Today is such a significant day! Firstly, it's the blog's second birthday today! Hard to believe that I've been doing this now for two years already. It is an absolute labour of love and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. I, of course, wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for all of the support and feedback that I have received from all over the world. It is truly touching and I can't thank you enough. Looking forward to another year of cooking amazing food with you guys. Let's see how far we can take this blog in the future!
Secondly, tonight is the night that the season finale of MasterChef Canada is going to air. Either Marida Mohammed or Eric Chong will be crowned Canada's very first MasterChef. It's been an amazing journey and an incredible competition that I am proud to have been a part of, although my part in it was very brief. Be sure to tune in tonight at CTV to see how the whole thing goes down. Who do you think will win? I am very proud of both of them and wish them the best in their careers and success.
Also completely unrelated to food I'm going to see Ledisi and Robert Glasper in concert tonight! The Truth Tour has only one Canadian stop and it's right here in Toronto. Ledisi is one of my favourite living vocalists and it will be at a small and intimate venue. I am so pumped! Yes, this means that I will be missing the finale of MasterChef Canada as it first airs, but you can't always get what you want as a famous rock band that I've also seen in concert (twice) recorded a little diddy about.
Being that it is the blog's birthday I thought it would be fun and cheeky to put together birthday cake recipe! What could be a better choice for cake than chocolate? Well, there are plenty of answers to that, but I'm a chocolate guy and so chocolate it shall be! As you might already be aware, I don't do a ton of baking and don't have much of a sweet tooth. I brought this cake in to work because I was only interested in trying a sliver of it. The feedback was great for my confidence. One person said it was the best chocolate cake he'd ever had! Another person had seconds and I had three different people ask me how I kept it so moist. Apparently, Bram can bake!
That being said, in true amateur foodbybram fashion, there were a couple of hiccups. lol! In the recipe I'm about to share I'll tell you how to do it properly, but in real life I added too much cream to my ganache and it was too thin. I tried to salvage it the only way I could by whisking in some of the chocolate filling (more on that in a bit) to thicken it up. It did help to thicken it up a bit but it did form little lumps in the ganache. My intentions were to coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache and then pipe a swirl of milk chocolate ganache on top. Then using a toothpick, create a "Spiral Napoleon" design by swiping alternating lines from the center of the cake making an elegant, feathery spider-web effect. Well, since my ganaches were too thin they kind of ran all over the place instead of forming distinctly different lines. The end result looked more psychedelic than elegant and there were small lumps of chocolate all over the top. I set out to make an interesting looking cake, which I did, but it was not at all the presentation I was going for. If you follow the directions in this recipe, your ganache should work just fine. Otherwise, you could always just stick to one ganache and just glaze the cake. It will be simpler but still beautiful and scrumptious.
As for the filling, I cheated here. When I was shopping for ingredients to make the cake I still hadn't decided on what filling I was going to use. Common cake fillings are buttercream, custard, jam, dulce de leche, mousse, etc... At first I was leaning towards dulce de leche which is a thick caramel spread made from boiling sweetened condensed milk and caramelizing the sugars. Although I also had a vision of a "death by chocolate" theme and having chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. While shopping, I found a Belgian chocolate de leche. It was a brand new product at a bulk store so I don't even have a brand name for you to look up. In my head I was looking for a dulce de leche only in chocolate and miraculously my vision manifested into reality so I jumped at it. I have no doubt that finding this product may be a challenge, but you can use any cake filling that you like!
Let's get started! I'm excited to share this post. Brace yourself for some really tantalizing pictures. My favourite colour is brown which sometimes isn't the easiest thing to explain to people. If I'm ever in that position again I will just refer them to this blog post. You are about to find out what I mean.
Ingredients for Cake
1 tbsp unsalted butter (or so, just to grease two 9" cake pans)
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups pastry flour (AP flour will work, it will just be denser), plus additional
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (anything but skim)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot black coffee (hot water can be used as a substitute)
2 cups of chocolate de leche (or the cake filling of your choice)
Preheat your oven to 350F/175C. Prepare two 9" cake pans by greasing them lightly with butter and lightly dusting with flour. This will ensure that the cakes easily come out of the pans when they're done. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, add the flour (sifted), cocoa powder (sifted), sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir or whisk until well combined.
Crack in the eggs, add the milk and oil. With a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes or until a smooth batter comes together.
Add the vanilla extract and beat on a slow speed for about a minute to incorporate completely. Pour the hot coffee into the mixture then stir with a wooden spoon to avoid splashing. Stir to incorporate well.
Pour the batter evenly into the two cake pans. Lightly tap each pan on a flat surface to release any trapped air bubbles. Then place in the middle of your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a wire rack to begin cooling.
After 15-20 minutes the pans should be cool enough to touch. Flip the pans to invert the cakes onto the rack. You may have to use a butter knife to gently release the side of the cake from the pan, but the flour and butter should should have done most of that for you. Then leave the inverted cakes on the rack to cool completely. This can take 90 minutes to 2 hours.
