Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"The Cover Cake"

In continuing our celebration of all things Dorie* (either this is leading up to my finally meeting her or we just really like her), I present to you: Devil's Food Whiteout Cake, aka the cover cake, from the cover of Baking From My Home to Yours.

Last week was extremely stressful for me in terms of schoolwork and other things, and oddly, I'm in a phase of my life/baking where my response to a really difficult week is to want to make a really complicated cake. This one fit the bill. I always consider it a "special occasion" cake; the only time I'd ever made it before last week was when my brother-in-law's parents came to meet Baby Simon for the first time, and that was certainly a special occasion!

After making the batter, I thought to myself, "I don't know why I thought this cake was so temperamental. It's really not that difficult." Indeed, my spankin' new $2.15 pans from Stop n' Shop were doing beautifully, and although the layers were thin the cake cut with ease and elegance.

And then I remembered the frosting. And that the frosting requires a candy thermometer. And that I'm a ghetto baker. Whoops.

So I just soldiered along as best I could, desperately praying that when Dorie said to cook the syrup to 242 degrees she was just using that as a sort of estimate. (Don't you always use a nice round number like 242 when you're estimating things?) Anyway, I figured that 242 degrees is hot, so using the extremely scientific metric of when it got hot, I removed the syrup and hoped for the best.
Well, it wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst. The frosting certainly looked nice and whipped well, but flavor-wise it was slightly...tangy. Maybe it was the cream of tartar, I don't know.

When I tell people that it was tangy they get a look of horror on their faces; no one wants tangy marshmallow frosting. But it wasn't actually that bad. It was only
slightly tangy. Of course, it would have been better had it not been tangy at all, but the crumbs on the side of the cake did a good job of masking it.

It wasn't that bad, really! I gave it to my friends who live in another suite and they finished it off in a day, so I guess the tangy-ness did not interfere with their enjoyment too much.

*I admit, I cheated on Dorie with Julia from
Dozen Flours. I made the Stargazer Pie with my tutoring student, Jerryline. Jerryline is eight and loves to bake, but like a lot of eight year olds she isn't very good with measuring and mixing and things like that, so the fact that the recipe called for pre-made cookie dough and brownie mix made everything much safer. We brought the cake back to her house for her brother Solomon's eighteenth birthday, and it was a hit. It's incredibly rich, though; I ate half a piece at 4:30 and didn't eat anything else for the rest of the day. Worth it.

Here is the cover cake recipe, from the blog of the person who chose it for Tuesdays with Dorie:

Devil's Food White-Out Cake
Source: Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours p. 247-9
Makes 12 servings

For the cake

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup water
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

TO MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable—don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting—it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.

Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)


  1. Tangy, hmmmm. But, like you, I'd take the finish-the-cake-in-a-day phenomenon as proof of goodness. I think your cake looks great!

  2. Thank you! It's a wonderful recipe- next time, I will invest in a candy thermometer.


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