27 September 2012

(German) Chocolade (Cake) Therapie

German Chocolate Cake
To say I've been feeling a little ill the last few days is a vast understatement. Even my favorite foods have been about as appealing as a pile of wood shavings... or dog vomit, depending on the day.

Apparently, though, chocolate heals all. Last night, I crawled to bed with a cup of fennel tea, unable to believe I'd ever see another day. This morning, I pulled on my rain boots and splashed over to a friend's house to help her with a German chocolate she was making for her birthday celebration in the afternoon. Within minutes of arriving and getting elbow-deep in chocolate, I was cured.

I suggested to her this David Lebovitz-modified recipe, as he can always be trusted. Always, always. When I showed up, she offered me a pre-cake dessert, something delicious with the vague yet convincing explanation, It's a Colombian thing. It has coconut. My kind of morning. (My instincts [read=googling] tell me it was natilla.) 
The baking was already done and the layers in the freezer, which was perfect. I made the rum-infused simple syrup, leveled the layers, but mostly just supervised and waggled my finger at her when she turned a burner on too high (which was, like, EVERY TIME). I'm impatient in the kitchen, as well; it's still a struggle for me to toast nuts, make custard, or do anything else where too much heat is catastrophic. So it was totes fun to be the disciplinarian this time and pretend that I have self-restraint and patience.
Chocolate Buttercream
The only hiccup was with the chocolate icing, but surely it wasn't Lebovitz' fault and more to do with the fat content of the chocolate or the butter, or something. Even fully cooled, it was far too runny to spread, let alone pipe. So I remedied it with some more butter (the solution for so many things!), sent the birthday girl away to her Dutch lesson she was running late to, and dressed that cake up in rosettes and thick, layered swaths of chocolate. Few things are more satisfying than piping a perfectly-textured buttercream onto a level cake. In most cases, I'd even argue it's better than eating it, but this cake is wicked good.
German Chocolate Cake
Happy birthday//feliz aniversário//feliz cumpleaños//gefeliciteerd, dear Clara!!


p.s. Fun fact: German chocolate cake isn't even German... it's from Texas!

German Chocolate Cake
(everything taken directly from David Lebovitz, with a slight modification made to the icing)
yields: one big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For the cake:
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the coconut filling/frosting:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted
For the syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
For the chocolate icing:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • an additional 4-6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature but not at all melted
To make the cake:
  1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
  6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.
  7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.
  8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool cake layers completely.
  10. While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.
To make the filling:
  1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.
  2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)
  3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)
To make the syrup:
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.
To make the icing:
  1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
  2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.
  3. Work in the remaining butter, bit by bit, using a rubber spatula, until you have a pliable but pipe-able consistency, and a flavor that is balanced and not outwardly buttery. 
To assemble the cake:
  1. Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
  2. Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.
  3. Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top, leaving a 1-cm border around the edge (for the piped chocolate icing).
  4. Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.
(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. Trust me. You won’t be sorry.)