Coffee-Chocolate cake with mocha buttercream

I couldn’t help but smirk when ardent chocolate lovers proclaimed that there was nothing called “too much chocolate”. But of course that was before I started stashing all types of chocolates and cocoa in amounts no sane person would approve. But see, my point is, you never know when a great chocolate cake recipe would suddenly pop up from the pages you browse and the next moment you find yourself sprinting to the the kitchen to check whether you have enough chocolate/cocoa to bake right then. And if you are me,  you bless your stash and vow to yourself never to let it be an ounce lighter!wp_20160905_16_51_56_pro-2Coming to the types of chocolate cakes, its a cake lover’s delight to know of the variety available. This also brings forth the point that while most of the chocolate cakes may have similar recipes, it is an obscure ingredient or step that really sets an everyday chocolate cake apart from “this is the best one I have had!” kind . Be it beetroot as in that or coffee as in this one. Just wait till I tell you about ginger and wasabi, no kidding.WP_20160905_16_52_48_Pro2.jpgSo back to this cake. It is not without a reason that this cake is on “top 30 cakes” list of Bon Appetit. It is one of the best chocolate cakes I have baked. Moist, ultra dark and chocolaty with melt in your mouth consistency, it is worthy of the grandest celebrations. The original one had mocha mascarpone frosting but I didn’t have mascarpone on hand. So, I did the next best thing by frosting it with mocha buttercream and a dripping chocolate ganache. The recipe is actually for a layer cake filled with mocha mascarpone heaven but I kept it simple and baked cupcakes with the remaining batter and frosted them with buttercream alone. So if you have a reason to celebrate with a chocolate cake, look no further. You are right at the chocolate cake perfection. wp_20160905_16_13_37_pro-22wp_20160905_16_12_28_pro2wp_20160905_16_48_35_pro2Did I tell you that these days a filled piping bag fitted with a nozzle is my girl’s new drawing tool? Together we have fun at it and her giggles are the most beautiful reward of the whole exercise.

Coffee-Chocolate Cake
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009)

2 cups cake flour
3/4th cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4th tsp salt
3/4th cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons espresso powder dissolved in ¾ cup hot water

• Preheat the oven to 162 °C. Butter 2 8 inch baking pan and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
• Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.
• Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth.
• Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
• Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition.
• Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.
• Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
• Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream frosting:
(Adapted from here)
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 teaspoon espresso dissolved in 2 tablespoon hot water
• 2 tablespoons milk or light cream
• Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn the mixer off.
• Sift 3 cups confectioner’s sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl.
• Turn the mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.
• Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, espresso and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.
• If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

 

 

 

The Wedding Cake

Is there a modest way to declare when you have successfully baked the first wedding cake? I don’t know one yet, but I will try..I BAKED A WEDDING CAKE!!!!!!!!

WP_20160710_16_26_12_Pro (2)-001Baking a wedding cake had been my desire for quite some time. But they are not very popular where I live. So, when my dear friend Anitha requested me to do one for her childhood friends, I didn’t know how to react! To jump with joy or be full of self-doubt as I had never done a wedding cake before. After seven seconds of solemn silence I agreed to take the plunge.

Camera360_2016_7_11_121500The bigger surprise came when I was given a free hand to do the cake, right from choosing the flavors to the decoration. Believe me, it was dilemma overload. Dwindling between vanilla and chocolate, I decided the cake to have both the flavors with a vanilla bottom tier and chocolate middle tier. As for the top tier, I chose Red Velvet Cake because here, it happens to be the current flavor of love.

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I would have loved to do “ wedding cake” chronicle like some most awesome people have done, but my schedule didn’t permit me that. (See, I decided to do the wedding cake right from scratch in two days flat. And since that was insane enough, I resisted from typing away to glory while still slathered in sugar, butter, white chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa, colors and all that cake jazz!)

(That difference in color of the two cakes is the sunlight. The one with satin was clicked in artificial light.)

Since I do not have step-by-step tutorial, I would love to share with you what I learnt in the cake baking and assembling process. It’s a long write-up so you may skip. For those who still wish to know, shall we start with the cakes I baked and their fillings?

Base layer: Vanilla double layered cake– Each layer 12 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I had at least three recipes to choose from, all with rave reviews. But when you are baking the bottom layer which is going to bear the weight of the cake for close to ten-twelve hours, you do not want to choose a sponge cake no matter how ambrosial it sounds. Instead, you want a wedding worthy cake which should have a rich taste and a firm texture. With those considerations in mind, I turned to my all-time favorite vanilla cake recipe.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with a layer of my current favorite white chocolate buttercream. On top of that, I added a layer of mixed berry marmalade heated with a dollop of cream before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Middle layer: Chocolate double layered cake: Each layer 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I decided the middle layer to be a Chocolate cake. There is no dearth of chocolate cake recipes but not every chocolate cake is worth of making it to a wedding cake. But, this one is. Made of butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder AND melted chocolate, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I have come across and is just perfect for the middle layer of a multi-tier cake.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with thick silky dark chocolate version of this ganache mixed with orange compote before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Top layer: Double layered red velvet cake: Each layer 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

After all that fuss of baking a red velvet cake with nothing but beet root, it was time to soften the stand. Nothing wrong with that recipe, but no harm in increasing the repertoire either! Found this awesome recipe here which yields a cake so fluffy that it can just melt in your mouth. This now belongs to the “must bake again” cake list.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, and then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and filled with white chocolate buttercream thinned with a dollop of cream. Chocolate chips were generously sprinkled on the filling before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

(See that pic below? It was clicked at ungodly 2 am when a chocolate and a vanilla cake were yet to go inside my tiny oven which can bake just one at a time.)

