Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Another birthday in the office means another chance to make something for someone. This time the birthday request was for one of the most basic, traditional cakes out there -- but one that I had never made before. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Interestingly enough I had a really tough time tracking down a recipe for it. In fact, I ended up putting together a couple of different recipes in order to make it happen.

I used the base cake recipe from the Caramel Cake in my Passion for Baking book. The frosting on that cake was kind of disappointing, but the cake itself was excellent. For frosting though I was kind of stumped since I don't like buttercream and most of the recipes in my book were based on chocolate chips which indicates to me a slightly inferior recipe. I turned to my Dorie Greenspan book hoping for a good chocolate buttercream recipe and discovered that there wasn't one in the book. Instead, Dorie focuses on bittersweet ganaches and glazes -- no frosting. However, she did note that the chocolate pastry cream could be used to fill cakes so I decided to attempt that.

The last time I attempted pastry cream (the base recipe in the book which I used in the Brioche Raisin Snails) I was disappointed with the whole thing, and made Chris do most of the work on the pastry cream itself -- and it's quite a bit of work. But, Peabody recently chose the Brioche Raisin Snails for the Tuesdays With Dorie online group and I figured if all of them could do it, then I could try it again.

So all by myself, with Chris not even in the house to help me -- I did it. I boiled the milk, melted the chocolate, tempered the eggs (successfully!), whisked my fool heart out and it came together beautifully and tasted fantastic. I was a bit worried that the cake requester wouldn't like the bittersweet chocolate so I brought her a spoonful and she loved it. Phew!

Now, to the cupcake part of this. The person I made the cake for is someone I only see for a few minutes every day. I didn't want to throw a cake at her and have her leave without sharing, but I also didn't want to put her in a position where she had to stay and share. So, I made her a mini-layer cake using two 4-inch springform pans. With the extra batter I made cupcakes. I happened to have a ton of pastry cream though (seriously overestimated how much I would need and made two batches) so I decided to fill the cupcakes as well as top them with the frosting -- and I still have an entire batch of pastry cream. oops.

For these cupcakes, non chocolate lovers need not apply because they probably won't like them. Rich and dark and creamy with an intense chocolate flavor. The cake is actually almost lost in it all which means that it's probably a bit of a chocolate overkill. Great for chocolate lovers, not so great for those who are indifferent to it. I liked it, but I only ate a quarter of a cupcake and had more than enough.

Pastry cream is probably not a recipe for beginning bakers, but it's also not impossibly hard. It may look intimidating, but the instructions that Dorie gives are clear and very easy to follow.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsps sugar
3 tbsps corn starch, sifted
pinch of salt
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temp

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the hot milk -- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle -- then, still whisking, add the remainder milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat, and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the custard until cold or; if you want to cool it quickly -- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into chunks
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 tsp butter extract (optional)
1 1/3 cups warm buttermilk

Brown Sugar Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Generously spray two 9-inch round cakepans with nonstick cooking spray and place pans on large parchment paper line baking sheet.

In a mixer bowl, place flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and blend ingredients. Add butter and blend to break up butter into dry ingredients to get a grainy mixture. Blend in eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, butter extract, and buttermilk to make a batter, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally to ensure batter is evenly blended.

Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake until cake spring back when gently pressed with fingertips, 30 to 35 minutes.

Once the cakes are cool, put on a serving platter and frost. :)


belying jejune stupidity said...

"chocolate overkill"? Is there such a thing? Isn't that in the same realm of impossibility as "too many cookies"???? Kudos!

Mira said...

the frosting was put on the cupcake oh-so-pretty!! :D

Anonymous said...

congrats on your dedication and adaptability! (okay, stubborness and who-gives-a-crap mentality)

i had half, which was more than enough for me. well done, indeed.