The baking soda, baking powder and the eggs will have made the cakes rise. They may have created dome shapes on the top of your cakes. You want your cakes to be level before the next step. All you want to do is place a hand on top of the cake and slowly and steadily cut the domed part off with a serrated knife. Be calm and confident and you should end up with flat, even cakes. As you can see, my wire rack formed mesh-like scars on the faces of my domes. This is a good opportunity to get rid of that.
Ta dah! Clean and even presentation. Don't worry if there are a few nicks or imperfections because you're just going to cover everything with a beautiful chocolate ganache anyway!
This next part is optional depending on how you plan to serve your cake. I used a cake plate and then used it as a stencil to trace a piece of parchment paper of the same shape and size. Then I included a tab that I could easily grab. This piece of parchment has a couple of jobs. My cakes were 9" but I could only find 10" plates, so the paper will help to keep the exposed plate clean and presentable when it's removed. I also transferred the cake to a box so I could bring it to the office. The tab makes it so you can grab it and pull it from under the completed cake before building the box around it. I still had to use an offset spatula against the cake to pull the parchment out, but hey, it worked!
Place the parchment stencil evenly over the plate and place that on the wire rack. Place a pan under the rack. This will give the excess ganache a chance to run off without making a mess on your counter or making the bottom of the cake soggy. Place one of the cakes in the middle of the plate.
Cover the cake with the chocolate de leche or whatever filling you chose. Leave a bit of space between the filling and the edge of the cake to account for same displacement when the weight of the second cake is added on top. Smooth out into an even layer.
Place the second cake on top to form an evenly stacked, undressed cake!
In the next step, we're going to glaze the cake with warm ganache. So again, trust the text moreso than the photos for the next few steps because I added too much cream to my ganache. You want your ganache to be thicker than mine turned out.
Ingredients for Ganache
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
1 cup whipping cream (may be called "heavy cream" in your country)
1 tbsp butter (coconut oil or corn syrup could also be used, just to give the ganache a shine)
*To make a milk chocolate ganache, make the same recipe but with milk chocolate instead of dark.
Place your chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.
Heat the whipping cream on the stove and bring it to a gentle boil. Keep an eye on it because it will go from gently boiling to boiling over in the blink of an eye.
Pour the boiling whipping cream over the chocolate.
Quickly cover the bowl with a plate or anything that will trap the steam. Leave for 2 minutes. This way the chocolate will melt slowly and gently. If we were to stir it right away we would lose too much steam in the process and there wouldn't be enough heat to melt the chocolate into a ganache. So this part is key.
Then remove the plate and begin stirring. Don't panic. At this stage it will always look like you screwed it up and it isn't working. Sooner than later, with enough stirring a beautiful chocolate ganache will form. Just have faith. Add the butter at the end stir in until completely melted and incorporated.
Here comes the best part of the entire process! Pour the ganache over your cake. Start from the middle and carefully move out towards the edge a little but do not assist it it any way. Let the ganache flow freely and smoothly all over your cake until it is completely encased in a shiny, chocolatey glaze. To ensure that you resist the urge to touch it and mess it up, take a step back and marvel at the sight in front of you. Take in this moment as it is one of the moments that make you realize why you love cooking so much. At least it does for me.
Then I tried to pipe my milk chocolate ganache into a spiral pattern on the top while the dark chocolate ganache was still warm and liquid. My milk chocolate ganache was even thinner than the dark chocolate (because I didn't add any of the filling to it). So it was a runny mess and when I went to do the toothpick Napoleon pattern it turned more into a brown tie-dye look. It certainly didn't get ruined by any means. It was just not at all what I was originally going for. I wish you better luck than I had if you try this technique. lol
Boom! The hard parts are all over. Let the cake sit for about thirty minutes or so to let the ganache solidify a little. All you have to do is scrape any excess ganache off the parchment and carefully place it over the laid out box before you shimmy the parchment out and build the box around it. Place the cake in the fridge. The cold air will help to seize up the ganache more. As soon as the glaze is set it is ready to eat. I made this in the evening and then brought it to work the following day. After a night in the fridge and a safe transport to work, this is what the cake looked like after I unboxed it.
I didn't nail the presentation, totally my own fault, but at least I was able to pinpoint exactly what I did incorrectly so that you don't have to. I'm not even bothered by the presentation because this cake was such a hit. Everyone raved about it. My confidence was entirely restored.
This cake was chocolatey, moist, decadent, not-too-sweet and just an overall pleasure to eat. Despite a little panic near the end with the ganache, this was also a lot of fun to make. I'm not big into sweets and if I had to choose my top five sweets I don't think cake would even make it on the list, but this was awesome. If you're in a baking mood or have an event coming up that may call for a cake, why not give this a try? You can get creative with the filling you choose. Chocolate mousse or raspberry jam would have made excellent substitutions for the chocolate de leche. I wish you the best of luck with your cake!
That about does it for now. Thanks again for making it a great two years and stay tuned for much more to come! I have some more exciting surprises in store.
Passing on much love and gratitude to you guys!