Chocolate Cake, Just ‘Cuz

If you are a member of my family (or work in my kid’s school, or have been to my house lately, or live close enough to smell the cooking from my kitchen) then you know I’ve been really into making chocolate cake lately. I think it’s 5 in two weeks – no one is complaining and I’ve perfected an easy, tasty recipe that we really like. It isn’t too sweet or fancy, it needs no frosting or garnish (although it would be great with whipped cream, ice cream, berries,) its ingredients are easy to find and you probably already have them on hand, and you can make it in several variations (listed below) including gluten-free (listed at the end.) So, try your hand at this and you might suddenly find you need to make 5 cakes in two weeks, too.

Simple Chocolate Cake

IMG_1919

  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • (powdered sugar for garnish, if wanted)

Grease (with butter, of course) either a round or square cake pan and preheat oven to 350° F.  In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter.  IMG_1904When it is all melted stir well and set off heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer (or really strong forearm and a whisk) beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until it’s thickened, about 2 minutes on high.  IMG_1907Beat in the chocolate – it should not be hot to the touch. IMG_1908

When it is all well-incorporated beat in the flour and baking soda.

IMG_1912Beat on high for 2-3 minutes then pour into the greased cake pan.  IMG_1913Bake about 20 minutes then check cake.  A knife or skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean (or maybe a few crumbs clinging to it but not raw batter.)  IMG_1918Allow to cool in the pan until mostly cool then turn pan over to get cake out.  You can serve it bottom up or top up – whichever you like the best.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar (or not) and eat.

Variations:
Raspberry, apricot, blackberry, plum, orange:  Once the cake batter is in the pan drop ~3Tbs jam or marmalade (you want a thickish jam, not a think jelly) over the top.  Using the tip of a sharp knife or a skewer or toothpick swirl the jam around the top of the cake.  IMG_1916Don’t push it down to the bottom of the pan – that will make the cake stick to the pan.  Bake as above.

Peanut Butter:  As above with the jam instructions but use peanut butter instead.

Peanut Butter and Jelly:  Use peanut butter as above and jam or a very firm jelly.  Don’t use a think, liquidy jelly.

Coconut:  Beat 1/2 cup shredded coconut (either use unsweetened coconut or, if you use sweetened coconut, cut the sugar in the recipe to 3/4 cup) into the batter.  You can substitute coconut extract for vanilla.  Garnish with shredded coconut instead of powdered sugar.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
  • 5 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are good)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk (this can be soy, rice, almond, regular dairy, whatever kind you like)

Grease (with butter, of course) either a round or square cake pan and preheat oven to 350° F.  In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter.  When it is all melted stir well and set off heat to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, using an electric mixer (or really strong forearm and a whisk) beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until it’s thickened, about 2 minutes on high.  Beat in the chocolate – it should not be hot to the touch.  In a small bowl mix together the almond meal, rice flour, and baking soda.  Add to the chocolate egg mix and beat on low to mix together.  Then add the milk and beat on high for 2-3 minutes then pour into the greased cake pan.  Bake about 20 minutes then check cake.  A knife or skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean (or maybe a few crumbs clinging to it but not raw batter.)  Allow to cool in the pan until mostly cool then turn pan over to get cake out.  You can serve it bottom up or top up – whichever you like the best.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar (or not) and eat.  You can make all the same variations as the non-gluten free cake, too.

 

 

It came to me in a dream…

I dreamt last night that I was somewhere, not sure where, and I saw a piece of the most beautiful, moist, rich, chocolate cake with a thick layer of fudgy frosting go by on a plate.  In the dream I said to my husband, “Ok, we can do that but can’t we have that cake first?”  When I woke up I decided that today was the day to bake chocolate cake.  Then eat some.  So here’s what I made.  It isn’t quite the cake that was in my dream but it is very good none-the-less.  These cake layers don’t rise up high and crumbly, they’re rather flat and dense.  But they are moist and the ganache – well, it’s cream, butter, chocolate, and raspberry jam.  So, yeah, it’s delicious.  This recipe looks like it has lots of steps, and it kind of does, but don’t be put off – it is very do-able.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Whipped GanacheIMG_1815

for the cake:

  • 4 oz (1 stick) butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c sour cream

for the ganache:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

for the filling:

  • 3 Tbs raspberry jam or preserves

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 350° F.  Heat the butter, chocolate, and milk in a pot over low heat until all the chocolate is melted.IMG_1804  Do not boil or scald or even come close, this should not be steaming hot.  Whisk well then pour into a mixer bowl.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.IMG_1805

Lightly grease 2 round cake pans and line the bottom with either a circle of parchment paper or buttered waxed paper.  The chocolate mixture should be coolish to the touch, if it isn’t wait a few minutes until it is.

Beat in the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.IMG_1806  Mix on low until fully mixed then beat on high for 2 minutes.  The batter should get lighter and thicker.  IMG_1807

Put an equal amount of the batter into each of the pans.  Tap on the counter to get out big air bubbles and to even the batter in the pans.

Bake for ~15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven, the weather, etc).  After 15 minutes check the cakes.  When they are done they will have pulled away from the edges slightly and a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and cool in the pans.IMG_1811

While cakes are cooling make the ganache*.  IMG_1809Put the chocolate, cream, butter, and jam into a bowl over simmering water and let the chocolate melt.  Do not cook the mixture, remove from heat as soon as it is all melted.  Whisk well then put the bowl in the fridge.  Allow to cool.

