Saturday, July 18, 2009

Espresso Fudge Cake

I had a really hard time deciding what cake to make for my birthday this year. I flipped through several books looking for inspiration, and nothing called out to me. I didn't want to make the usual carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, even though it is one of my favorite cakes, and I didn't want something bland and boring either. I considered coconut cakes, peanut butter cakes, maple cakes and lots of things in between. I flipped through most of my baking books and even searched online looking for just the cake to make. I found a really promising cake on Smitten Kitchen -- chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate/peanut butter ganache -- I even printed the recipe and made sure I had all the ingredients, but it just didn't feel quite right to me.

Finally, the night before my birthday I decided I wasn't going to bother with a cake. If I couldn't decide on a recipe then there was no point in messing with it. After all, my sweet tooth gets plenty of attention through my regular baking so there was no need for anything special for my birthday. (not to mention the fact that Chris was already planning to make me incredibly fattening mac & cheese -- which turned out to be beyond amazingly awesome -- for my birthday dinner....)

So naturally after deciding there would be no cake making for my birthday, I woke up with a particular cake on my mind this morning. In my search for a more involved layer cake, something incredibly indulgent, rich and just not the sort of thing you whip up on the spur of the moment, I had flipped through my Death by Chocolate baking book and the Espresso Fudge Cake had caught my eye. Chocolate cakes with a layer of espresso chocolate ganache and a super-rich espresso chocolate buttercream... I had dismissed it before because the recipe was quite involved and included a cooked egg-white buttercream -- something I was definitely not interested in messing with.

However, since it was my birthday and all... I knew I could get Chris to do the cooked egg white part for me and everything else was fairly routine baking and assembly. :) problem solved.

This is not a recipe to undertake lightly. It dirtied a whole lot of my dishes and took several hours of active time not to mention the hour of chilling in the freezer. It involved fairly easy sour cream chocolate cakes that I baked early in the morning. Once they cooled I threw them in the fridge to make them easier to cut later, which was a very good decision considering how soft and moist they were. It also involved a chocolate ganache which wasn't difficult to make, and of course the buttercream which wasn't horribly hard, but it did have many steps and several opportunities for things to go horribly wrong.

Luckily I had Chris helping me out and things did not go wrong. In fact, they went very, very right. This cake is so incredibly rich and indulgent, with so many layers of chocolatey, coffee goodness that I had two bites and I was done. It was so rich and wonderful and incredible.... mmmm... a perfect sort of birthday indulgence... even if I'm the one who has to wash the dishes afterward.


4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped into pieces
8 tbsp butter,
2 cups cake flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups tightly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sour cream

Espresso Ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate broken into pieces
1 tbsp instant espresso powder

Chocolate Espresso Buttercream
8 oz semisweet chocolate broken into pieces
2 oz unsweetened chocolate broken into pieces
2 tsps instant espresso powder
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

To make the cakes:
Preheat oven to 350. Spray two 9x2 inch round cake pans with baking spray. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler, or by nuking for 30 seconds and stirring, then for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each trip in the microwave, until the chocolate is smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes. While that is mixing stir the flour, baking soda and salt together in another small bowl. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla, mixing well after adding.

While the mixer is running on low, add part of the flour mixture to the egg/butter mixture, then add half of the sour cream. Add more flour, then the rest of the sour cream, mixing all the while. Finally add the last of the flour and then the boiling water. Let the mixer run until the water mixes in. You don't want this process to take a really long time, so just let the mixer go around a couple of times before adding the next ingredient in the process.

Once the batter is uniformly mixed divide it between the two cake pans and place in the oven. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The book says 55 minutes, but mine were done in 35 so err on the side of caution and check them early. When they are done remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes before turning them out onto a rack. When they are completely cool wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to decorate.

For the ganache:
put the chopped chocolate and espresso powder into a medium, heat-proof bowl. Heat the butter, heavy cream and granulated sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture comes to a boil pour it over chocolate and espresso mix and stir until smooth. Set aside until needed.

To make the buttercream:
melt the chocolate -- either in a double boiler or the same microwave method described above. once it is smooth set it to one side until needed.

Cream the butter in a stand mixer on medium, for at least 3 minutes, then on high for another 3 minutes -- you want it really light and fluffy. Scrape it into a large bowl, then wash and dry the mixer bowl. Next, put the egg whites and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a double boiler (we use a metal bowl set over top of a pan of boiling water) and gently whisk the eggs and sugar -- the book says until 120 degrees, but we didn't keep track -- we just whisked for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the egg whites to the mixer bowl and whisk with the whisk attachment on high until stiff peaks form -- about 4 minutes. The egg whites will look like marshmallow fluff when they are ready.

The next step is to fold the melted chocolate into the whipped butter -- but make sure the chocolate is below 80 degrees before folding it in, otherwise you will melt the butter and ruin the frosting. Once the chocolate is completely folded into the butter, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate butter mixture until no streaks remain.

Last: assemble the cake. Cut each cake in half giving you four layers to work with. Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Spread 1 1/2 cups of buttercream evenly over the layer. Top with another layer of cake, then spread 1 1/4 cups of ganache over that layer. Add another layer of cake, then another 1 1/2 of buttercream. Finally add the last layer of cake then wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and freeze for an hour.

After an hour pull the cake from the freezer and unwrap. Run a knife along the inside of the springform pan to loosen the cake (this turned out to be far more difficult and messy than anticipated...) Remove the cake from the springform pan, trim any edges that are ragged (quite a lot on mine) then frost with the remaining buttercream. Run a knife under hot water for a few minutes, then wipe it dry before cutting the cake to get pretty slices of cake.


burkie said...

it looks incredible! sorry i won't be here to sample it :(

happy b'day again!

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Barbara said...

OMG! What a fabulous cake. It was worth the time and effort for a perfect birthday!

Natalie... said...

Wowww this looks so so good its unbelievable!