Friday, May 17, 2013

Devil's Food Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

I have an embarrassing number of cake recipes bookmarked, dog-eared, and stashed in my recipe binder, but I don't actually bake cakes as often as I'd like. Individual treats like cookies and scones are easier to bring to work, which is important because 1) I want my coworkers to like me, and this is the easiest way I know of to win friends, and 2) I tend to forgo meals and subsist entirely on cake when it's in my kitchen.

Still, birthdays are a good excuse to live large, and when mine came around this week, I browsed through my files and, after due consideration, chose the devil's food cake recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Because, I mean, chocolate. Seriously. You can't go wrong with a chocolate birthday cake. Especially after a repast of cheese soufflé and shaved fennel salad.

The recipe calls for mayonnaise, which I have never bought in my life because I think mayo is weird. The homemade version is very simple, though it does require a strong whisking arm. Remind me to rope Amaury into making it for me next time.

 The cake recipe is delightfully simple, too. If you have a standing mixer, it'll make your life easier—and if you bake a lot, it is definitely worth the investment—but you can make this with a handheld version, too. Just have a good book to read in your free hand, since you'll be whisking for more than 10 minutes.

Is it really necessary to sift your dry ingredients together? OH, I DON'T KNOW. YOU TELL ME.

If you need some instruction on glazing your masterpiece, here's a video with only slightly ridiculous commentary. I got laryngitis as a birthday gift, so my voice is kinda scratchy.

Amaury takes candle lighting very seriously. Such pretty candles!

Recipes for cake, glaze, and mayonnaise below the cut.

Devil's Food Cake
(Recipe adapted slightly from Bouchon Bakery)

Note: This recipe calls for alkalized, or Dutch process, cocoa powder. If you can only find natural unsweetened cocoa—if the package doesn't say anything about "Dutch" or "alkali"—you can try substituting an equal amount of cocoa plus a heaping quarter teaspoon of baking soda. Read more about the difference between the two cocoa types here. The original recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a sheet pan for 10 min and cut into rounds when cool, but that sounds like waaaay too much work.

100 g (1/2 cup plus 3.5 Tbsp) all-purpose flour
30 g (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) unsweetened alkalized (Dutch) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp kosher salt (use less if you have to substitute fine-grain sea salt)
1 large egg, room temperature (56 g, if you want to be reallllly precise)
125 g (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
85 g (1/4 cup plus 2.5 Tbsp) mayonnaise (recipe below)
105 g (1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp) water, room temperature
Bittersweet chocolate glaze, warm (recipe below)

Part 1: Baking the Cake
1.   Whisk the egg, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment for 1 min on medium-low speed, then 5 min on medium. Scrape the bowl well and whisk for 5 min on medium-high speed. It should "form a slowly dissolving ribbon" when you lift the whisk.
2.   Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk in the salt.
3.   Whisk the mayonnaise into the sugar mixture until combined
4.   Fold (don't stir!) in the flour mixture and water in two additions each until just combined. Don't overmix!
5.   Bake at 325˚F in lightly greased or parchment-lined 8" round baking pans for 18-20 min. You could also use 9" pans (baking time may be a few minutes less). Or cupcake tins. Or whatever you want, really.

Part 2: Making it Pretty
1.   Place a baking rack over a cookie sheet or other decently large and easily cleaned surface
2.   When the cake has cooled completely, transfer one round to a small cake platter or small plate (remove the parchment paper if you used it) placed on the baking rack. If the cake is very domed, slice off the top to level it.
----Keep in mind that you don't want there to be a lot of extra space between the cake and the edge of the plate, since you'll be pouring chocolate over it. You can always put the finished cake on a larger plate or platter to serve.
3.   Use an offset spatula to spread a small amount of glaze over the top of the round
4.   Place the second round on top of the first (again leveling the top if need be)
5.   Pour warm chocolate glaze (recipe below) over the cake, using the spatula to spread it over the top. Allow the glaze to ooze down the sides. Add more as needed to the top until the cake is completely cloaked in shiny goodness.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
(Recipe from Joy of Cooking)

Note: recipe yields about 1 cup. I used… maybe 2/3 of it on the cake? You could also melt the chocolate in a microwave; if the butter stops melting in step 2, nuke it for a few seconds to heat it back up. Extra glaze can be refrigerated for a few weeks. 

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use semisweet)
1/3 cup water, coffee, or milk
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.   Heat the first three ingredients in a double boiler until the chocolate has just melted.
2.   Remove from heat and gently stir in the butter, a few chunks at a time, allowing them to melt before adding the next bits. (If the butter stops cooperating, place the bowl back over the still-steaming water in the double boiler.)
3.   Allow to stand at room temperature until thick but pourable (about 90˚F). For a spreadable frosting, let it cool a while longer.

Homemade Mayonnaise
(Halved recipe from Joy of Cooking)

Note: this makes about 1/2 cup. Keep extra mayo in the fridge for up to two days.

1 large egg yolk (use the white for something else)
1/2 to 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of white pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or mostly vegetable oil with a few splashes of olive oil)

1.   Have all ingredients at room temperature
2.   Do some stretching to get your whisking arm warmed up
3.   Whisk together everything but the oil in a medium bowl until smooth and light
4.   Add a teensy bit of oil and whisk until blended. Add an itsy bit more oil and whisk some more. Keep going like this until you've added about 1/3 of the oil, and which point you can start adding it in larger increments. If it stops emulsifying, whisk the hell out of it to teach it a lesson.

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