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

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.

Buche de Noel with Salted Caramel Ganache

For years, every December, I dreamt of baking Buche de Noel as “The Cake” for the last week of festivities but always ended up baking our scrumptious traditional cake. However, this year I told myself that it would either be Buche or Nothing for Christmas. Since a cake-less Christmas is no-Christmas, and I didn’t want to wait for another 365 days to dive deep in the revelry, it was more of an ultimatum to yours truly than anyone else. And as self-flogging works sometimes, this Christmas Buche de Noel finally saw light of the day (or Star of David) in my kitchen.

wp_20161231_15_12_18_pro-2

Buche de Noel or Yule Log is the cake traditionally  eaten during Christmas and New Year in France. I was very fascinated by the whole concept till I read that it was nothing but a jelly roll decorated like a log and that was a dampener. Who eats a simpleton like jelly roll on a festival like Christmas! But as I soon found out, Buche is as simple (or sophisticated) as you care it to be, and I started searching for all kinds of fillings ranging from mincemeat to eggnog and what not. I eventually settled for the salted caramel ganache, and it proved that my decision making was still intact despite the air heavy with all kind of good liquors.

wp_20161231_15_11_05_pro

Baking this log had an emotional string too since the sister is settled in France now. My heart aches for her on most of the days, especially during festivities. As I whipped the chocolate genoise sponge, filled and frosted it, I imagined being in the same festival bubble with her (which she burst by cooking famous Indian sweet “Gulab Jamuns” instead to mark the occasion and her French family and friends loved them!)

img_20161231_145315_hdr

Food brings people together, bridges the distance and nurtures bonds. It also pushes you to tread unknown territories and surprises you in most amazing ways. I hope it does the same to you in 2017! Bonne Anne and Bon Appetite!

Buche de Noel
(Adapted minimally from here)
Baking a genoise based Buche de Noel comes with a few words of caution which must be paid heed to. The trickiest part is to roll the genoise, which should be done when it is still hot. Make sure to dust the kitchen towel heavily with the icing sugar before you turn the genoise on it, else it will stick to the cake. Though my log didn’t suffer any cracks, but I read that in case yours does, fret not, as they can be easily covered up in the frosting.

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise:
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 6 egg whites
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/3  cup melted blueberry jam (for filling the cake during assembly)

Salted Caramel Ganache:
• 75 grams dark chocolate
• 75 grams milk chocolate
• 100 gram sugar
• 200 ml low fat cream
• 2 tablespoon butter
• Generous pinch of fine salt like Fleur de Sel

• Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale, about 9 minutes. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt.
• In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
• Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
• Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

For salted caramel ganache:
• Break both chocolates in a medium bowl
• Place sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat over low-medium heat swirling intermittently till sugar turns to caramel.
• Carefully add cream to the caramel as it will splatter a lot and keep mixing till it turns to a homogenous mixture.
• Place a sieve over the broken chocolate and pour caramel mixture through the sieve.
• Add the butter and salt and mix gently till you get a smooth and shiny mixture.

Assembling the Buche:
• Unroll the cake, and spread the jam filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Top with the salted caramel ganache.
• Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
• Pour the remaining ganache and refrigerate the cake for another 30 minutes.
• Make bark pattern using a fork, sprinkle some icing sugar to resemble snow and decorate with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. I cheated and did with fondant, but kids loved them the same.