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Archive for Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Layer cake elicits praise

January 5, 2005

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Anyone launching a New Year's resolution diet might want to take a reprieve long enough to make and eat the cake I'm about to describe.

Aptly named the Blackout Cake, the recipe turned up in "Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts," a cookbook I received for Christmas. I immediately was drawn in by a sexy, full-page, close-up photo of chocolate pudding oozing from between the layers of moist cake. I won't say I flew to the kitchen to begin baking, but my lag time was negligible.

Anyway, I served the cake throughout the Christmas weekend, and this dessert elicited plenty of oohs and aahs. It's very, very chocolaty without being overly sweet and cloying. Moreover, the hint of coffee creates a depth of flavor that you don't often get in mega-chocolate desserts.

I departed from the recipe, as I always do. Despite visits to three supermarkets, I was unable to find chocolate wafer cookies, so I eliminated the final step, which called for powdering the frosted cake with ground-up cookies. (I'm a bit bewildered by the disappearance of these cookies, which are usually right next to the Vanilla Wafers on the store shelf. I have used them many times in crusts. Grocery managers, do you copy that?)

Also, I used 9-inch cake pans, rather than 8-inch pans. That meant my layers were a bit thinner and my baking time was about 25 minutes. Even so, I was able to slice the layers horizontally and they held together when I picked them up. With the thin layers, I also went ahead and used all four pieces of the cake, rather than saving the fourth one for a snack, as Barker suggests -- and which seems like a silly idea, particularly when I had ample filling and frosting to do four layers.

Refrigerate the cake, but bring it to room temperature before serving.

Blackout Cake



Chocolate Pudding

1 1/2 cups milk, divided

1/3 cup sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 egg

1 egg yolk

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Combine 1 cup milk with 2 tablespoons sugar and bring to just under a boil.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar with the salt, cocoa and cornstarch. Whisk in the remaining 1 /2 cup unheated milk. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and place the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, over medium heat, stirring until the mixture thickens and just starts to bubble. Whisk in the egg and yolk.

Cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate and butter until both are melted. Let cool, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Cake

1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, butter the paper and flour the pans, shaking out the excess flour.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder. Add the salt, and set aside.

In a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in the vegetable oil. Alternately add the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, scraping the bowl once or twice. Add the coffee and vanilla to form a thin batter. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Invert onto racks and peel off the parchment.

When cool, split each cake into two layers with a large serrated knife. Spread a layer of the cake with chocolate pudding. Place a second layer on top and spread with the remaining pudding. Top with a third cake layer and reserve the fourth layer for a post-assembly treat.

Icing

8 ounces semisweet chocolate

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup hot brewed coffee

2 teaspoons corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter. Remove from heat and whisk in the brewed coffee, corn syrup and vanilla.

Place the icing over and ice bath and chill, whisking often, until the mixture is of thin but spreadable consistency. Working quickly, ice the sides and top of the cake.

Makes 10 servings.

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