Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birthday Cake Audition

I am getting ready for my birthday one week from today. Most importantly, I need to plan the menu for my pre-birthday dinner party. In honor of birthday menu planning, my roommate and I held an audition for the chocolate cake in this month's Bon Appetit magazine. While the recipe recommends baking the cake in 3 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 11/2-inch-high sides, we cut the recipe in half and used a sheet cake pan. We cut the cake in half before icing it and had only two layers.

Cocoa Layer Cake (from Bon Appetit)

What You Need
- 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
- 1 cup lukewarm water, divided
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour (spooned into cups to measure, then leveled)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten to blend

- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
- 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (we didn't have any- so we omitted it)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

What You Do

1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F.
2. Line the pan(s) with parchment paper and butter the parchment.
3. Whisk cocoa and 1/2 cup warm water in small bowl.
4. Whisk buttermilk and 1/2 cup water in another small bowl.
5. Sift flour, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into medium bowl.
6. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and butter in large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy (mixture will appear granular), about 5 minutes (you don't really need that long).
7. With mixer running, gradually add beaten eggs, then beat until smooth and fluffy, about 15 seconds.
8. Add cocoa mixture; beat to blend.
9. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend after each addition. Divide batter among pans (about 1 3/4 cups each).
10. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, reversing pans halfway through baking, about 18 minutes.
11. Cool completely in pans on racks.

1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Stir in sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Gradually stir in cream.
4. Stir until mixture is very hot and just begins to simmer at edges (it should look amazing and yummy!).
5. Reduce heat to low; stir 1 minute to let flavors blend.
6. Transfer to medium bowl; stir in vanilla (frosting will resemble chocolate sauce).
7. Chill until just thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours.
8. Let stand at room temperature.
9. Run knife around cake sides.
10. Carefully invert 1 cake onto plate (cake is very tender); peel off parchment.
11. Spread with 1/2 cup frosting.
12. Invert second cake onto palm of hand.
13. Position cake 2 inches above frosted cake layer.
14. Carefully slide cake onto first cake layer. Peel off parchment.
15. Spread cake with 1/2 cup frosting.
16. Repeat with third cake layer.
17. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Enjoy, whether it is your birthday or not.

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