Chocolate Almond Cake


Some people seem to be under the impression that I never have kitchen fails.  Believe me, just like everyone else, I have my fair share.  Granted, they have become fewer and farther between with my increasing experience in the kitchen, but they still happen nonetheless.  This cake was born of a major kitchen fail.  Someone at work had a big birthday that slipped under the radar and some sneaky investigation revealed that a chocolate almond cake would have been his cake of choice.  Fine, great, I was on it.  Except my extensive internet searching really didn’t turn up the sort of recipes I was hoping for, and none from sources that I count as reliable.

Eventually I found something that seemed like it could work, but the cake was way too small for our needs.  I doubled the batter, baked it in a springform, and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately the type of cake I had chosen is one where the usual toothpick test for doneness simply doesn’t work.  The cake appeared totally done from the outside and came out of the springform beautifully but in attempting to transfer it to a platter, it fell quickly to pieces.  It was underdone and inedible.  And, it was 9:00 pm the night before I needed it.  I may have said a few choice words and even shed a tear or two, but I was still determined to make a chocolate almond cake.  I did some quick thinking and searching based on the ingredients I had on hand, and within minutes I had a new game plan.

One of the best things about Bundt cakes is that they are simple to whip up and look pretty when all is said and done.  So, I jazzed up a basic chocolate Bundt with some almond extract, topped it with ganache and sliced almonds and finally I had a product I could live with.  And you know what?  I think this turned out much better than the original (much more complicated) cake would have.  That little bit of almond extract in the cake gave it a great flavor and I had people asking all day what special ingredient I had added to make it taste so good.  Thankfully something good came of the disaster cake endeavor.


Chocolate Almond Bundt Cake
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Ingredients:
For the cake:
2¼ cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1½ cups sour cream
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

For the ganache:
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup

For garnish:
Sliced almonds

Directions:
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla and almond extracts.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating each addition just until incorporated.  Mix in the melted chocolate just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  Let cool in the pan 10 minutes.  Invert onto a cooling rack and gently remove the cake from the pan.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.   Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk in small circular motions until the mixture is well blended and the ganache is smooth.  Stir in the corn syrup.  Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake and garnish with sliced almonds before the glaze sets.

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma

Boo-tiful Ghost Cake


Hello, Halloween!  I see you just around the corner and I can’t wait.  I’ve been baking up some festive Halloween-inspired treats for a couple of weeks and I hope this week’s posts provide some inspiration if you need some.  I’ve seen quite a few variations on ghost cakes and cupcakes similar to this one many times, and I think they are all equal parts impressive and adorable.  This was the first thing on my baking list for this year.  (Speaking of which, I’ve already started planning my Halloween baking for next year.  I think I may have a problem.)  My biggest problem was deciding which of the gorgeous variations to try.  Finally I settled on this one and I am so glad I did.  The finished product was visually stunning and everyone who saw it displayed throughout the day was commenting on how cool it looked.

I’m not even going to post a specific recipe for this cake because really, you could make it a gazillion different ways.  I opted for a chocolate cake with raspberry filling, frosted with vanilla buttercream and glazed with dark chocolate ganache.  Finally, I made the ghosts with a marshmallow frosting and made a black powdered sugar glaze for the faces. (I used an Ateco 809 tip for the larger ghosts, and a smaller unlabeled round tip for some size variation.) With all the cake, filling, frosting, etc. this is obviously a sugar overload so a very small piece is plenty and even then, I scraped most of the ghosts off.

Though I didn’t try it this time around, I think this similar cake from Martha Stewart is really cute and would be even easier than what I did since it uses full marshmallows rather than frosting for the ghosts.  I have also seen mini-cupcakes with a single frosting ghost on top.  Both ideas are super cute variations.  I do think a tube of black decorating gel would have been easier to use than a homemade glaze applied with a toothpick (what I did), so next time I would go that route. If you have any sort of Halloween party or pitch-in coming up and you want a dessert to impress, this is a great choice.

Source: inspired by I am Baker

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting


I always jump at the chance to bring dessert when having dinner with friends.  Thankfully my friends are all understanding of my compulsive desire to cook, bake, and blog about it so they happily oblige.  But once committed, I often do this thing – I make the decision of exactly what to bring into a life or death decision.  I pore over my cookbooks, bookmarked recipes online, etc. and I am unable to make a choice until the last possible second.  It sounds silly but the reason makes sense – too much inspiration, too little time.  The number of recipes I have saved to try is enormous (I really don’t want to know the exact number) and the vast majority are desserts.  It’s the same reason I resist buying all (okay, most of) the new cookbooks I want – that would only make the problem worse.