When you are ready to assemble the cake get out the ganache and use a mixer to beat it until it lightens and thickens into a very thick whipped cream texture.  Remove one cake layer and peel off the paper.  Put the cake onto a plate.  Spread the top with the jam for the filling.  Put a couple of tablespoons of the ganache on top of the jam and spread out a bit (be gentle, the jam is slippery and it is hard to spread on top of it.)  Remove the second cake layer and peel off the paper then put the cake on top of the first.  Push down a little to even out the filling.  Top with the rest of the ganache, spreading it evenly on the top and sides of the cake.  If you want you can garnish with raspberries or chocolate shavings.IMG_1813

You can eat the cake now or keep in the fridge until you want to eat it.  It will last, well-covered, for a few days in the fridge.  If you don’t eat the whole thing right away, that is.

*A word about making ganache.  The most common method is to heat the cream and butter then pour it over the chocolate to melt it and mix.  This method has you doing it all together, only because it is somewhat easier.  If you have a different method you prefer then do that one.

Pistachio Coconut Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream

Ok, here’s the recipe for the multi-step but worth-it Passover (and year-round) gluten- and flour-free, high-protein, dairy-free, pareve cake.  There are many steps, none of them difficult, but together they make a worthy and interesting dessert (or snack, or breakfast, or whatever.)

Pistachio Coconut Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream

  • 10 eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ tsp granulated (not kosher) salt
  • (zest of one lemon or one orange – this is optional, see note 1)
  • 1 cup finely ground pistachios (see note 2)
  • 1 cup finely ground coconut (see note 3)
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated (see note 4)
  • (2-3 Tbs sugar, if you want to sweeten the whipped coconut cream)
  • (a little orange zest, if you want to flavor the coconut cream)
  • (extra flaked toasted coconut, if you want it for garnish or mixed into coconut cream)

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a scrupulously clean bowl, making sure not to get any yolk into the whites.  Put the yolks into a mixing bowl (either use an upright mixer or a good hand mixer) and use the whip to beat the yolks until they get thick and light yellow.  Add in the honey and salt and beat until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped.  Add the nut and coconut meals (and the optional zest) and beat until well mixed and still thick.  Set aside.  Put the whites either in a different mixing bowl or transfer the yolks to another bowl and wash the bowl very well and dry with a clean towel before putting the whites into it.  Thoroughly wash the whip and dry well.  Put a dishtowel into very hot water then wring out and wrap around the bottom of the bowl with egg whites in it.  Whip the egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage.  Sprinkle the sugar into the whites, while the whip is going (be very careful not to catch your hand in the mixer).  Continue to whip until the whites reach stiff peaks.  While whites are whipping, line a baking sheet (with a lip) with parchment paper (you can use aluminum foil if you don’t have parchment, but the paper is preferable) and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Carefully, with a slow and gentle hand, fold the yolks/nut combo into the whites.  You can either do this using a spatula or using the mixer paddle on its slowest speed.  Evenly spread the batter onto the prepared pan.  Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-30 minutes, checking at intervals being careful not to slam the door, until cake is very lightly browned and springs back when gently nudged in the center with a fingertip (if you are not comfortable with this method, a toothpick inserted should come out clean).  Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan.  While cake is cooling, open both cans of coconut milk.  Carefully skim solidified fat from the top of the cans and put in mixing bowl.  Using the whip attachment, whip the coconut ‘cream’ until it is thick, like whipped cream.  If you want to add sugar or flaked coconut, add it now and whip it in.  Slowly and carefully peel the cake off the paper, replacing it back onto the paper on the baking pan.  Spread 3/4s of the cream evenly onto the cake, leaving a 1” edge along one long side.  Starting on the other side, roll the cake slowly and carefully.  It may crack some, don’t worry – it’ll be fine.  When the roll is complete, place it onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly, think a big fat sweet sausage.  Freeze it for at least 2 hours.  Half an hour before serving, remove cake from freezer, unwrap plastic wrap and place onto a cutting board.  Use a very sharp big knife, and cut the cake into thinnish slices.  Garnish each slice with a small dollop of remaining whipped coconut cream, flaked coconut if using, mint if desired, an orange supreme if desired.

Notes:

  1.  This cake is very rich and all those nuts can make it taste very heavy.  The citrus zest will help lighten the flavor but is not necessary.  I recommend using only organic citrus if you are using the skin, and wash the fruit well before zesting.
  2. You can buy pistachio meal or make your own.  If you choose the latter, it can be laborious but worth it.  First, use raw unsalted nutmeats.  Put on a cookie sheet (I always use parchment paper when doing jobs like this, it makes clean-up easy) in a 400 degree oven for ~10 minutes, checking after 5, until they are lightly toasted.  Nuts burn fast so watch carefully.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  When they are cool, chop them in a food processor.   Then, using a coffee grinder (clean yours by grinding a small piece of matzah in it then wiping it out well) grind until the nuts are the texture of flour.  Don’t go too long, it will start to become more like a paste.  Measure what you need and keep the rest in an air-tight container in the freezer.
  3. You can use raw coconut without toasting it but the toasting adds a nice flavor.  Buy plain, unsweetened flaked coconut.  Spread onto a cookie sheet and put in a 300 degree oven.  Coconut goes from white to nicely toasted to burned black very quickly.  Check every couple of minutes and remove right away when it is lightly browned.  When it is cool, grind it in the coffee grinder to a flour texture.  Measure what you need and keep the rest in an airtight container in the freezer.
  4. I have tried several brands of coconut milk and find that the Whole Foods Organic coconut milk does not work well for this recipe.  It comes too emulsified and the ‘cream’ does not separate and solidify enough.  Try another brand, try several till you find just the right one for you.