cake

Wuv… twue Wuv

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. We all know this. When I was single, I was always very determined to ignore it completely. Now that I’m not, well, I’m not ignoring it completely because while I’m not a total mush monster, I do appreciate a well thought out romantic gesture, just not exclusively because Hallmark says so. What was my point? Oh yeah! I think this cake could definitely fall under the category of a not over-the-top but will definitely be appreciated Romantic Gesture. It’s a serious cake for people who really like it rich, but pretty easy to make, and combines three of my favorite things: beer, coffee, and chocolate.

I actually made it at work, for a party, so most of the pictures you’re about to see are what it looks like to make this recipe multiplied by… well, a lot. We needed to make 750 little cakes. The original recipe also includes a chocolate ganache topping, but you can pretty much decorate this cake however you like, and bake it in whatever shape and size you like. I’ll give you the directions as they’re written, because I’d like to imagine one of you making a three layered beauty dripping with chocolate. If you do, send me a picture, yeah?

Equipment:

hand mixer or stand mixer
whisk
large pot or saucepan
medium pot
two large mixing bowls
spatula or mixing spoon
knife and cutting board (if you’re chopping up the chocolate for the ganache)

Ingredients:

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups stout (chocolate stout, milk stout, regular stout– whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup strong black coffee
2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or just use semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 350º. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the paper, too.

In the large pot, bring the stout, coffee, and butter to a simmer over medium heat.

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Add the cocoa powder and whisk, whisk, whisk until everything smooths out. Allow the mixture to cool while you work on the rest of the recipe.

Whisk all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl. Set aside.

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In your stand mixer or with your hand mixer, beat the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla together until well combined.  With the mixer running, slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture until it’s all incorporated.

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NOTE: Make sure the chocolate is cooled off… it doesn’t have to be cold, by any means, but if it’s too hot, it’ll cook the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

Divide the batter equally between the three baking pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for at least 10 minutes in their pans, then turn them out onto a rack if you have one and let them finish cooling.

While the cakes are cooling, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the 2nd pot. Take the pot off the heat, and add the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Refrigerate it for awhile until the ganache is spreadable.

You can layer these with however much icing between the layers as you want. If it was me, I’d do a thin layer of icing on each of the first two layers, and then really slather it all over the top layer and around the sides. But, I’m one of those people who can’t resist sticking her finger in the icing on the outside of the cake, so I like to make sure there’s enough for the finger sticking/licking bit without damaging the cake to icing ratio too much.

I found some pink chocolate in our walk-in so I just used that to cover the whole cake and then did a little thing with some sprinkles and icing sugar and melted chocolate. Go crazy, though. This is a very rich, deep chocolate cake so it would pair well with just about anything, from fruit to something creamy like ice cream to, well, more chocolate.

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Happy Baking!

A pound you won’t mind gaining…

When I create a recipe, or use someone else’s recipe, I try to think about making that recipe as the least experienced cook who reads my blog. I don’t have any idea which of you that is, but you’re who I write to. So, when I got the big idea that I’d be doing this whole project of paring down my cookbook collection and sharing part of it with you all, one of the concerns I had was that some of the recipes would be… a little advanced. Or they would seem a little advanced because the instructions were a little unclear, or convoluted, or simply had too many steps for a novice home cook.

Turns out, that concern was well founded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to starting handing out cookbooks to all of you that I haven’t used or that I think suck. I love the recipes in the books I’ll be giving away, but after cooking a couple of them, one thought kept popping into my head.

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In that spirit, before I share a recipe from any of these cookbooks, I’m going to make sure I’m giving you a version that is actually workable for someone new to cooking. I don’t think the more experienced cooks among you will mind too much, either. If you’ve ever looked over a recipe and thought, “This is a lot more work than I thought it was going to be,” maybe this little exercise will help demonstrate that just because it’s written in a cookbook doesn’t make it gospel. If it seems like too many steps, or too many specialty ingredients, don’t just give up. You can absolutely re-work the recipe.

This recipe for “Papa’s Apple Pound Cake” comes from Payard Patisserie and Bistro in New York, via The New York Times Dessert Cookbook.

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This cookbook is a pretty hefty set of cake, tart, ice cream, dessert soup, and custard recipes collected from chefs from around the country, and edited by Florence Fabricant, a food critic for the NYT. One of the things I like most about it is the “Basics” chapter which gives you pretty simple recipes for things like pie crust and pastry cream. I don’t love that it’s the last chapter in the book, but, if you just bookmark page 519 it’s a great quick reference for those “blank canvas” types of recipes that you can use to build into your own creation.

Think of this as a “jazzed up” pound cake. It’s got a little more flavor and texture than a plain pound cake, and has the potential to be an inspirational jumping off point for those of you who like to play around with add ins.

