Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

Turning 28 can't be all that bad if you have a cake like this to fade that number out with. My hubs and I celebrated his big day a couple weeks back and I would reckon it treated him nicely. He went to school in the AM, blah blah, but came home to a park-field trip with Henry and the slide. We hit up California Pizza Kitchen for dinner, and then returned late to balloons, presents and friends + cake. I gave him a voucher for one hour per week of free ironing (1 hour per week!!!!) and a voucher of one date night to a 76-ers game. He loved it.
His birthday cake was quite a production but well worth it. I mean, I don't know if it's possible for someone to not thoroughly enjoy this cake: it's rich in chocolate, a layered beauty slathered in buttery, peanut butter frosting and then drowned in a PB chocolate ganache.
Trust me, my brain didn't think of this one up. The recipe comes from here, if you want it.....
I'd like to simply run down the mistakes I made on this, mistakes you will NOT repeat if you hear me out. Quite frankly, most of them happened because of a lack of obedience to the recipe. Moral of my story: if you are baking something for the first time, follow the directions with precision! Then you won't have reason to sweat bullets like I was.
First off- Mistake 1 (cake pans):
The recipe instructs that you use 3 8-inch cake pans to bake the cake batter in. I don't own 8" cake pans. I own just 2 9" ones..... so I baked the batter in the two and figured I could somehow turn one of the layers into a 6" circle by sawing off 3" of the circumference. Make sense? And so, as you can see, my cake didn't even turn out to be some awesome-looking layered thing- it turned out like a gimp beehive--- not what I was going for. My advice is, either use the 8"
cake pans as directed, OR, double the frosting if you decide to use the 9 inch pans and cut those in 4 layers (if you don't cut the 9 inch layers into 4, you won't need to double the frosting). That was my main issue: didn't make enough frosting for a 4-layered cake so I was compelled to trim down one layer to 6". Hence, the beehive shape. Clear as mud?
Secondly. Mistake 2 (frosting job):
The recipe suggests you freeze the baked and cooled cake layers for about 30 minutes, thus easing the job of frosting it. I threw mine in the freezer (after I let them cool for 30 minutes) for nearly an hour. To my panic, they hadn't frozen enough and frosting them was a job from H-E-double hockey sticks. The cake was still soft enough that pieces were breaking off and crumbs were getting all up into my frosting and it was just messy. The last thing you want when frosting a cake is having the frosting peppered with crumbs. SO, I really recommend that you plan ahead and freeze the cake layers for at least 2 hours or until they are firm as a rock. They will be thawed by the time you serve it. Promise.
Finally. Mistake 3 (ganache):
Being the cheapo baker, I figured since I already had semi-sweet chocolate chips on hand for the ganache, that purchasing a separate package of bakers semi-sweet chocolate bars wouldn't make a difference. Thus, I went ahead and melted the chocolate chips with the half & half and remembered instantly that melted chocolate chips, when combined with liquid, take on a grainy and bizarre texture and appearance. Because I was fighting the clock until friends came over, I just dealt with it and used my hideous ganache anyways- it tasted great, but the look of its "textured-ness" bothered me- ganache is meant to be as smooth as possible, with a dark and deep chocolate color. SO, I recommend that you really consider using a high-quality, bakers chocolate for the ganache. I think chocolate chips have too much wax in them to liquify well.
Conclusion (redeem):
Despite my little hang ups, this goes down in history as one of the best cakes..... ever. It's,* sigh* so good. So ridiculously good. It's very, very rich but deceivingly so because the frosting and cake itself are both so light and airy. Next time you have any occasion to bake a cake, you really should opt for this one. And serve it with milk on hand to wash it down with.
Hmm mm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've made this cake with two 9" pans and it works perfectly! I didn't run into any problem at all with the frosting (since you only have to ice one inside layer for a two layer cake instead of the two you have to frost with a three layer cake). I agree - this cake is the best!