February is here. This means random snow, random sunshine, Valentine's Day, and the ultimate: my birthday.
Yes, it is a magical month.
I decided this year's cake had to be just as magical. Also, it needed to be miniature for what I had in store. Yep, the ganache was about to drop in my kitchen!
Recent trends in cake have shown a drippy styling of ganche over buttercream. I envision just the ganche, no buttercream, poured over a beautiful chocolate cake. This would be a lovely new version of the naked cakes that I love.
Let me say again, I love naked cakes. Honestly, anything nude goes as far as I’m concerned...
Being a minimalist kind of girl, my theory of frosting has always been inline with my theory about makeup: it should enhance but not overwhelm. Not that I wear makeup often but when I do it is simple and subtle. I frost in the same manner: buttercream should be seen and not heard… well, not overly heard; think smooth jazz, not rock concert. I just want the subtle flavor of the topping or filling to accent, enhance, or otherwise compliment the cake. If you have to scrape buttercream to the edge of the plate and leave it behind, you have too freaking much!
This is probably why cupcakes and petit fours appeal to me. It is easy to keep it simple which lets you focus on the flavors and texture. Or rather, the simplicity makes you focus on the flavor. It’s the same as how a chef, a good chef, only slightly butters the fish rather than slather it on; he still wants you to taste the fish but the butter blends smoothly into the flavor to make it melt in your mouth in a way that you don’t even know it was buttered.
Be it allowed or forced, I'm fine with either explanation. As long as the result is tasty and satisfying.
Anyway, back to my need of a birthday cake. It would be nude and dripping in chocolate! A dream we all have in some variation. Don’t shake your head and lie to me!
I searched a few chocolate cake recipes in my cookbooks and on Pinterest. Mix the cocoa powder with oil; combine cocoa powder with flour, blend oil and sugar; oil and cocoa; cocoa and oil… What the hell?!
Oil in cake bugs me. Unless the recipe is of a flavor that I feel comfortable substituting apple sauce, I avoid the oil cakes. Personal preference but I've always felt the oil cakes to be too loose a crumb. I will save oil for muffins that are meant to crumble in fear next to my cup of coffee.
Butter, now that supports good cake structure with a crumb that holds its own against any topping. Again, that's just one woman's opinion. To each her own; no battles must be waged over this.
Now, as to the chocolate: I want some solid flavor but not overly dense. Cocoa powder always seems to lack impact while melted chocolate tends to cloy. So, I thought a mix of both should be good.
Indeed it is! Chocolate Pound Cake: butter, cocoa powder, melted chocolate. Now we're talking!
The recipe did not disappoint. Each tested taste as I cut away at my layers was a soft pouf of subtle chocolate that melted away. I was so shocked that I had to keep testing to be sure this was the case the whole cake through. My spouse claimed it to be the best chocolate cake he's ever had. This is a recipe to hold on to for sure!
I wanted to chase my petit four fantasies with this as well. Petit fours have gained a new name in recent years: mini-cake. I've also seen them referred to as cakelets but I don’t like that name; it just makes me think of eyelet lace and old folks’ homes (sorry). Anyway, this idea of tiny cakes seems perfect: a whole cake to myself without all the guilt!
So out came the cookie cutter and my mini-cakes were born!
I sliced each one into two layers. Of course these little guys needed filling! For me, orange is a no brainer to pair with chocolate. The brightness of the clementines that frequent our house is a night light amidst the shadow that is chocolate. Orange cream cheese filling was decided despite my lovely spouse’s lactose intolerance (sorry again); not really even sure why I had cream cheese in the house to begin with.
I piped my silky fragrant filling then delicately placed the top layer, enclosing the orange in a bed of chocolate. I was careful to not squish too much; the top layer of cake floated and sashayed more than I had anticipated.
Meanwhile, I had cream heating on the stove. I had no idea ganache was so simple! Just a half cup of cream heated to a boil then poured over two ounces of chopped chocolate. Let the heat sink into the chocolate for a couple minutes then stir.
I tried adding orange peel slices to the cream in hopes of infusing the chocolate with the orange flavor. I think I need to try a slow, long simmer for that. Here's hoping for next time.
Chocolate chips were all I had on hand and much to my dismay the ganache result was more like chocolate syrup than a tangy topping for my cakes. A pinch of salt did the trick and I soon had bittersweet ganache.
This turned out phenomenal! Happy birthday to me!
All [creativity] is not lost...
Corissa has been an artist her entire life and attended the Art Institute for design after completing a Bachelor’s in Accounting from National American University. She validates the contradicting combination with “I love my art but I don’t have to starve for it.”
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