Tuesday, November 24, 2009

devils food cake how to

Hello faithful reader!

So, I've been doing interviews for grad schools. Erin's traipsing around Europe. It's no wonder NaBloPoMo has been harder than anticipated.

Today I was explaining the concept of NaBloPoMo. When I go on interviews, sometimes they ask for an interesting fact as an 'ice breaker.' I usually say 'I do a food blog with a friend.' Sometimes I tell people this even when it's not asked, and they think I'm weird. (Muscle memory?) Anyways, as I was explaining, I realized I sounded like a complete idiot saying 'Na - blow - poe - moe' out loud. It was the first time it had come up vocally! Ok, try it. Right now. It's kind of awkward.

Back to food: here's some info on that cake I mentioned earlier. It was a four layer devil's food cake filled with fresh raspberry sauce and frosted with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. Seems Erin and I both have a thing for making fruit fillings. Once you get the idea down, it's incredibly easy to do with any soft fruit, and is divine all summer long with peaches, berries, apricots. This week, Safeway had a special on raspberries for some greenhouse/global trade blessed reason unbeknownst to me but I jumped on it. And, raspberry is great with chocolate, which I had in mind anyways.

Secondly, this is the debutante ball of swiss meringue buttercream on this blog, although it made a slight appearance at the brunch last month. Basically, it's a wonderful frosting you can use with cakes, cupcakes, spoon-to-mouth, etc. It's light, smooth, and glossy, and much more tenable than the usual 'american buttercream' that you've probably seen on grocery store cakes. You can set that stuff out and use it for drywall, mostly because it's just butter mixed with a few pounds of powdered sugar. Swiss meringue buttercream, on the other hand, is made from a base of slightly cooked and heavily whipped egg whites, which gives it the light, glossy texture. It sits cool and simply on your tongue, and it can be adapted to a wide variety of flavors: lemon, chocolate, fruits, caramel, camel. You name it. If you're curious, 'swiss meringue' refers to the temperature the egg whites are heated to. This gives the frosting some stability. Another version is 'italian meringue,' which is cooked even more and is thus, you guessed it, more stable.

For swiss meringue, you start by putting the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl, and heat the mixture to 140 degrees while beating. Here's my simple version of this: I have a small metal mixing bowl, a saucepan and a hand mixer. The boil water in the saucepan on medium heat and set the mixing bowl over the water and mix with the hand mixer. You should have a candy thermometer to measure the temperature here, and I actually have one, but I was too lazy to get it out so I winged it. Basically, beat the eggs until they are extremely frothy, like a foam latte. Also, be aware that the temp gets up to 140 pretty quick. Also, if you're a complete beginner, here's a tip that got me a few times. If you are whipping egg whites, make sure there is NO EGG YOLK or any kind of fat/grease in your bowl (stray butter). For some reason, this will prevent the whites from getting all whippy. If you are mixing and mixing and nothing happens, assume this is it, and you may need to start over.

Anyways, after you reach foam latte-ville, remove the bowl and keep mixing for about 5 more minutes until the whites are really thick and hold firm peaks, as shown below. I really love this part, because it looksl like raw mashmallow.

Next, beat the meringue and butter together. Start with 1/3 meringue and 1/2 of the butter, then add the meringue dollop by dollop, then the butter tablespoon by tablespoon. By the end, the mixture will look extremely curdled, and you will panic. Keep going. Eventually it gets glossy like this:

Then you pour in whatever flavor mixture you like, here it's melted semi-sweet chocolate:

And voila! Grab a spoon. Or, set aside for the cake.

Here's the general idea of the fruit filling. Honestly, there's no recipe even needed. You simply put the fruit in a saucepan, add some water to cover and about 3/4 cup sugar, and boil for 15 minutes. Then, add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch slurried in water and mix vigorously, and continue boiling to desired thickness.

I did two things with this sauce. I strained it and used the smooth liquid part for a drizzle sauce on top of the cake, and the remaining solid (still pretty liquidy, since i didn't press it) to fill the cake layers.

Ok, cake assembly tutorial! I baked a martha recipe that makes two layers. Usually, this makes a two layer cake. You are supposed to cut off the round top of the cake to the layers sit flat. I've learned that you don't need to be too perfect at this, since you can adjust a lot with frosting and still come out with a perfectly shaped cake. See below!

And voila!

So. I realize this post took me forever to put up. In the meantime, I actually made other things, that I felt too lazy to take pictures of. I think I'm getting SAD, which in addition to be :( is also Seasonal Affective Disorder. It has been kind of cloudy lately.

I got good feed back on this cake though. The raspberry filling is involved but this devils' food cake is quite easy.

Happy baking!

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