Monday, May 17, 2010

Very Very Special Occasion Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Well, what can I say? Iain's 23rd birthday was a little over a week ago, and I (Emily) know that chocolate with berries is his favorite kind of cake. Each year for the last three I've sorta tried to out-do my previous chocolate-and-berry cake, and this year I think I took it as far as I ever will. I won't say that this is the best cake I've ever had. Cakes, like brownies, come in many forms, and thus cannot be stacked up against each other as though all of the same make. However, I will say that when it comes to rich, chocolaty cakes, this one was quite excellent, and I had a really fun time making (and decorating, and serving, and eating) it.

This recipe comes in 5 parts: cake, filling, raspberry-cream, ganache, and assembly. I didn't photograph each section as well as I might have, but hopefully there will be enough guidance for all. Not including chill time, the whole thing took about 3 hours to put together (I think). Do it on a day where you've got time, and do let the whole thing chill in the fridge for an hour+ (as long as you want, really), so the chocolate firms up nicely.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Ingredients (for a 2-layer cake)
  • 2 cups flour (pastry would be ideal, but I used all-purpose)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 TBS) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2-3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, left out on the counter for a bit
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • about 1/3 cup frozen strawberries, left out for 10 minutes and smashed with a fork
  • about 30 raspberries (fresh or frozen), reserved for decoration
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and grease two 9" round cake pans (or 8 or 10 if you don't have 9s. Your layers will be taller or shorter accordingly). Line with wax paper, then grease the paper.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • Whisk the cocoa and hot water in a small bowl, then whisk in the milk.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until very creamy (this will take a few minutes if you're doing it by hand). Gradually stir in the sugar and beat 'till light and fluffy, then add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mix, stirring well. Follow with 1/2 of the cocoa mixture, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the cocoa, and the rest of the flour. Stir slowly after each addition until it's incorporated.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips and raspberries
  • Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  • Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack. Let them cool for a good long while before trying to frost. (That was a mistake I made. Oops!)
Chocolate-Cream Cheese Filling
  • one 3-4 oz. bar milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 4-5 oz. dark chocolate (I used Green and Black bars for both. Great success, highly recommended), broken into pieces
  • 1/2 stick butter (four TBS), softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (or light cream cheese)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Using the double boiler method (for a how-to, check out the bonus brownie recipe here), melt the chocolates together. Cool for a bit.
  • Stir the butter and cream cheese together until it's all one big mass, then add the vanilla. Mix in the chocolate once it's cooled for 10+ minutes. If the filling seems too liquidy, you can add a bit of milk or more melted chocolate. If it's too chocolaty, you can add more butter.
Raspberry Cream
  • 1-2 TBS heavy cream
  • about 3/4 cup- 1 cup frozen raspberries (if you're using a bag, whatever's left after the cake and the 30 for the top), left to thaw for 10 minutes
  • On a large plate, mash the raspberries with a fork. Stir in the cream. The raspberries will still be very lumpy and not very creamy, but this is a good thing.

Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped. This can be a bar or a
  • Combine the bream and butter in a small pot and heat gently to just below scalding point (which is where there are little bubbles popping up around the edge and it steams).
  • Place the chocolate in a heat-safe pan (a pie pan works well) and cover with the heated cream. Leave the chocolate to melt for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. If it seems to be not melty enough after several minutes, you can place that pan onto the double boiler and heat briefly.

Here comes the fun part. I mean this in both the sarcastic and genuine senses-- sarcastic because the assembly is complicated, genuine because it really is quite enjoyable to see it all come together. Again, sorry I don't have more pictures. I'll explain the best I can.

  • First off, you need to cut one of the cake layers in half to form two thin layers. If I had good advice for how best to do this, I'd share it. As it is, I basically did just saw through a layer with my good knife. It crumbled a little but there's enough stuff on each layer to stick it all together again.
  • Place the bottom half off the split layer on a large plate suitable for decorating. Carefully spread a thick layer of the cream cheese filling on top. I found it best to warm the filling briefly so it was a bit more spreadable.
  • Place the top half of the split layer, rounded side down, on top of the filling. Spoon the raspberry cream on top.
  • Place the unsplit layer on top of the raspberry cream.
  • Now, using a knife or a spatula (whichever is easy for you) very carefully spread a thick layer of filling over the top layer, smoothing it as much as possible. Fill in the sides where the layers meet. Again, feel free to warm the filling slightly if it's too difficult to spread on its own. You might not use all of the filling, and the same is true of the ganache.
  • Spoon ganache gently over the filling and use a spatula to smooth the top and sides. Use a spoon or paper towel to mop up the ganache that gathers at the bottom of the plate, especially if it seems in danger of escaping the edges.
  • Dip the reserved raspberries in the remaining ganache and place around the cake. It's important to do this relatively quickly before the ganache hardens.
  • Place the cake in the fridge for at least one hour to set and serve. No ice cream required.

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