Sunday, December 4, 2011

Black and White Chocolate Cake

Sometimes life can be really surprising and one of my favorite things is a pleasant surprise. I have a friend who I met at the beginning of school last year in September and have become quite close with since that time. She, like me, also applied and was accepted into the School of Nursing at UBC and now we continue to study alongside each other as we have been for the past year. However it was only after a whole year of friendship that we accidentally found out that our dads have worked together for the past decade at the same company. In fact, not only is it the same company and department, but they're on the same management team. We were so shocked to find out how connected our families were and never even realized it. Once the news broke out, my family became quite excited and invited my friend's family over for dinner.

The initial discovery was made in September but due to schedule conflicts and complications, the actual dinner took place just last weekend. To celebrate the occasion I decided to bake a cake, as I usually do, but this time I wanted to make something that I've never tried on my own before...a layered cake. Most members of my family love my cheesecakes so I tend to stick to making new variations each time but I have always wanted to try making a layered cake and I saw this as my opportunity.

Making the layers themselves wasn't hard at all. I looked up different recipes and decided to use a chocolate cake recipe from one of my favorite blogs Annie's Eats with a meringue layer in between. In order to make sure the cakes would all turn out the same size I baked the chocolate cake first, cooled and removed it from the pan, then baked the meringue in the same cake pan. So far, so good....right?

The real difficulty came with the frosting. I love my Kitchen Aid, I really do, but I'm still a little bit afraid of it. I can make all sorts of cake and cookie batters in it, as well as doughs, but when it comes to whipping or beating...I am usually beat by the Kitchen Aid. I follow the instructions carefully, increasing the speed at the appropriate times and adding the sugar or whatever ingredient is called for slowly, but still I seem to always fail at achieving what I want.

The problem is I find it difficult to judge how long to keep mixing and since the Kitchen Aid has so much power and speed, even a second too long can be the difference between whipped cream and butter. And that's exactly what happened to me this time. I was whipping the heavy cream and thought it needed just a couple more seconds and then, all of a sudden, I saw it separate. I read online that the situation may be saved by adding some more heavy cream and whisking it by hand, but I had used up all the cream to make the frosting.

Luckily for me, my dad needed to go to the store to buy a few things and he picked up some more heavy cream for me. This time, however, I decided not to risk it and whipped the cream using the hand mixer. I still ended up using the other batch in between the layers of the cake, but I saved the good batch for frosting the outside of the cake.

Originally I was going to slice strawberries and put them in between the layers but since blackberries were on sale I bought them instead. The cake tasted good, especially with the meringue layer sandwiched in the middle; it gave the soft cake an unexpected crunch. I tried to take a picture of a slice but no picture seemed to turn out right...they were all a little blurry. However the cake was appreciated by my family and the guests alike and we enjoyed a great evening together.

Black and White Chocolate Cake

For the chocolate layer:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  1. Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the boiling water (don't worry the batter will be thin).
  4. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9" cake pan (or line with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan before removing and transferring to a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, the cake can be tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, or until ready to use. I recommend putting it in the fridge even if using it the same day because it is easier to slice in half when chilled.
For the meringue layer:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
  2. Increase the speed to high and slowly add the sugar. Continue beating until the meringue becomes glossy and stiff peaks form.
  3. Pour the meringue batter into a 9" cake pan lined with parchment paper and smooth the top using a spatula.
  4. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour, then turn off the oven and leave the cake inside for at least another two hours, though preferably overnight, for it to dry out.
  5. Once ready, carefully remove the meringue from the pan and leave uncovered in a dry environment until ready to use.
For the white chocolate whipped cream:
  • 100 grams white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  1. Bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream to boil then pour over the chopped white chocolate in a small bowl. Gently stir with a spatula until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Beat the remaining cup of heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. With the mixer on high speed, add the white chocolate mixture all at once and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks. 
  3. Transfer the cream to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap gently onto the surface. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
For the whipped cream frosting:
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Slowly beat the heavy cream until it starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and gradually increase the speed. Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks, but careful not to overbeat.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Cut the chocolate cake in half. Place one half, cut side up, onto a large flat plate (at least one inch wider than the cake itself).
  2. Spread a thick layer of the white chocolate whipped cream onto the cake, then layer with freshly sliced berries.
  3. Put the meringue layer on top and gently press down. Repeat the cream and berry topping as before.
  4. Place the second half of the chocolate cake, cut side down, on top and press down gently. Spread the whipped cream frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake and garnish with fresh fruit.

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