Equipment:

1 loaf pan (the recipe in the book calls for and 8″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″ but the one I used was bigger.)
measuring cups and spoons
1 small pot
1 large mixing bowl
1 small mixing bowl
1 mixing spoon
1 small bowl (any old bowl is fine. this is for soaking your raisins.)
stand mixer, or hand held electric mixer
vegetable/fruit peeler
apple corer, if you have one
sifter, if you want to use it

Ingredients:

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra to butter the pan
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus a little more for flouring the pan
1 1/3 cup raisins
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons of dark rum, or you can use rum extract (I did, because the liquor store by me didn’t open until noon and I had to get this show on the road.)
2 Fuji apples, peeled and cored then cut into thin wedges
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 large, room temperature eggs
4 tablespoons apricot preserves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour your loaf pan. If you’ve never done this, basically just smear butter over all the inside surfaces of the pan, and then lightly sprinkle flour on top of the butter. This video from Jennifer Armentrout at Fine Cooking does a good job showing you what this looks like.

If your raisins seem really dried out and hard, soak them in really hot water while you work on the rest of the recipe. My raisins were nice and soft, so I was able to skip this step. Use your best judgement. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and soak them. It won’t hurt anything.

Peel and core both apples, and cut them into thin wedges.

In your small mixing bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder. The recipe says to sift. I didn’t, because I don’t think it’s worth the time and mess. Most modern flours don’t need the extra sifting, but if you’re concerned about making sure the baking powder is evenly distributed through or that your flour is lumpy, do it. You have to feel confident about the finished product, and if sifting gives you that, make it so.

If you’ve soaked your raisins to soften them, you can drain them now. If you’re using actual rum, put the raisins back in the small bowl with a tablespoon of rum and let them hang out there for a bit while you finish mixing the batter. If you’re using extract, hang tight.

In the large mixing bowl with your handheld mixer, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the stick of butter until it’s smooth. A bit at a time, add the confectioners sugar until it’s incorporated into the butter. It should be fluffy and creamy.

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Add the eggs one at a time until everything is mixed together. This is the point where I added the rum extract straight into the batter. I just used a cap full. Extracts carry a punch, and a little goes a long way.

A bit at a time, mix the flour/baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients until it’s all incorporated, and the batter is smooth.

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If you have had your raisins soaking in the rum, go ahead and dump the whole bowl into the batter now, then fold the raisins into the batter until they’re evenly distributed.

Now, this is where I thought the recipe got just a little bit convoluted. It took a full paragraph to explain the process of getting the apples just so into and on top of the batter. I read it, then I read it to the boyfriend, and then I re-read it two more times and then I felt a tiny aneurysm start to form and I had to stop. If you want to go out and buy this book, or try to get my copy in the giveaway so you can use their instructions, I ain’t mad atcha. However, I’m going to tell you how I handled things, and I fully believe you will still be satisfied with the end result.

Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan. Push 10-12 of the little apple wedges into the batter, with the round side up. or just lay them on top and wiggle them into the batter a bit.

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Pour the rest of the batter on top of all that, and then arrange the rest of the apple slices on top in a way that pleases you. I did four rows of shingled slices. You can do whatever you think looks pretty.

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Put the pan into your preheated oven for about an hour. The book says to check it at 10 minutes in and cut a little slit down the center of the batter to help it rise evenly. I did that, but it was literally still just batter at that point and I’m pretty sure the slit just closed back up on itself, so I’m not entirely sure if it actually worked. Again, it doesn’t hurt anything if you want to do it anyway.

Check for doneness at around the 50 minute mark by inserting a wooden skewer or a butter knife into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If it’s still got some goo clinging to it, let it go another 5-10 minutes.

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While the cake is on it’s last 10 minutes, melt down the apricot preserves in the small pot on medium heat until it’s pourable.

When the cake is done, brush (or pour and then spread with the back of a spoon) the apricot preserves over the top and let it hang out for awhile until it’s all pretty and glazey.

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The book calls for a second layer of stuff on top. I didn’t do that because it was already pretty sweet, but if you want to do this second topping…

Combine the remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons of rum (or about 1/4 cap full of the extract and 2 teaspoons of water) with 1/3 of a cup of confectioners sugar. Stir it well until it looks like icing. Brush (or pour and spread with the back of a spoon) over the apricot glaze, and then put the pan back into the turned-off oven until the icing is dry. Remove the pan from the oven again, and let the whole she-bang cool until it’s time to serve it. At that point you can remove it from the pan or serve it straight out of there.

I brought this to a Rose Bowl party (Go Ducks!) and it was a success. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Oh! If you’re not a big raisin fan, I think currants or dried cranberries would work, or I don’t know… go crazy and add butterscotch chips or something!

I would like for one of you, my lovely readers, to have my copy of this book. So, if you’d like to be entered into a drawing to have all 567 pages of deliciousness for your very own, you just need to do one very simple thing– Answer this question in the comments:

If you had to give up one piece of kitchen equipment for a whole year, which one would be the most difficult to let go of?