IMG-20160707-WA0001The cakes are leveled best when they are chilled, or frozen. I freeze my cakes in triple layers of clear wrap.

Truth be told, cake baking and filling were the easiest part of the whole exercise. The real deal was to assemble the cake which weighed close to eight kgs in toto. Luckily there is abundant information available online and in books that should make you comfortable before you start turning those layers into tiers of beauty and flavor. But remember, devil is in the details, so pay close attention to every aspect of a step before embarking on it. Here is what I learnt in the process:

1. Assemble each layer separately on its own cake board which should be of same diameter as the cake. This will help you to move the cake around and during cutting and distributing the cake. The lowermost cake board should have an extra 2 inch margin that will give you enough room to lift and move the assembled cake.
2. Dowels are a must if you are doing a three tiered cake. They help to support the structure and prevent the lower layers from collapsing under the sheer weight of the layers above.
3. If an assembled cake is to be transported to the venue as in my case, then I highly recommend using a central dowel which should traverse the entire length of the cake right from the top layer to the bottom of the base layer. It will help to keep the layers in place during the ride. However, you may not need it if you are assembling the cake at the venue.
4. It helps to moisten the layers by brushing them with vanilla syrup or plain sweetened water as the cake would be in fridge for quite some time during and in between decorating steps and you do not want layers to dry up. However, adding too much syrup would make them soggy and tear prone. So be moderate.
5. If coloring the buttercream, it is always a good idea to make in a single large batch even if that leaves you with a bowl full of it at the end of the entire process. That will hurt less than dealing with a second batch of buttercream in a different shade when giving those final touches!
6. Practice the design you are going to make. Spontaneous decorating ideas can be detrimental and will give you tough time if you want to undo and restart. Do your homework about the design you wish to put on the cake and stick to the plan.
7. If planning to decorate with real flowers, make sure that you wrap the stems in aluminum foil before poking in. Also, not all flowers are suitable for placing on cakes so be careful about what you choose.
8. If decorating with satin ribbon, remember that it may get greasy on a buttercream covered cake. It is always a better idea to buy a thick grease proof double sided ribbon. If you can’t find one, use darker colors which would not show grease marks as prominently. Also, place the ribbon right before display or transportation.

These are some of the suggestions that should help your cake assembly and decoration a little easy though there would still be quite a few “I skipped a heartbeat!” moments. Some of the resources I found extremely helpful are listed below and I suggest you to explore more:

  1. http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/category/wedding-cake/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpQ278VwwL4
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N4HTmU5F5g
  4. http://joythebaker.com/2010/06/fact-i-made-a-wedding-cake/

Also, a short list of tools and supplies I found invaluable:
• A sturdy mixer
• Aluminum cake pans
• Parchment paper
• Cake boards
• Food grade plastic wrap
• Sharp knife to slice the layers
• Cake decorating stand/Turntable
• Frosting bags & tips
• Icing spatulas

Are you still with me? Thank you for your time! Really. I would like to know you.

So wanna know how I think I fared? I am quite happy the way cake turned out. The newlyweds gave thumbs up to the cake. The taste was impeccable and I am so glad about choosing those flavors. I kept the decoration to minimum and tried floral as well as satin decoration (the final version was with the satin ribbon) but would like to get more experimental in future. Yes, baking and assembling a wedding cake is taxing but I would certainly do it again for the sheer joy of it!

Chocolate beetroot cake

The world needs peace. Really.  Oppugnant characters need to come together, we need to stop taking sides and make peace. Somewhere I believe it involves bringing Chocolate and beetroots together and I did my bit. We need to be inclusive.

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I have always tried to love beetroots. Loving them for their color came naturally but somehow they never tickled my taste buds. I still keep buying them and incorporate them in meals quite regularly but have never seen a smiling face the day they are on table. However, this cake changed it all.

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This cake started as a red velvet cake. However, the amount of the cocoa was way too much even for the ferocious beet red to show up. So, it ended up as the softest, moistest, and deeply chocolaty chocolate cake with that right punch which no one would believe comes from beet root. It also proved that its not going to be the last cake I have baked with beets. But this cake wont give you the ticket to hop onto the “eating healthy” bandwagon because c’mon! lets not kid ourselves. A beetroot shared by two people over a span of three days (with that amount of cocoa)  doesnt even come close.

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Its a very easy cake to bake, the only extra step is roasting beets in oven for slightly more than an hour and grinding that into a puree. From there its as easy as it can be. The mild sweetness calls for a good quality ganache if you really want to dress it up for an occasion. or just dust it with plain icing sugar on a regular day. Go and hunt for that languishing beetroot. It deserves a place in the oven, instead of fridge.

Chocolate Beetroot cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot, around 150 grams
½ cup neutral oil (I used sunflower)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoon plain yogurt
½ tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius . wash, dry and wrap whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Blend the wet ingredients including the puree until uniform.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean. Cool before icing.

Chocolate ganache:

200 ml light cream
200 gram good quality chocolate (not bitter or dark)
25 gram butter
A pinch of salt

1. Chop chocolate in a heatproof bowl and keep aside
2. Heat cream in a thick bottomed pan over medium low heat till bubbles start appearing over the edges.
3. Turn off the flame and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolates. Top with butter. Cover and keep aside for 5-7 minutes
4. Whisk well and add in the salt. Cool before spreading

 

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.

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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.

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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.