Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Today is Graeme's birthday. For a very long time, he was very against having any sort of celebrations. I wasn't even allowed to bake him a cake. Of course, I did not agree with this anti-birthday rebellion. And seeing as I've been watching a lot of shows on the food network recently, I really wanted an excuse to bake a cake. So eventually, last night, he agreed to letting me bake him a chocolate coffee cake with a dark chocolate ganache, as he saw a recipe for it in my copy of Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. A last minute emergency trip to the supermarket to buy the needed ingredients followed.

I ended up changing a couple things in the recipe though. For example, the recipe calls for shortening and corn syrup, two ingredients I'm not a massive fan of cooking with. Not that I even think I can get them here--do they sell this in the UK? I also struggled to find the ingredients needed for the coffee buttercream, and thus abandoned their recipe all together and used my usual and much simpler buttercream recipe. It's also supposed to be a three layer cake using 8 inch cake tins. The recipe tells you to get out your three 8 inch cake tins and bake all the cakes at once. I only have a 9 inch cake tin, and I only have one, so I decided to make it a two layered cake.

So after some present unwrapping, a birthday breakfast trip to Tribeca and a bit of thrift shopping, my cake baking commenced. The process pretty much took me all day and when I was done the sun had set hours ago, hence why the photo of the final product isn't the greatest.

Chocolate coffee cake recipe (chocolate cake and chocolate ganache recipes adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked Explorations):

Chocolate cake recipe:
50 g dark unsweetened cocoa powder
200 g sour cream
300 ml hot water
385 g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
285 g unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened
340 g granulated sugar
175 g brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 165 degrees Celsius. Butter your pan(s), dust with flour and knock out the excess. Get a medium bowl, and mix cocoa powder, sour cream and hot water together to a watery, soupy mixture (don't try to taste it--it's not very nice). Set aside to cool. In a separate large bowl, sift the flour and mix it with the baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a third bowl, also large, beat the butter until light and fluffy. If you have one, use an electric mixer for this. Unfortunately, I don't have one (I know, what a primitive kitchen I have), so I gave it to Graeme so he could do the manual labour  ("What, I have to mix my own birthday cake?"). Once fluffy, mix in sugar. Once that's fluffy, mix in the brown sugar. Then add the eggs, one at a time, making sure it's properly mixed in and fluffy before you add the next egg. Once all the eggs are in, mix in the vanilla extract. Then, mix in the flour mixture and the watery chocolate mixture in a sequence of dry-wet-dry-wet-dry, i.e., a third of the flour, then half the chocolate, another third of the flour, the rest of the chocolate and then the rest of the flour. You should end up with a pretty smooth batter. Divide the batter in your pans and pop in the oven. If you're making a three layered cake using 8 inch tins, bake the cakes for around 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through for an even bake. If you're making a two layered cake using 9 inch cake tins, you'll probably need to keep them in longer. I had to leave them in for a whole 50 minutes. But then my oven can be a bit funny sometimes. Let your cakes cool.

Coffee buttercream:
4 teaspoons instant coffee
4 teaspoons boiling water
400 g icing sugar
200 g butter

Directions: Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water. Make sure all lumps are out of the mixture, and set it in the fridge to cool for a couple of minutes. Mix butter and icing sugar until it has a creamy fluffy consistency. I often prefer using my hand for this, as I feel I have a bit more control and I'm less likely to cover myself in a cloud of icing sugar. Not that it stops it from happening entirely. Once it's fluffy, add the coffee and mix it in.

Chocolate ganache:
115 g good-quality dark chocolate
85 g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon golden syrup

Directions: Melt chocolate, butter and golden syrup over a bain marie or microwave. Stir frequently while it's melting (if using a microwave, take it out every 20 or 30 seconds or so to stir). Once it's all melted and mixed together take off the heat. Continue to stir while it cools, and then drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. I found that I had a lot more control when I put the chocolate in a milk glass and used that to pour it over with. Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the chocolate to set. Take out and decorate as you please!

Happy birthday, Graeme!

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