Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

I should probably just give it up and go into the cake-making business. You may remember all those birthday cakes I’ve posted about here, as well as that wedding cake I made in July. Now it seems I will be doing another one (in NYC this time) as well as a cake for a friend’s big birthday in November.

The irony is that I just had a birthday and guess what my birthday cake was? Zip, zero, nada, that’s what. Guess it’s time for a pity party!

Well ... maybe not. Even though a cake wasn’t involved, I had a lovely day. We were in NYC, the weather was good (pre-tropical storm Lee) so we embarked upon one of our walks. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, came back via the Manhattan Bridge, then walked through the Lower East Side, Soho and the West Village before hitting the Meat-Packing District and the High Line.  My kind of day.

Brooklyn Bridge, here we come!

Back over the Manhattan Bridge

The High Line
(Don't miss it if you find yourself in NYC)

Dinner was with Andy and his lovely girlfriend Jana (yep, sorry girls - he's taken) at Marea on Central Park South. If you’re in NYC, check it out. Here’s the link:


So I won’t hand you any complaints about the lack of a birthday cake. Instead, I’ll give you the recipes for two cakes I made recently. Nope, they’re not fancy, decorated or even particularly pretty. They're just plain good!

The first is one of those retro recipes I love so much.  I was perusing my files and came across that old Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe.  (It was right next to the recipe for Better Than Sex Cake, haha!)  Are any of you old enough to remember it?  It took 2nd Place in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off, it was baked in a bundt pan and it was submitted by a woman named Ella Helfrich.  In her original recipe she used a cake mix, but the point was that the cake had a soft fudgy center which was kind of like eating underbaked brownie batter.  Who wouldn't like that?

I decided to wallow in the past and make the thing.  Sans cake mix, of course.  Turns out there's a good reason why it won an award.  I took it to a dinner party and it was a hit.  Here's the recipe:

TUNNEL OF FUDGE CAKE (adapted from Pillsbury)

For the cake:
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
1 ¾ cups unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 ¼ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
¾ cup cocoa powder (I used Droste)
2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup fluted bundt pan or tube pan.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt and butter. Cream well until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.Add vanilla. Gradually add the 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar and blend well. By hand, stir in flour and cocoa powder, then stir in walnuts.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 to 50 minutes until top is set and edges just start to pull away from sides of pan. Cool on a baking rack for 1 ½ hours, then invert onto serving plate. Cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder (again, I used Droste)
4 to 6 teaspoons milk or half-and-half

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, adding enough milk to reach desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing glaze to run down sides.

Serves 12 - 16

*  This is a very heavy dough.  Use a strong wooden spoon or heavy spatula when you get to the mixing-by-hand part.  Don't use a spatual with a plastic handle or it will break.  Trust me, I know about this.
*  Spooning the batter into the pan isn't as easy as it sounds.  It doesn't spoon easily.  Use an ice cream scoop instead.

*  You may be like me and omit nuts from most recipes.  Don't be tempted to do that here.  For whatever reason, the walnuts are crucial to the success of this recipe.  Just do it.

*  As evidence that I really am a dinosaur, I have not one, but three bundt pans.  Two of them are almost as ancient as I am.  The third (silicone) is the one I opted to use for this recipe.

The original

The non-stick

The up-to-date (if you can say that about a bundt pan) silicone

The next recipe comes from Gale Gand, whom I believe is the dessert goddess of our century (more about that in another post).  For now, just be content with her sumptuous recipe for this cake:

Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake

For the topping:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup honey
1 ½ cups sliced almonds, toasted

Generously grease a 10-inch round cake pan. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

To make the topping, pour the melted butter into the cake pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and drizzle with the honey. Scatter the almonds over evenly. Set aside.

For the cake:
1 ¼ cups cake flour
½ cup cocoa powder (I used Droste)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (I used kosher)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature (I used extra-large)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Mix in half of the buttermilk, then another third of the dry ingredients before adding the remaining buttermilk and the vanilla. Finish with the remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until set in the center, about 25 to 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert pan onto a serving platter. Let it sit with the pan still on top for 5 minutes so the caramel can soak into the cake before removing the pan. If the topping sticks to the pan, warm the pan surface over a low burner or in the oven briefly to loosen the caramel, then pour it over the cake. Let cool completely before serving.

Cut into wedges with a serrated knife.

Serves 10 - 12

A friend (who is diabetic) asked me to post some recipes he could actually make.  Oops, sorry DM - I don't think these qualify!  I'll work on your request, though....

Happy Chocolate Cake, y'all.  I'm headed to the gym now!

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