Saturday, February 25, 2012

Peace, Love and Cake

Berry - Cherry Chocolate Cake

I am beginning to love the unexpected. This Valentines Day I didn't really want to go out to dinner or have a special date. It was a busy week, and I wanted to spend the evening with my family. Ok, I'll be honest, part of me just decided it was easier to make a nice dinner at home than to have great expectations of a romantic, perfect date night. I'm learning that it's all about expectations (lowering them, perhaps?). It's about time, right?

But instead of dinner, I made cake. I don't think anyone was expecting that, including me. I started out by making a batch of Mexican chocolate mousse. I love mousse, but it is so rich and creamy, that I wanted a bit of texture to go with each cinnamon-cayenne-infused bite. Cake! I found a great yellow cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which I altered slightly, and then decided to mix a creamy, not-so-sweet mascarpone-ricotta cherry filling to top the second layer. I was hoping it would be a soft pink color, but, as was the theme of the night, it was an unexpected purple. And of course, it being VD (I remember the endless jokes about that in grade school!), there had to be chocolate. A simple ganache topped it all. It was delicious, which I expected.

Oh, and my husband brought me flowers: hoped for, but not entirely expected. Thanks, Drummer Man!

After licking the last bite of cake off his fork, my son summed up the evening with three words: “Peace, Love and Cake.” I can live with that.

Yellow Cake from Smitten Kitchen (changes in parenthesis)

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder (I increased to 4 tsp)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (I omitted—I hate baking soda)
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature (I used 5 egg yolks, and three egg whites, whipped separately)
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. in a separate bowl beat egg whites til stiff. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs yolks 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. Fold in egg whites.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Mexican Chocolate Mousse

1 pt whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter
6.5 oz chocolate (try Mexican chocolate bar with Guajillo, or a mix of Mexican chocolate and bittersweet)

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 oz Grand Marnier (to taste)
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp granulated sugar

Whip the cream (soft) with powdered sugar and set aside.
In double boiler or pan set in water, melt the chocolate and butter and thin with
Grand Marnier. Add spices. Let it cool a bit and fold in the whipped cream.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and add sugar. Fold into chocolate
mixture. Place in bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Cherry Mascarpone Filling

1 cup frozen cherries

8 oz Crave Brother's Mascarpone Cheese (I love Wisconsin!)

8 oz Belgioioso ricotta cheese

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

(I think a couple tbsp of cherry liquor would have been great too)

Simmer cherries with vanilla and liquor (I used more orange liquor here in stead) until juice is released.

Strain cherries and set aside.

Whip all other ingredients in bowl, and add about ½ cup cherry juice. Adjust juice to sugar ratio keeping the consistency of the filling firm, but spreadable.


1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
rum (optional)

Bring cream to a boil

Stir in chocolate and rum until well-blended

Let cool until firm enough to spread (could be 2 hours in fridge).

Raspberry Coulis

8 oz frozen raspberries

2 tbsp lemon juice

½ cup sugar

liquor of your choice

Bring to a boil until juice is released. Mash and strain.

Assemble Cake

If I did this again, I would cut layers in half to make four layers, but alas, we had two.

Anyway, start by topping a layer with mousse and the reserved cherries, then more cake, then the filling, until you are out of cake, or filling, or perhaps even your mind.

Make sure the mousse is firm enough that it won't drip out of the cake, a mistake I have made more times than I care to remember. I actually let this mousse set in the fridge overnight before using.

Finally, spread ganache around and over the whole darn cake.

Spoon raspberry sauce on plate.

Cut generous slice of cake. Eat.

An unexpected dessert awaits!

1 comment:

Fresh Local and Best said...

What a lovely way to celebrate VD (hehe)! This cake is a medley of everything good.