Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Ok, so this isn't the prettiest cake I've ever made, but the peppermint buttercream really needs to be refrigerated for an hour before trying to ice the cake, and the cake must be completely cool before you ice it. Otherwise your buttercream will do what mine did - sank right in. A last-minute addition of a whole batch of a completely different icing saved the day. Learn from my mistake! Chill! Or you'll have to take an extra hour to redo the icing, and it will not be fun, not at all.

I like to give birthday cakes as birthday presents. I generally ask my friends a week or so before their birthdays what they'd like, and I make whatever they ask for. I've made a 3-tier
neon-flecked cake, mango cheesecake, twin pies of chocolate mousse and key lime (served as two slivers, like TwoFace made cream pies), and last year I made two black forest cakes in the same week for two different birthdays. I think the best part of this setup is that I get fairly frequent challenges, and I put my best into them because, hey, they're my birthday gifts!

In the case of this particular cake, my friend Allie (ain't she cute?) said three words. Chocolate, peppermint, pattie. This is what I came up with. Unfortunately for you, it went over so well that it was eaten before I could get my camera and show you how soft and dark and rich the cake is inside. Please take my word for it, or better yet, prove it by baking this cake for yourself, it's intensely good. The recipe is derived from the back of the Hershey's Cocoa Powder container, but I traded out some of the cocoa for some dark chocolate and used butter instead of vegetable oil, changing the amount to account for the extra moisture in butter, and used strong coffee instead of water. I mean, come on Hershey's! Water? Really? Sheesh.
The peppermint icing recipe is borrowed from a Daring Bakers post, and it is heavenly.

Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
2 1-oz squares unsweetened baking chocolate
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling strong coffee

In a sauce pot on medium heat, melt the baking chocolate and butter, stirring often. If it starts to bubble, turn down the heat or it'll burn. Set aside and let cool.
Heat oven to 350ยบ and grease two 9" round cake pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, buttery chocolate, and vanilla and beat with a hand mixer on medium for about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the boiling coffee and stir it in. Pour into cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from the pans and letting cool completely on wire racks.

Peppermint Buttercream Icing

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
14 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into chunks (1 3/4 sticks)
8 drops of peppermint oil or 3 teaspoons of peppermint extract. Very different strengths!

Combine the sugar, and water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat without stirring, until the syrup reaches 250 degrees F on a candy or instant-read thermometer then remove from heat.

While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment until pale and foamy.

When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in a few chunks of butter at a time. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the butter cream is thick and shiny. Finish with about 8 drops of the peppermint oil.

Refrigerate the butter cream until it’s firm but still spreadable. Put it back on the mixer and whisk until fluffy.

Now, here's where MY cake went wrong. The icing was absorbed by the cake because I didn't wait for the involved parties to be the right temperatures, so here's the chocolate icing I made to cover up the bad job. It was delicious and worked like a charm. I may do the double-icing thing on purpose next time, cause it was really good with both.

Chocolate Icing
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
dash of salt
1 tsp peppermint extract (optional but recommended)

Melt butter or bring it to room temperature. Add powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, chocolate and milk. Whip with a whisk or an electric mixer until smooth. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before icing your cake.

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