Sunday, 23 November 2008

Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake

When Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella emailed me about her Ultimate Chocolate Cake Challenge, there was no way I could say no. My biggest problem (as it always seems to be with these kinds of challenges) was choosing which chocolate cake to choose! So, I chose two. The first is this Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

I've never made a layer cake before. I tend to be a bit of scaredy cat when it comes to big baking endeavours and anything with more than one layer qualifies as a big baking endeavour to me! I wanted to make a cake that was different to what I'd normally choose to bake.

The cake is fabulously light and airy, quite unexpected when at first glance it's just a flourless cake. I had some difficulty in working out when it was cooked. I took it out of the oven at 18 minutes and the top was dry to touch, but it was certainly not ready to be taken out of the pan. I put them back in and cooked them for a further 8 minutes. I'm still not entirely sure that they were cooked enough.

I cheated a little with this cake. I really wanted to do more than just two layers, but since there is only two of us to eat it, I thought a massive four layer beast would be too much. So, I cheated. I made two cakes in my smallest springform tins and then cut them in half. Voila! 4 layers.

The cream frosting is amazing. As I had no Grand Marnier, I made a chocolate cream using cocoa and vanilla. It was so tasty that it was all I could do not to eat it by the spoonful.

Assembled, the cake looked gorgeous and tasted fabulous. I'm so glad I tried something out of my comfort zone.

Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake
from Gourmet Magazine January 2001, posted on Epicurious.
Deb at Smitten Kitchen has adapted it for a layer cake, I have halved her recipe.

For cake layers:
170g fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
3 tablespoons water
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

For filling:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease two 9-inch circular cake pans and line bottoms of circles with a piece of parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm.

Beat yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended. Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks.

Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into melted-chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly over four baking pans and bake until puffed and top is dry to the touch, 15 to 30 minutes depending on your oven, rotating cakes between racks to ensure they bake evenly. Transfer pans to cooling racks and if necessary, loosen edges with a knife.

Sift cocoa powder over top of cake layers and place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the pans. Place a baking sheet over paper and invert cake onto it, gently peeling off wax paper lining. Place layers in the freezer for about an hour, until they are firm enough to be carefully lifted without breaking.

Make filling: Beat cream with icing sugar, cocoa and vanilla with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.

Fill cake: Bring first cake layer out of the freezer and arrange on platter, cocoa side down. Cut the cake in half. Spread one-eighth of filling evenly over the cake. Gently place the other half of the cake, cocoa side down, over the filling. Spread another one-eighth of the filling over the cake. Repeat this process with the other cake.

Keep cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Two hours should be more than enough to assure that the layers are no longer frozen.

Dark chocolate grated into curls with a vegetable peeler makes for an excellent garnish.

This is one of my entries in the Ultimate Chocolate Cake Challenge!

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