Most recently I was going through the usual hemming, hawing and second-guessing when I flipped over this page in a cookbook.  Problem solved, case closed, my tummy decided for me – I needed this cake stat.  Incidentally it worked out perfectly because one of our friends recently celebrated a birthday so this classic cake-frosting combo seemed ideal.  Well let me tell you, in the process I have found the yellow cake that I will use as the yellow cake.  It is sturdy but still moist and has exactly the flavor I like in a yellow cake.  Additionally, the steps of mixing up the batter are as simple and basic as any other cake.  No separating eggs, folding in egg whites, etc.  If I can get a  cake with a few less steps, I’m all for it.  And the frosting….oooohhh my.  It’s finger-, fork-, and plate-licking good.  Silky smooth, chocolatey and not too sweet.  Importantly, it also has an strong irresistible scent that wafts from the platter tempting you to take a slice.  One down, hundreds (thousands?) to go 🙂

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting
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Ingredients:
For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk

For the frosting:
1 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 tbsp. boiling water
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt

Directions:
To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter and flour the edges of the pans, tapping out the excess; set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together to blend well and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool 20 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pans to help remove the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto the rack and peel off the parchment.  Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.  Level the cakes if necessary.

To make the frosting, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until the cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the cocoa mixture until well blended.  (Note: My frosting was still a bit runny for decorating at this point.  I let it cool longer before frosting the cake so it could firm up slightly.)

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a serving platter.  Top with 1 cup of the chocolate frosting and smooth over the top of the cake.  Top with the remaining cake layer.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting as desired.  Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.  Let come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Toffee Bar Brownie Torte


Say hello to the richest cake I’ve ever made.  Really, I know I’ve made some doozies in the past, but I think this one takes the cake (pun intended).  Ben’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and when I asked him what sort of cake he would like, he said anything would be fine and I could choose.  I immediately began scouring my ridiculously long list of recipes to try but I didn’t get very far when I saw this cake.  Ben just loves toffee so I knew this would be the perfect thing.  Plus, I made him a different brownie torte last year for his birthday and that went over very well.


So, what’s the big deal about this cake?  It consists of three layers of fudge brownie sandwiched with espresso mascarpone filling which is then frosted with an espresso whipped cream and coated in toffee bits.  And for starters, just the brownie layers alone call for a pound of butter, a pound of chocolate, and eight eggs.  I think Paula Deen just gasped.  After I got over the initial shock of the ingredient list, I decided to just go for it.  I knew it would be served at a large family gathering so there would be plenty of people to help eat it.  It really is every bit as delicious and rich as you might imagine.  It seemed like the house was filled with moans, groans, “mmm’s” and “yums” all throughout dessert.  Even after our fairly large crowd was all served, there was close to half the cake left.  Trust me, only a very thin sliver is plenty.


Despite its looks and multiple components, this comes together pretty easily.  There is no need for frosting it very carefully since the whole thing ends up covered in toffee bits.  You can use whatever technique works for you to get the toffee bits on the sides.  Personally I prefer a Jackson Pollock-style approach because it’s just so fun, and then I fill in the holes with a little more care.  It makes quite a giant mess but it’s worth it 🙂

Toffee Bar Brownie Torte
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Yield: about 20 servings
Ingredients:

For the brownies:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
8 large eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt

For the frosting:
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tsp. boiling water, chilled

For the filling:
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tsp. boiling water
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup reserved frosting (above)

For garnish:
2 cups chopped toffee bits or finely chopped toffee bars

Directions:
To make the brownie layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Combine the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a few inches of simmering water.  Continue heating until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth, stirring occasionally with a spatula.  Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.  Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.  (If your heatproof bowl is very large, transfer to a new bowl is not necessary.)  Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and salt, and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans.  Gently smooth the batter in the pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until the brownies are just firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans 30 minutes.  Then run a knife around the edge of each pan and invert the brownies onto the rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, add the chilled heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form.  Blend in the sugar, vanilla and espresso mixture, whipping just until combine.  Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Reserve and refrigerate 1 cup of the frosting for use in the filling.  Set aside the rest of the frosting.

