Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Cake for Grown ups?

This version of chocolate cake I have made a few times, and made it again this weekend for a wedding cake tasting as well as a birthday cake. I take my all time favorite - financier - which is a brown butter almond cake, traditionally bite sized, and use it for a larger cake. I added cocoa powder for a chocolate version, and filled it with a thick salted creme fraiche caramel, and iced it with a bittersweet chocolate ganache.

The cake is undeniably chocolate, yet it has many more dimension than a traditional chocolate cake. There's nuttiness from the almond meal, saltiness from the caramel, and bitterness from the dark chocolate ganache. Plus the texture of the cake due to the moisture from the almond meal and brown butter gives the cake an almost truffle like texture and density.

I made a few in cupcake form, with the tops cut-off so I could fill them with caramel, then added back the tops and iced them with ganache.

And, maybe the best part about this recipe? It's super easy. Well.... certainly not as easy as chocolate chip cookies, but for the results you get, it's relatively easy :)

If you have a scale (and a good calculator) you can make just about any size batch - and you can make it by hand.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Financier:
This batch yielded 2- 6" cakes, and 10 cupcakes (random I know), maybe it'll yeild 2 - 9" pans?

12 oz Butter - melt and brown this after weighing
16.5 oz Powdered Sugar
3.33 oz Cake Flour
6.5 oz Almond Meal
2 oz Cocoa Powder
12 oz Egg Whites

1. Melt and Brown the butter (here are instructions if you don't know how. note: i always use a whisk, not a spoon, and use a light metal pan so you can watch the color). Leave butter on the counter top for a little while, and then put in fridge to help it cool down. You will want to add the butter to the batter when it is a thick liquid, and almost solidified. Keep an eye on it in the fridge, otherwise, if it solidifies - you just nuke it for a few seconds so it's pourable!

2. Measure all dry ingredients and mix with a dry whisk in a med/large bowl.

3. When the butter is cool but still liquid (and maybe a litle thick), add the egg whites to the dries. Mix with a whisk until incorporated.

4. Add the butter in 3 additions, whisking the batter after each addition. The butter, as it starts to cool, will allow the batter to stiffen, and start looking like a creamed cake batter. (You can do this in a stand mixer: Pour the butter in a thin stream on low, then crank it up to med/high for several seconds to whip some air in the batter.) The batter should be kinda fluffy and not runny like when just the eggs were in it. (If you aren't able to get the air in, not a big worry, the cake will just be more dense!)

5. Pour into cupcake molds (this batter doesn't rise as much as a sponge cake, so fill the cups 2/3 full), or a butter and parchment lined cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 deg - until the top springs back when touched or a tooth pick when inserted comes out clean. Maybe 20 min for the cupcakes, and 30 for the cake? Bottom line: bake 'til done!

Salted Caramel
yields 2-3cups?
* make in advance so that it is cool and thick for the cake filling or topping*
2 cups Sugar
1/4 cup Corn Syrup
1/2 cup cold sliced butter
5 Tbsp Heavy Cream
3 T Creme Fraiche

Note: If you haven't made carmel before, or are nervous still, have a large bowl of ice water at the ready. If you get caramel on your hand, you can dunk it in there, and the heat will diffuse quickly so you won't be as badly burned.

1. In a light bottomed small/med sauce pan with a lid (2-3 qt?) place the sugar and corn syrup, and a little water (maybe 1/2-3/4 cup). Make sure the water reaches the side and bottom, but don't swirl the pan or you'll get crystals on the side!

2. Crank up the heat, and cook the sugar water WITH THE LID ON, until the steam stops coming out. A well fitting lid traps the moisture (most of it), which then rains down the sides of the pan, eliminating the need to wash the sides of a pan with a brush. Take the lid off once the water is evaporated, and continue to cook the sugar syrup until it starts to color. Don't walk away at this point! Watch it until it gets a medium amber, then remove the pot. You can shock the bottom of the pot in the bowl of ice water - this is good if you are making a larger batch since the residual heat will keep darkening the caramel.

3. Off the heat, add ONE piece of butter. Stir carefully, it might spatter. Add the slices (pats) of butter a few at a time, and whisk to melt.

4. Add the cream and creme fraiche, the caramel will still be very hot, so be careful when adding it. It still might spatter. If the cream and creme fraiche aren't being incorporated easily, you can return the pot to the stove and stir over low heat. That should do the trick.

5. Pour into a heat proof container (I use glass) and let cool. (Overnight is easiest)

Bittersweet Ganache
5 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (70%), chopped
4 oz Heavy Cream

1. Put chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl (metal/glass).
2. Bring cream to a boil, dump over chocolate.
3. Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk to incorporate.
4. Let cool on the counter, stirring occasionaly, to thicken it to an icing state.

Note: If the ganache looks a little separated (like it's oily), I add a splash of cold cream, and use an immersion blender to bring it back together. That's my trick, what's yours?

Assembly of the Cake

1. I try to level off the cake layers a little, but don't get rid of too much cake!
2. Pipe a thin (1/4"?) border of ganache on the top edge of the bottom layer, so that the caramel filling is contained once you spread it (it'll try to leak out if you don't!).
3. The caramel if left to cool completely will be VERY thick, nuke a small amount for 5-8 sec (seriously no more), and it'll be spreadable but still thick. Carefully, spread the caramel on the top of the bottom layer, trying not to pull up all the crumbs. Basically, just "encourage" the caramel to spread.
4. Place the second layer on top, and Ice the sides (you can find a how to video on youtube if you need one..) Don't ice the top of the cake.
5. Spread another round of caramel on the top, bringing it about 1/4-1/2 inch from the edge.
6. Pipe a border on the top, making sure to create a seal with the icing on the side of the cake, so that the caramel doesn't seep through (it'll try!). Pipe a border on the bottom too.



  1. ooooh those cupcakes just made me drool on my computer at work.....nam nam nam.