Monday, February 28, 2011

Bald Guy's Birthday Cake

It was BG's birthday yesterday. He turned 45. BG's aged remarkably well (I keep looking for the portrait stashed in the back of his closet, but all I find are mis-matched socks and shoes he no longer wears). It's a big year for us - we're planning for lots of transitions, not least of which is moving back to the States; BG's graduation from undergrad, retirement, and beginning grad school; beginning a family (hopefully); resolving some health issues for me; renovating the house BG grew up in...the list seems endless of all the things we hope to accomplish this year. And knowing that the surest way to make The Great Whoever laugh is to make plans hasn't slowed us much (although it's kept me awake at night).

With all that going on, BG has said that he would have forgotten about his birthday had I not reminded him. There's just too much else going on to pay attention to one silly little birthday, says he. Nonsense! say I! Birthdays need to be acknowledged, and celebrated, and written in the Book of Days because they are important occasions, no matter what the number. It's your natal day! The Day of You! Celebrate with cake!

"Devil's food cake?" BG asks hopefully.
"Er, sure," says I and scuttle off to the Internet to find a recipe...

This cake is particularly gooey and nommy and chocolate and OMG SO NOT LOW-FAT. Do not even think about trying to make this anything other than what it is, which is to say, ridonkulous, as the kids say, for you.

I wish the photos had turned out better, but my camera battery was dying, so the focus was doing strange things, and there is only so long one could blow at a candle before one gets wax everywhere and runs out of breath. But the image is too good not to share:

This recipe is from chef and author David Lebovitz's blog about Parisians, desserts, and the sweet ex-pat life - but this devil's food cake about as American as it gets. I haven't tweaked his recipe much, so I should emphasise that this isn't my own recipe - but if I make it again, I may use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the cakes and drizzle a little Kahlua or other liqueur over 'em before I assemble the final product, or add some tiny mini-chips to the batter to boost the chocolate for my sweet Bald Chocoholic.

For the cake:
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising) (I used regular all-purpose flour and it turned out fine)
 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup whole or low-fat milk

For the ganache frosting:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water (or cream)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans. Mr. Lebovitz suggests lining the pans with parchment paper. I thought that was far too faffy - until I tried to remove the suckers. I was using buttered non-stick pans, and the durn cake was still a pain to get out. So if you've got parchment paper and can be bothered with such things, you may want to line the bottoms of the pans. If not, butter it extra good. You're not counting calories with this anyway.

3. Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium-large bowl. By "sift," you can use a sifter specially made for...sifting, but you can also stir the stuff up with a fork 'til it's nice and blended. Most flours come pre-sifted these days, so you're really just combining the dry ingredients well and adding some air in.

4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. [Note: I used one-a-them stick mixers, and let me tell you - use a BIG bowl with HIGH sides. Otherwise you'll be picking bits of sugary butter out of your hair and the coffee maker and the spice rack and the counter and quite possibly the ceiling. Trust me on that.] Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stop the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.)

5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Resist the urge to drink it because you are addicted to coffee. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

7. To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take about 1 hour at room temperature. I should have waited longer, as my frosting was really liquidy still. You can try to stick it in the fridge for a few minutes if you're in a hurry. You don't want it TOO stiff (or it will be unspreadable) but not too goopy, either.

To frost the cake (You know - in case you need directions for this part):
Run a knife around the inside of each of the cakes which will help release them from the pans. Tilt one cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want.