To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the mascarpone, espresso liquid, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Beat on medium speed until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Gently fold in the reserved 1 cup of frosting with a spatula.

To assemble the torte, lay 1 of the brownie rounds to a large serving platter.  Spread half of the filling mixture evenly over the top.  Layer with another brownie round, and the remainder of the filling.  Top with the final brownie layer.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the frosting.  Garnish with the toffee bits to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Use any remaining frosting to pipe decorative swirls around the top edge of the cake, if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake


I think the first time I saw this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, my jaw dropped – literally.  I had seen several pictures of similar desserts around the interwebs and it sounded amazing, but none of the recipes seemed totally reliable to me.  Well, reliability has never been an issue when it comes to Cook’s Illustrated so I knew right away that I had found “the one”.  I also knew that this is exactly the sort of thing can render my will power useless, so I would have to have an occasion to serve it with lots of people around to enjoy it with me.  Our “yay for one mortgage” party seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally try it.  It was everything I was hoping it would be.

The bottom layer is a sort of flourless chocolate cake, the middle layer is a silky chocolate mousse and the top layer is a light yet rich white chocolate mousse.  Yum, yum, and yum!  My only (very tiny) complaint about this dessert was that after baking and cooling, the bottom layer retracted away from the sides of the pan so much that when the second layer of mousse was spread over the top, it filled in the gaps.  From the outside before cutting, it appeared to be only a double layer cake.  I know this is a trivial issue, but it really bothered me.  Of course, once I took a bite I couldn’t have cared less about that.  Once it is sliced, all three perfect layers show beautifully and topping with chocolate curls completes the look.

In case you have the same penchant as I do for anything triple chocolate, here are a few more favorites:
Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies
Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
Printer-Friendly Version

Ingredients:
For the bottom layer:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus extra for greasing the pan)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ tsp. instant espresso powder
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

For the middle layer:
2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tbsp. hot water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

For the top layer:
¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
1 tbsp. water
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream

For garnish:
Chocolate curls or cocoa powder

Directions:
To make the bottom layer, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  (I lined the bottom of the pan with a parchment round for easy removal later.)  Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325˚ F.  Combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water.  Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Crumble half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl with your fingers to remove any lumps.  Beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining egg whites gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.  Do not remove the cake from the pan.  (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.)

To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk in the cocoa powder mixture until smooth.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles.  Gently smooth the top with a spatula.  Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.  (Note: Do NOT cover your pan with plastic wrap unless you are completely sure you can do so without it touching the top of your cake during placement or removal.  If it does touch the cake, it will smudge the perfectly pristine top, forcing you to make an excessive amount of chocolate curls.  I speak from experience.)

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2009

Tropical Carrot Cake


Apparently carrot cake is a very popular dessert around Easter.  I’m not totally sure why – I guess Easter makes us think of bunnies which make us think of carrots?  Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely spring dessert.  I have been wanting to try this recipe for tropical carrot cake since long before I owned The Pastry Queen cookbook.  I hosted a low key Easter-inspired meal this weekend for the in-laws and served this as the sweet finale.  It was a big hit with everyone, and I heard several refrains of “best carrot cake ever” as we were enjoying it.


This carrot cake earns its tropical label by the addition of macadamia nuts, diced pineapple, shredded coconut, and coconut cream.  All these tasty mix-ins gave the cake multiple layers of delicious flavor and great texture.  However, it also seemed to cause the layers to sink in the center during baking and after cooling.  The combination of such a moist cake and so many mix-ins produced a cake that was not the most structurally sound, but it came together alright nonetheless.  My only gripe was with the frosting because the original recipe simply didn’t make enough to cover the cake well.  Yes, it was enough to cover it very thinly, but lots of crumbs were showing and there was none left over for detailing.  I hate when I’m forced to go back and make extra frosting, so I have altered the version below to yield enough frosting to adequately fill and cover the cake.  I threw these little fondant carrots on top for decoration and they added a cute finishing touch.  This makes a reeeeally big cake, but somehow I don’t think guests will mind taking home a leftover piece or two 😉

