oh, marie.... vanities of queens & cake

Spring is here! See all that green grass laying cushion for the cake plate - who would have thought such lush life was hiding under those last crusts of snow and grey skies! Our toe-dip into spring came just in time to blow March out the door like a lamb... which also meant it was just in time for my mom's birthday.

Ahhh... birthdays. I think I love them mostly because they give me a really good excuse to make cake - or rather - (and slightly more importantly) to *decorate* a cake. I'm a bit odd, I know, but for me the cake part really is secondary to the the decorating of it. If I were less of a last-minute person, I'd probably spend days decorating my cake masterpieces, but I rarely find myself with such a luxurious amount of time - and birthday deadlines simply can't be pushed - so I'm usually working under the pressure of people impatiently waiting with candles and forks in-hand, murmuring with their lack of understanding as to why the perfectly delectable-looking cake ISN'T READY YET!! (and yes, I've been known to shout that)

As a long-time cake decorator extraordinaire, I have inordinate amount of respect for frosting. You may not realize, but it's the secret to any good-looking cake you've ever seen. Those thick drifts of sugar-infused butter is the baking equivalent of duct tape - the MacGyver-like answer for magically transforming unruly, lopsided, mind-of-their-own layers into something neat and eminently presentable. Sure, there are wooden dowels, and tricks for shaving off uneven bumps with floss, but at the end of the day, it's the frosting that reliably rises to the occasion for any problem that might look too big to handle.

I mean, really there's nothing else that could have transformed this Inside-Out German Chocolate, let's face it, *mess*...

...into (a few short hours later) this prim, fit-for-a-queen-mother's birthday layer cake.

That's why every baker should have a recipe for saving-grace frosting mortar that will never fail. The one for chocolate glaze that went with this cake is well worth remembering (dare I say, more worth remembering than the cake recipe itself). It's a chocolate glaze that tastes a little like salted chocolate caramel (mmmm - can't argue with that!), mixes & firms up quick, but most importantly, is *sturdy* - like, it's going to hold things together you are worried might not stay together (though don't forget that setting up your layers up in the refrigerator can also be a big help).

So there you have it. I'm not sure how much looks had to do with it (or if it was the oodles and oodles of chocolate happening), but my mom said it was the nicest cake she'd ever had.

Voila! Fit for a Queen!

Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake (via the Bridge Street Bakery, Waitsfield, VT as featured in Gourmet)

**Notes: My cake layers cooked quicker than the 20 - 25 minutes recommended. I would say cook as little as 15 minutes. For the German chocolate, I went Dulce de Leche style and simply put a can of sweetened condensed milk in a sauce pan filled with water, brought the water to a boil, then reduced the heat and let the can simmer for a little over an hour. Also, though the recipe didn't call for it, I made a chocolate ganache (ha - nobody ever said I don't do overkill on my cakes) and spread that on the layers before the German chocolate filling AND then topped the filling with a handful of raspberries, which I HIGHLY recommend. Definitely serve this cake at room temperature - it can seem a little dry otherwise.

For cake layers

* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
* 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup whole milk
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
* 1 large egg
* 1 large egg yolk
* 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
* 3/4 cup boiling-hot water

For filling

* 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
* 4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
* 14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
* 1 tablespoon vanilla

For glaze (which is what I raved about above!)

* 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
* 10 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
* 3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total. **I would suggest 15-17 minutes cooking time, as mine definitely cooked in quicker than 20 min!!

Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.

Make filling: **See my note about doing this Dulce de Leche style below...
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.

Increase oven temperature to 425°F.

Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.

Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

Make glaze while milk is baking:
Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Assemble cake:
Put 1 cake layer on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.

Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate.


Steph said...

You know what I love about you? That you are secretly a not-so-secret baker. Who knew?!

anne spice said...

Ha ha... who knew it would come as a surprise! But yep - I'm quite the baker... and occasional culinaire