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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Death by Chocolate, part 2

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say something I don't usually say. Ready?

Cake isn't always best when it's tucked into cute little cupcake liners.

Now. That's not to say it isn't completely awesome in little cupcake liners. It is. I'm just saying that sometimes, an old fashioned layer cake might be the way to go. Especially if you're dealing with a moist, fudgy chocolate cake, arranged into four gorgeous layers, stacked up tall with whipped ganache. Oh yes. I'll take a slice of that.

If you've linked to this post from somewhere else, or just happened to stumble across it (hi!), you can find the original recipe and photos here, at Death By Chocolate, part 1

I used this exact same recipe to make a layer cake for my friend Kassia's Dirty Thirty birthday. In fact, I made this right alongside the cupcakes in the above post. You really can't have enough chocolate on your birthday. It's a fact.



So, let's recap a bit.

We sifted. We mixed. We dropped an egg. We blended. We have cake batter.
Then, we simmered. We melted. We whipped. We have ganache filling.

Now what?

I used a small 6" round cake pan. To keep the bottoms from sticking, I sprayed them with Pam, and cut a circle from parchment to line the bottom of the pan, then sprayed again. You could also use butter or Crisco.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, about 3/4 full. Bake it at 350 until a pick comes out clean. It took my oven about 35-40 minutes. But honestly? I wasn't watching the clock. You can small cake when it's done.

Anyway, transfer the cake to a rack to cool. When you turn it out, it should flip out easily, due to the handy dandy parchment lining. Peel the lining off and discard. You'll be left with a perfectly smooth-bottomed cake.

Repeat again. Line pan, spray, pour batter, bake, cool.



When cakes are completely cool, we're going to torte them. Torting a cake simply means leveling it into flat, even layers. I don't claim to be a pro at this, but I can give it an honest effort and get decent results. Hopefully, I won't end up on Cake Wrecks. After all, I can spell, and I have a leveler. It looks like this:



You can adjust the wire to level the cake to the height you desire. It's an amateur tool, but it gets the job done.

You'll want to cut the domed top off your cake. What you do with this extra piece is completely your business. If you want to smear it with frosting and fold it into a cake taco and eat it over the kitchen sink, I wouldn't judge. Not even a little.

Using your leveler if you have one, or a serrated bread knife, gently slice your cake layer in half. It helps to put your cake on a flat, sturdy surface and press down gently with your palm on the top of the cake while you do this. Slice both cakes, and you'll end up with four decadent, chocolatey layers.



Now we're going to go back to that luscious whipped ganache. Spoon it into a wide-tipped piping bag and twist the bag shut at the top so your hands don't get all goopy.

If you were using a fruit or creme filling, you'd want to build a barrier line. That's basically a circle of thick frosting around the outer edge of each layer that helps keep your filling contained so it doesn't squoosh out the sides of the cake when you put the next layer on top.

A frosting (or in our case, ganache) barrier isn't really necessary for this recipe, since the ganache is already so thick. But to keep things neat and relatively tidy, I made one anyway. It also helps keep from having gaps between layers when you frost the entire cake. Makes it more solid, y'know?

See? Barrier line...



Now fill it in...

You can pipe it in, or just use an offset spatula and schmear it around.

(Oh, note: I keep seeing the word "spatular" used in different food blogs. It makes me cringe every single time. Really, people? Spatular?)



If your torte levels aren't geometrically precise and perfectly flat (mine aren't either, it's completely okay. It's just cake), try to make sure that you line up the layers where the cuts were made so they stay as level as possible. The ideal end result is a round, flat cake without a rounded top or saggy sides.



So there we have it. A 4-layer stack of glory. Now, let's frost it!

I switched to the chocolate buttercream for the frosting. Again, the recipe is in the recipe link above. (And you should SEE this frosting if you haven't already. It's magic.)

I made this cake on a cardboard cake circle, and since frosting gets super messy, I slipped squares of parchment under the cake to catch my smears. This way, I can make a big ol' fat mess and just remove the parchment afterward. Boom, instant cleanup.

First, I put on a crumb coat. This is just your base layer of frosting. It catches loose crumbs and smooths out rough edges.



See the mess? Yeah.

Next, I added a second layer and used the back of a spoon to add some decorative swirlies.



And then, voila! Off with the parchment, and we have a nice clean cake!



Don't make fun of me for using my food scale as a decorating pedestal. I'm ill equipped. Gotta use whatcha can. Okay, go ahead and make fun. Just a little.

I will admit, I got a little carried away with decorating. I let the buttercream set, and then drizzled the whole thing in liquid bittersweet ganache. I made "lace" fragments from purple-tinted chocolate by drizzling melted chocolate into bowl molds, then breaking it into pieces. Those went around the bottom edge. More lace on top as well, accompanied by chocolate bowls filled with ganache and a big chocolate ...um... feather. Fan? Starburst? ... something.

Hey, I thought it was neat! (And I wasn't drinking, I swear)



Slicety slice:



Happy birthday, Kas!

Oh, and just some cute things for your viewing pleasure...

I made this cute little skulls and crossbones as cupcake toppers for the cupcakes that went with this.



And this is Stormy. Kassia and Amanda's beagle. Isn't her nose entirely pokeable? Awww.

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