Tropical Carrot Cake
Printer-Friendly Version

Ingredients:
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups canola or vegetable oil
½ cup cream of coconut
1½ cups peeled, shredded carrots
1½ cups diced pineapple (fresh or canned)
1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

For the frosting:
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
5½ tbsp. heavy cream
5½ tbsp. cream of coconut
¾ tsp. salt

Directions:
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and grease and flour the sides, tapping out the excess.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk together to blend.  In another mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, oil, and cream of coconut.  Whisk well to combine.  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.  Add in the shredded carrots, diced pineapple, flaked coconut and macadamia nuts.  Fold in gently with a spatula until evenly incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the cakes 180 degrees and from top to bottom racks (and vice versa) halfway through baking.  The cakes are finished baking when golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add in the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.  Beat 1 minute more, until smooth and fluffy.  Mix in the heavy cream, cream of coconut and salt until smooth.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or platter.  Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over the top.  Top with another cake layer, and more frosting on top of that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the assembled cake, reserving up to 1 cup for detailing if desired.

Source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday!  As the year draws to a close, I’m getting ready to recap my favorite posts from 2009, but first I just had to share this fun and festive cake.  I know it may seem like a Christmas cake, but it’s still winter and I’m sure it would be a welcome addition to any winter gathering or New Year’s party.  This fabulous concoction consists of three thick layers of rich, moist chocolate cake filled with peppermint frosting.  The whole thing is decorated with a white chocolate buttercream and then garnished with finely crushed peppermints for a sparkly pink finish.  It is certainly a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds!

And are you ready for this?  Me – Annie, the mint-hater – I actually liked this cake.  A lot.  Truthfully, I made it because I knew it would be so pretty and a hit at Christmas brunch, but I did not anticipate enjoying it so much myself.  The peppermint flavor in this cake is perfectly balanced by the other components so that it is definitely a key player, but not so overpowering that it is too strong for non-mint lovers.  Truly, the chocolate peppermint combo was wonderful and everyone was raving about it.

My only frustration with this cake was with the fact that it sliced horribly.  I think every piece I served looked as though Andrew had gotten a hold of it before I could pass it to each guest.  The reason was clear though – the peppermint dust on the outside of the cake hardened to form a sort of shell that was impossible to cut without partially destroying the delicate cake underneath.  Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this problem.  Garnish with the peppermint dust just before serving (as opposed to the night before as I did) so that it doesn’t have time to harden before you slice it.  And by the way, getting the peppermint evenly distributed around the outside was FUN!  I tried several techniques to get this to work but I found the best one to be simply taking a handful of the crushed candy and flinging it at the cake.  I felt a bit like Jackson Pollock 🙂  My counter was a mess, but I had fun and the cake looked great.   It’s a lovely winter treat!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake
Printer-Friendly Version
For the cake:*
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups boiling water
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. espresso powder
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients:

For the filling, frosting and garnish:
8 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 lb. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¾ cups finely ground peppermint candies, plus extra whole candies for garnish

*I made three 9-inch cake layers, and increased the amount of cake batter by 50%.  I made the regular amount of filling and frosting called for in the recipe, and it was just enough.
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease the edges of three 8-inch round cake pans.  Dust with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.  Line the bottom of each pan with parchment or wax paper.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water, chocolate, cocoa powder and espresso powder together until smooth.

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions.  Beat in the sour cream and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans, and smooth the tops with a spatula.  Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper.  Turn the cakes right side up and allow to cool completely.

To prepare the filling and frosting, melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler until smooth.  Set aside and let cool until no longer warm to the touch.  In the meantime, beat the butter on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer about 30 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt, and beat at medium-low speed, scraping down the bowl once, about 1 minute.  Add the cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed just until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Transfer half of the mixture to a separate bowl and stir in the cooled white chocolate until smooth.  Add ¾ cup of the ground peppermint candies to the remaining frosting.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard cake round or cake platter.  Spread half of the peppermint frosting over the cake.  Top with another cake layer and spread evenly with the remaining peppermint frosting.  Top with the final cake layer.  Reserve ½ to ¾ cup of the white chocolate frosting in a pastry bag.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining white chocolate frosting.  Coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining crushed peppermints.  Use the reserved white chocolate frosting to pipe a decorative border around the bottom edge of the cake, as well as decorative swirls on top.  Garnish with reserved whole peppermints as desired.

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Holiday 2009