know I am evil. Not because I took away her favorite cookies. But because I made this.6

I was searching for some inspiration to re-new my buttercream recipe when I came across the Oreo version. Oreo Buttercream? Despite my face off with the Oreos, I knew those two words together would mean “Luscious” if they were in dictionary, and a chocolate cake.  I tried a new chocolate cake recipe this time and it turned out to be a keeper. The  cake has intense chocolate flavor, the texture is sturdy and it will be fabulous for layer cakes.

2

And just to tell you that the girl was super happy to see her Oreos sitting on top of the cake. She insisted on getting a slice with an Oreo topping. I didn’t feel the need to tell her that Oreo is in every bite in this cake. Whether she eats a slice with or without an Oreo, she is going to enjoy her cookie.

9

Chocolate cake with Oreo buttercream frosting:

(Adapted from here)

Yields Two 8-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

250 grams self-raising flour

250 grams light brown sugar

50 grams cocoa

250 grams dark chocolate

250 grams butter

4 medium eggs

  • Preheat the oven to 160 degree Celsius. Grease and line 2x 8 inches cake pans
  • Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa together.
  • Melt the chocolate, butter and 200 ml water together over low heat. Then beat this along with the eggs into the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, and bake for approximately 40 mins, until well risen, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool.

Oreo buttercream:

150 grams Oreo cookies

250g butter

300-400g sifted icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoon light cream

  • Beat the butter until creamy. Then add the icing sugar in small batches and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. An electric mixer is really useful here! If you find the mixture a bit dry, add a tablespoon of cream at a time. If the mixture is wet, add a little more icing sugar and whip till the spreading/piping consistency is reached
  • Blitz all the cookies in a food processor. Mix half of the cookie crumbs into the buttercream, and reserve the other half.
  • Spread the butter icing between the two cakes, and over the top of them when sandwiched together. Sprinkle the cookie crumbs generously over the sides and over the top layer. Decorate as desired.

Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting

WP_20150510_14_44_07_Pro (2)
I must have been around 10 years old when my teacher at school demonstrated baking cake in a cooker as part of the SUPW. It was a basic vanilla cake with glazed cherries and tutti frutti and without any frosting. I remember how giggles turned into squeals when the cake was out. We all happily ate the cake baked by “us”. “Was it all? A recipe and a cooker? really? Then it must be the simplest thing in the world!” the child in me thought.

Soon after that incident was my kid sister’s birthday in June, and I offered to bake the cake for the small kids party we had organized that evening. I chose a recipe titled “Steamed chocolate cake” from a decade old”cookbook” that came free with a cooker. With a song in my heart and a whisk in my hand, I mixed the cake batter and kept it to bake.  I was as confident as a magician who was about to turn a handkerchief into a hare under a hat. And when the time was up, I opened the cooker lid, only to find a gooey, chocolaty mess in the pan instead of a cake. What had gone wrong? Was there a Genie inside the cooker who held a grudge against me?  I frantically read and re-read the recipe, trying to figure out if I had missed anything when I noticed that unopened packet of baking powder on the kitchen counter. And that was it. I can never put in words how I felt at that moment but what really broke my heart was the disappointment over my sister’s face and the tears in her eyes. Luckily, my parents had a backup plan that cheered up my kid sister and the party went on as planned. But I could never take that failed cake out of my head. or sight.

7

Many birthdays have been celebrated since then and I have been baking cakes for family and friends for quite sometime now. So for my first ever blog post, it had to be a chocolate cake recipe  as a tribute to my first (failed) chocolate cake, and to my sister, who again celebrates her birthday this month. This is one of my favorite chocolate cakes sans any exquisite ingredients. You see, this cake was baked with much love and that is the main ingredient.

Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting
(Adapted minimally from smittenkitchen.com)

Yields one 9 inches round cake or 16 small cupcakes

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
175 grams firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt

• Heat oven to 350°F (176°C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, butter the parchment.
• In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy (~3 mins); scrape down bowl.
• Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the buttermilk and mix again.
• Scrape the bowl down well and don’t worry if the batter looks curdled.
• Place your flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a sifter and shake it over the batter bowl. Stir on low until just combined; scrape down bowl a final time.
• Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth flat. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes in cake pan, then flip out onto rack or serving plate to completely finish cooling before frosting.

Creamy peanut butter frosting:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup low fat cream

• In a bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
• Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
• Add the cream, one tablespoon at a time and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
• Smeared or swirled, it will taste heavenly, on its own and on the cake.