Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mint Chocolate Devil's Food Cake for My Sweetheart's Birthday, and a Host of Variations

Chocolate lovers will delight in this layer cake made of three different chocolate components, and all will love how easy the cake is to make.  This cake is delicious, of course, but it has so many other phenomenal things going for it that I felt I had to tell you about them. 

First, consider the versatility of a good devil's food cake recipe, as this one undoubtedly is.  I'm thinking cupcakes for all occasions, chocolate sheet cake for little ones' birthdays, layer cake for grown-ups, or even loaf cake for snacking.  You can add frosting or sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar.  Or, perhaps you would prefer a little whipped cream and some berries.  Top it with coffee ice-cream and douse it in hot fudge sauce for a classy ice-cream cake version.  Or, add nice accoutrements like fruits and nuts to the filling or icing. 

Then, notice the ease of the recipe.  No separating yolks and whites.  No separate batters or mixtures that you must make individually and then beat together.  No complicated ingredients for the icing or filling.  Observe that the icing and filling are actually...yes...the same!  The magic happens in the whipping of the frosting, and said whipped ganache becomes filling.  So easy.  Then you merely pour the rest of the ganache on top of the cake and your're done.  No time-consuming spreading action.  Did I mention that you can make this recipe ahead of time--in fact, that you must make it ahead of time so the icing has time to set?  Bonus points. 

Next, think about how adaptable the recipe is.  I used peppermint extract in the icing and filling because my husband (bless his heart) loves mint chocolate.  However, you could use any extract that seems appealing, such as orange or almond.  You could also add a liquer and certain other embellishments such as fruit and nuts.  I'm thinking Frangelico and almond extract would be nice, with toasted almonds mixed into the ganache filling and/or used to decorate the top of the cake.  Cherries soaked in brandy or kirsch are sounding pretty good, too.  Vanilla extract in the ganache with cherries soaked in liquer placed between the ganache filling and the next cake layer, then used to decorate the top.  Salivating yet? 

Finally, and most importantly, let me tell you about how delcious and attractive this cake is.  Three kinds and colors of chocolate!  The whipped ganache carries a light and fluffy angelic appearance, texture, and taste, which contrasts beautifully with the sexy, shiny, devil-like ganache icing.  Along with the cake itself, whose crumb is tender thanks to cake flour, the frosting and filling provide a luscious triple chocolate experience. You might just call this Angel/Devil Cake.  Enjoy.

Devil's Food Cake with Mint Chocolate Ganache
From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Makes one 8-inch layer cake.

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for pans
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Mint-Chocolate Ganache Frosting (recipe follows)

*A note about the cocoa powder:  I often use Saco brand cocoa powder:  This brand makes a cocoa powder that is a mixture of natural and dutched cocoa powders.  It seems to work well in recipes without leaving behind that bitter flavor you get when you use all natural cocoa powder.  However, if natural (non-Dutched, or non-alkalized) is all you have, you can add about 1 tsp of baking soda (dissolve it in the water the recipe calls for first) to neutralize the flavor.  Do not try to use natural cocoa powder without the baking soda.  It will ruin your dessert!  Of course, if you can find 100% Dutched cocoa powder, this is ideal.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.  Whisk together the cocoa and the hot water until smooth.  Then whisk in the sour cream and allow to cool.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  

Beat the butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Beat in vanilla.  Then add flour mixture in two parts with the mixer on low, alternating with the cocoa mixture and beginning and ending with the flour.  Beat until combined.  

Pour batter into prepared pans, smooth the top, and bake about 45 to 50 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Cake is ready when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or when the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.  Allow pans to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert and turn right side up; allow to cool completely.  

While the cake is baking, make the mint chocolate ganache from the recipe below.  

Transfer half of mint chocolate ganache to a clean mixer bowl fitted with the whip attachment and allow to cool completely, about 40 minutes.  Beat on medium high speed until soft peaks form when you lift the beater slowly, about 5 to 7 minutes. 

Using a serrated knife or a cake layer cutter, trim the tops of cake layers to make them level.  Transfer one of the layers to a cake platter and spread with about 1 1/2 cups of the whipped ganache.  Top with remaining layer, cut side down, and spread remaining whipped ganache in a thin layer over entire cake, covering completely.  Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.  

Transfer cake to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.  Pour the reserved ganache over the top, letting it run down the sides.  If necessary, use a large offset spatula to spread from the center outward.  Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.  Use two large spatulas or bench scrapers to transfer cake to a serving plate and garnish or decorate as desired.  Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days.  

Mint Chocolate Ganache
"Ganache" is just a fancy way of saying melted chocolate and heavy cream mixed together.  It does make a lovely covering for a cake.  

4 cups heavy cream
2 pounds best quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract (use a high quality, all natural extract; you don't want any fake flavors here!)


brubaker wildflower said...

your sweetheart is one lucky man !!! xoxo

collin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren Elizabeth said...

wowie wow wow! This cake was evidently made in April but it looks like I totally missed it, yikes, it looks incredible. Steve is one lucky guy!!