I’ll draw the winner before midnight on Wednesday, January 7th. Good Luck!

This giveaway is not sponsored by or affiliated with the New York Times or the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Winner will be notified on the I’m Gonna Cook That Facebook page, on the I’m Gonna Cook That Twitter account, and of course, here on the blog. The winner will have 3 days to respond or the prize is forfeit. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.

“You owe me one.”

That’s what chef said to me last night as he was assigning out recipes for the evening. I was ready to volunteer to make anything else on the menu other than dessert, even the pain in the ass crab soup,  after last week’s gingerbread debacle. He had other things in mind.

“I think we all know who is in charge of dessert tonight, ” he said as he looked me right in the eye. “You owe me one.” And just like that, I was making Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze.

So off I went to the bake shop to get the pans, then back to the kitchen to get something into the oven as quickly as possible and start working on the back-up just in case the first one failed again. Why did the gingerbread collapse last week? Because I didn’t mix it long enough. At home, I don’t have a stand mixer. I do everything by hand, so I mix and mix and mix those cake batters to death. I assumed that the mixing time would be shorter with the stand mixer, but as it turns out, that’s not the case. My batter was under mixed and my cupcakes fell. Simple as that.

So, this week, I took that lesson to heart and built in plenty of time for mixing. Also, instead of doubling the recipe up front, I simply made the recipe twice (well, one and a half times). I’m not the best at math and while doubling a recipe sounds pretty simple, it’s actually really easy to screw one up if your math isn’t spot on.

This recipe as it’s written is meant for a bundt cake pan, but feel free to just make two 8 inch layers instead. I ended up doing a full bundt cake, plus half the recipe for another single layer cake.

Equipment:
2 Mixing bowls and a spoon and your stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one
measuring cups and spoons
sifter
medium sized pot
pastry brush (a cheap 25 cent paint brush from Home Depot is fine)
small bowl
bundt pan, tube pan, or two 8 inch cake pans

Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 C unsalted butter at room temperature
2 C packed brown sugar
1 egg
3 C All Purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2 C unsweetened applesauce
1 C raisins
1 C coarsley chopped walnuts

For the glaze:
1 C brown sugar
1/4 C unsalted butter
1/4 C evaporated milk

Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease and flour your cake pan(s).

Sift together the 10 oz (about 2 and 1/3 cups) flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl. Set aside. Dredge the nuts and the raisins in the remaining flour so they’re well coated. This will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and mix in well.

Alternate adding the applesauce and the sifted ingredients a bit at a time, mixing each addition in very well before adding the next, until all of it is incorporated and the batter is well mixed. (see? now i’m obsessed with mixing until my arm falls off!)

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Fold the raisins and nuts into the batter. Pour into your prepared pan(s), making sure the batter is evenly distributed.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester or skewer or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. My bundt cake took about an hour and ten minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then carefully loosen the sides and invert onto a rack to continue cooling for another 30 minutes or so. This is a pretty moist cake, so it’s important to let it cool completely so it doesn’t fall apart on you when you try to cut into it.

While the cake is cooling, you can make the glaze.

Put at least a cup or so of cold water in the small bowl.

Combine the evaporated milk, the brown sugar, and the butter together in a pot over medium low heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Keep stirring (not too vigorously) as the mixture starts to cook. You want it to reach soft ball stage, or about 220° – 235° on a candy thermometer.

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Wash down the sides of the pot with your cold water and the pastry brush if you start to see the sugar crystallize on the sides.  You want to re-dissolve those crystals into the caramel before they have a chance to fall off in a big chunk into your mixture. Once that happens you have to start all over because just one little seed crystal can set the whole she-bang to solidifying. On top of having ruined the caramel, it becomes a giant pain in the tookus to clean the pan because it all seizes up into brown concrete.

When the caramel reaches the right temperature and consistency (drizzle-able? is that word? i think i just made it one), remove the pot from the heat and beat it with a whisk or a spoon until it thickens. If your cake isn’t ready to come out of the oven yet, leave the pot on the warm stove top while you wait so it doesn’t get too cool. You’ll probably have to give it another quick stir before you glaze your cake with it.

Once your cake is cool, it’s time to serve!

This is the bundt cake…

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annnd here’s the other single layer cake…

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As you can see, both are pretty delicious looking, so go with whatever works for the way you want to serve it.

I feel pretty vindicated this week… so vindicated, in fact, that I’m thinking I’m going to use this recipe for cupcakes to sell at our Blogger Bake Sale in a few weeks. Just a reminder, if you’re in the Denver area on May 2nd and want to stop by, feel free! If you are out of state and would like to hold your own bake sale, just join the team! Orrr… if you just want to contribute some cash to the cause, I won’t turn down your money!

Click here for all the details.