People often ask me about my favorite flavor of cake. 11 out of 12 months of the year, anyone would be hard pressed to get a straight answer out of me. I love ALL of my
children flavors equally, and each one has a different occasion and purpose during which they best shine. I like to play to their strengths. The flavor I will talk to you about today, shines best during the month of October.
October marks the beginning of the descent into the holiday season. It is a luxurious month, featuring such gems as decadent Halloween treats, the harvest of wine grapes, and a deep golden color of the sun as it hangs lower in the sky. Shorter days and cooler nights invite the seasonal comforts of down comforters and fuzzy slippers. It is a month of change. It also happens to be Allison’s Birthday Month! And this Cake Ninja is about to drop some serious yumminess with her go-to birthday treat.
Birthday magic works best when shared with others.
The sponge itself is springy and delicate. The black cocoa powder gives it a very present, yet mellow profile, which marries perfectly with the white chocolate buttercream. Only the best chocolate in all the land is suitable for the cream center. For the occasion, I broke out a combination of my favorite Guittard 63% bittersweet chocolate chips, and Valrhona 66% Alpaco feves. The pure, neutral chocolate flavor in these selections allowed the brightness of two, perfectly seasonal orange skins to shine through the sultry cocoa cream.
If you’re a sucker for those holiday chocolate oranges that you “whack and unwrap,” this will be right up your alley. (Dark chocolate for the WIN, yo!) If you’re a chocolate purist, don’t worry. The orange in the filling can be easily omitted, though I strongly recommend you give it a try. The citrus adds a depth of flavor comparable to what the addition of coffee does for a good chocolate cake.
Dark Chocolate Cake
The base for this recipe can be found all over the internet, so its origin is unclear. With a few enhancements, this has become my go-to chocolate cake in (almost) every flavor made at Cake Done Right. This cake is very tender and spongey. While I wouldn't recommend it for sculpted cakes, it does beautifully as a simple layered cake. If you plan to use it in a tiered cake, use a stiff ganache for your crumb coat for extra stability before draping your fondant.
In your first bowl, add both cocoa powders and the hot coffee. Whisk together until smooth. Allow to cool into a thick, chocolatey sludge.
In your second bowl, whisk together the wet ingredient. (Sugar is considered a wet ingredient.)
In your third bowl, sift dry ingredients together.
Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the chocolatey sludge and whisk together. *Note: If you try to reverse it and add the sludge to the wet ingredients, it will be harder to get a smooth batter.
Add the chocolatey wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. Whisk until just combined. Do not over-mix!
*Note: If you try to reverse it and add the the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, the batter will be lumpy and require extra mixing. Over-mixing will make the cake tough and chewy.
Grease and line two 9" round pans. Divide batter evenly between pans. *Note: This recipe makes a lot of batter. Divide it however you like, into whichever size or shape pan you like.
Bake in a preheated, 350F oven until done, about 30 minutes. *Note: Every oven is different. Adjust cook time and temperature as needed.
Chocolate Cream with Orange
I adapted this gem from my time working at Waterbar. The most amazing thing about this recipe is its versatility. You can swap out the orange for any other flavor: Coffee, Coconut, your favorite spices... Anything that can be infused into cream and pairs well with chocolate will work! The yield is quite large, but it doesn't seem to scale down well. You could easily fill two 10" round cakes with what it makes, so I just use what I need and eat the rest with a spoon... For like, a week.
Be sure not to overcook the anglaise, or you'll end up with unsalvageable, soupy, scrambled eggs!
Peel the zest from the oranges with a vegetable peeler. *Note: You could also use a zester, but it's easier to strain out later if the pieces are larger.
Heat the milk, cream, and sugar on the stove in heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Stir and heat until sugar is dissolved and the liquid is at a scald, but not boiling. Add your orange zests and cover the pot with a lid. Let steep for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place your separated egg yolks in a bowl big enough to hold the contents of the pot.
Remove the zest from the liquid using a set of tongs, a fork, or strain them out with a fine mesh sieve. Dealer's choice, depending on how small your pieces are.
While whisking the egg yolks with one hand, slowly pour the hot liquid into the yolks with the other hand. *Note: You want the liquid to heat the egg yolks, but not cook them. Whisking allows for even heat distribution to help prevent the eggs from cooking too soon and scrambling.
Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pot, and set over medium-low heat. Continuously scrape the bottom of the pot with a heat-proof spatula. *Note: This will help prevent the eggs from overcooking at the the bottom.
Heat the liquid to 160F, then STOP. The liquid (now called an anglaise) should look slightly thicker and evenly coat the back of a spoon. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and get ready to strain the anglaise over your chocolate. Don't let the pot sit for too long, or the eggs will continue to cook!
*Note: The proteins in the eggs will coagulate at 160F. We want them hot enough to thicken up the anglaise, but not so hot that they overcook and curdle. If the anglaise gets any hotter than 160F, you end up with the aforementioned unsalvageable, soupy mess.
Strain your anglaise over your chocolate, using a fine mesh sieve. Cover your bowl of chocolate with a lid or large plate, and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Whisk the hot cream and chocolate mixture until everything is nice and smooth. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Fill your favorite cake and enjoy!
White Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream
I often use this recipe in place of vanilla buttercream. The flavor is deeper, creamier, and just plain better than any ordinary "white" buttercream. You're welcome!
Allow eggs and butter to come to room temperature.
Separate the egg whites and place into the bowl of your stand mixer. Reserve the yolks for another recipe.
Put the sugar into a tall, heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add just enough water to make a sandy paste with the sugar. Wipe down any sugar crystals from the side of the pot with a pastry brush and some cold water.
Heat the sugar and water on medium until it comes to a roiling boil. At this stage, place your candy thermometer into the boiling syrup. Turn your mixer on high and begin beating the egg whites. *Note: The syrup and egg whites should reach their desired stages at approximately the same time.
While the egg whites are beating, continue cooking the syrup until the temperature reaches 238F. Your egg whites should be at the soft peak stage by this time. Turn off the heat.
Turn your mixer speed down a bit to prevent splashing, and SLOWLY pour the boiling syrup in a steady stream between the beater and the side of the bowl. The hot syrup will pasteurize the egg whites for safe eating.
Turn the mixer back up to high, and let it go until the meringue is cool when you touch the bowl.
Cut up the butter into pat-sized pieces. Turn the mixer to low, and add the butter. Mix on low until buttercream is no longer a soupy, splashy mess. Turn the mixer back up to medium high, and let it goooooooo until everything is emulsified. If it looks like soupy scrambled eggs, I promise, it's not ruined. Keep going!
While the mixer is going, place the chocolate and cream into a microwave safe bowl and heat gently until melted. Whisk to combine. Let it cool a bit so it won't melt your buttercream. *Note: Nuke at **30 second intervals** so the chocolate doesn't scorch!
When the ganache is cool but still pourable, add it to the buttercream. Mix on medium. Pause once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even distribution of ganache-y goodness.
Add a tsp of vanilla if you're feeling extra fancy.
Eat it by the spoonful. (No judgement, here!) Just remember to save some for your cake.