Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Paint it Black - Pink and Black Peony Cake

Black Friday? Screw that. Last week while trying to enjoy some holiday cooking/baking and simultaneously watching an entire days worth of Friends re-runs on TV, I found my self yelling at the obnoxious commercials. "It doesn't count as a black Friday sale if it isn't on black Friday!!!" There may have been a few more expletives in there, but I will censor it for family viewing. Why, oh why are stores now opening on Thanksgiving? They can't just wait another few hours to open at 4 am on black Friday? Really stores? I realize this is a completely irrational feeling for a few reasons, one being neither I, nor any of my family members work in the retail industry and are therefore not affected by having to work on Thanksgiving, and two, I am not being forced to go shopping on said holiday. But dammit, is nothing sacred anymore? I would much rather pour myself another glass of wine and let the crazies get their 2-for-1 60-inch plasma TVs thank you very much. I am going to be the best old curmudgeon some day. Okay rant over.

Maybe I was just a little extra crabby this year. I always get a little sad around Thanksgiving since I haven't been able to get home for it the past few years. Even though I am welcomed with open arms to my partner's family's table, and I love them as my second home, I still miss carving the turkey with my dad, running the turkey day 5k with my sister, and popping wine before noon with my mom.

Luckily, this year I was able to go home in October for a big celebration. My mom turned 60. Yes folks, she is officially old. I guess that makes me really old too. More importantly, we threw here a big shindig to celebrate, with tons of house smoked pork, all the trimmings, home-brews, bubbly, and of course, cake. I wouldn't be a good pastry chef daughter if I didn't bring a cake now would I? A few years back my very talented mother started painting, specifically painting greeting cards. She would send me them periodically, or gifted them to family and friends. I have saved every one of these cards, because they are beautiful, which she thinks is silly. I think she's crazy. And old.

For her birthday, I decided to turn my favorite of her cards into her cake. It had an even more special meaning when I re-read the card. It had been sent to me from my grandpa, right after I had been laid off from my design job. He told me I would find something new and not to worry because everything will work out in the end. Now, here I am, 5 years later, turning this card into a cake, and loving what I do.

On a serious note, my mom is one amazing, strong, intelligent, driven, passionate, nurturing lady. She has always supported her daughters in everything we do, pushing us where we needed to be pushed, and letting us carve our own path when a little nudge wasn't needed. Even though I am in my thirties, I can still say I want to be like my mom when I grow up. I love you Mom. Here have some more cake!

Chocolate Devils Food Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Buttercream
*this will make a 2 layer 9 inch cake (the cake pictured is a 4-layer 9-inch bottom tier, and a 2-layer 7-inch top tier)

3 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/8 cups dark cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup hot coffee

Butter and flour the sides of two 9" cake pans, and line bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and vegetable oil until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until thoroughly incorporated after each addition. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined. Add the hot coffee and amaretto and whisk until incorporated.

Fill each cake pan 2/3 the way full and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and center springs back when pressed gently with your finger, about 35-40 minutes.

Let cakes cool completely before assembling.

1 1/2 lb. heavy cream
1 1/2 lb. dark or bitter sweet chocolate, chopped

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat heavy cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer, then pour over chocolate. Let sit for a minute or two, then gently whisk until smooth. Let ganache cool until it is a spreadable consistency. You can make this ahead of time and chill until ready to use. Just put the chilled ganache in a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until it becomes soft and spreadable.

Salted Caramel Sauce
this makes about 3-4 cups of caramel sauce, which is much more than you will need for a small cake, but I find that if i am going through the trouble to make caramel I might as well make a big batch and freeze the leftovers.

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 oz butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

 Combine the butter, cream, vanilla, and salt in another saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and cream is hot, keep warm until caramel is ready. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook until sugar turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the cream mixture one ladle-ful at a time. Mixture will bubble up and sputter, using a bigger pan for the sugar will help protect your hands from splatter. Let cool to room temperature before adding to buttercream.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

4 oz egg whites
8 oz granulated sugar
2 oz water
12 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup room temperature caramel sauce

Place your egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. 

Heat the sugar and water in a small sauce pan over high heat. Using a candy thermometer, bring the sugar to a boil and continue cooking until it reaches 230 degrees F. When it hits that temperature, turn your stand mixer to medium to begin mixing the egg whites until they are foamy. When the temperature hits 240 F, remove from heat and slowly pour into the egg whites on a medium low speed. As soon as all of the sugar is in, turn the mixer to medium high and mix until the meringue is cool to touch. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and whip until thick, which may take a few minutes. Add the caramel sauce and whip until combined.


Pipe a barrier of buttercream around the edge of the bottom layer of leveled cake. Drizzle the cake inside the barrier with extra caramel sauce. Then spread a thin layer of ganache, again staying inside the border. On top of that, spread a layer of buttercream, sealing in the ganache and caramel with the border. Place the second layer of cake on top. Smooth any buttercream that has bugled out the sides and chill completely before frosting as you like. I finished this cake with a regular layer of buttercream, chilled then covered in fondant. 

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