Regular readers may be wondering why, until now, I didn’t have ANY desserts posted.
No, I don’t hate sweets. I love a good creamy bowl of ice cream, a fluffy cake, a nice soufflé or a crisp cookie. But I do have one hang-up with making desserts. I can’t resist turning them into extended science projects.
With savory cooking, you can usually experiment as you go. Consider sauces, soups, salads, dressings, stews, casseroles, etc. For these, I use a recipe as a rough guide, if I use one at all, and I modify as I go along until I get the results I want. I can’t do that with most desserts.
When I make a cake, for example, I use a recipe. The process is too precise and there is a risk of disaster without one. However, since I am rarely satisfied with someone else’s recipe, cake-baking becomes a science experiment. I can’t test the product until it is finished (I hate raw batter and, as a toxicologist, I am not inclined to eat raw eggs). So each recipe test means another cake. Such was the case with my recent effort to make a chocolate cake for my brother-in-law’s birthday. A week and three cakes later, I have tested my chocolate cakes on my family, my book group and my golf committee. Thanks to all these willing guinea pigs, I finally have the recipe I want.
My starting point in this science experiment (Cake #1) was to find a basic devil’s food cake for my brother-in-law, John. He loves anything chocolate and particularly devil’s food. So, I went to the chocolate people: Hershey’s. After all, they make the cocoa many of us use in our devil’s food. I took the recipe from Hershey’s and followed it to the letter. It was OK, and John was happy, but I thought it needed improvement (sorry Hershey’s). It was moist, but lacked taste and lightness.
Cake experiment #2: For more flavor, I added a bit more vanilla and replaced the water with brewed coffee (hence, the mocha). This seemed to please my book group as even the calorie counters consumed eagerly.
Cake experiment #3: I was almost there, but wanted a lighter texture. First, I changed half the sugar to brown sugar. Brown sugar is acidic due to the molasses, which is helpful for activating baking soda. Second, I switched the all-purpose flour to cake flour, sifted cake flour, that is. As my baking instructor used to say: “You do not need to ask “when” to sift cake flour; you ALWAYS sift cake flour”. Not only did I like the results from these changes, but my golfing committee agreed (nice to have willing testers).
The results from my science experiment follow along with the recipe for my oh-so-easy ganache glaze.
Mocha Devil’s Food Cake
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC; Adapted from Hershey’s Perfectly-chocolate Chocolate Cake
Serving Size: 12
Yield: two 9 inch round layers or one 9×13 layer or one Demarle Sunflower Mold
1 1/4 cups sugar, brown, packed
1 cup sugar, white
2 1/4 cups flour, cake, sifted, or 8.75 ounces in weight
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking, powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, whole
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup butter, or 6 ounces in weight
3/4 cup coffee, simmering
1. Heat oven to 350°F. I do not recommend convection as this is a delicate cake. Convection may cook the top too quickly, preventing the cake from rising properly.
If using traditional pans, grease and flour pans. If using Demarle flexible cookware, no need to grease/flour pans. I prefer to use a Demarle Sunflower Mold for this recipe – particularly if using a ganache or glaze topping. You can also make individual cakes with the Demarle Brioche or Fluted Molds.
2. Whisk together both sugars. Brown sugar should be moist to ensure even mixing. (Brown sugar can be moistened by putting a damp paper towel in the container overnight).
Sift cake flour and THEN MEASURE 2 1/4 cups. If weighing flour, which is more a more accurate method of measurement (which is why it is used by professional bakers), this can be done before or after sifting, of course.
Whisk remaining dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt) into sugars.
3. In another bowl, beat eggs lightly. Stir in milk and vanilla. Melt butter and whisk into egg/milk mixture. Combine milk/egg mixture with dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
4. Bring coffee to a simmer (be sure the volume measurement does not change due to evaporation). Stir coffee into the batter or gently whisk in. This will result in a thin batter.
5. Pour into cake pans. Bake approximately 30-35 minutes for two 9 inch layers and about 40-45 minutes for one large layer. Cake is done when center is elevated and firm and a toothpick inserted in the center is clean.
6. This is a delicate cake so be sure to let the cake cool almost completely in the pan before attempting to remove. When cool, invert cake onto flat plate.
Pour ganache over the top allowing some to run down the sides. I use half chocolate and half cream (as in the recipe below) to get the correct texture for a topping on this cake.
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Yield: About 2 cups or enough for a Demarle Sunflower Mold or large bundt cake
8 ounces cream, heavy
8 ounces 70% chocolate, chopped or chips
1. Place chopped chocolate (or chips) into a heat-proof bowl.
2. Bring heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Do not boil or scorch. Stir occasionally as you bring it up to temperature.
3. When cream is simmering, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Let chips sit in the hot cream for about 3 minutes so that chips begin to melt.
4. Stir with a spoon or whisk. At first, it will look messy – with bits of chocolate floating in the cream. Keep stirring! Soon you will have a smooth, creamy chocolate ganache mixture.
Note #1: Increase or decrease the cream in this recipe to change the texture of your ganache. More cream will make a softer ganache.
Note #2: Many ganache recipes call for corn syrup. I don’t use it. It isn’t necessary and doesn’t create a consistent texture. And why would anyone want to adulterate great ingredients like cream and chocolate with corn syrup?