Friday, August 20, 2010

Ghetto Baking, Anniversary Style

Greetings from Santa Fe!  This is actually Sarah writing on Rebecca's account. We're here on a family vacation and very excited to be reunited for the first time in many months (unless you count our grandma's funeral, which was, frankly, not that fun).  We are here to celebrate our parents' 35th anniversary and a big birthday for our dad.  Out of respect for his advanced age I won't tell you how old he is, only that it starts with an "s" and ends with an "ixty."  For these special occasions we knew we had to bake something special, something - dare I say - dressy?

However, we also knew that we would be engaging in some ghetto baking, since the house we're staying in doesn't have any equipment (and trust me, everything about it from the convection oven to the enormous copper bathtub in which I want to make meringue just screams "ghetto"), so the cake couldn't be that complex.  We especially wanted to minimize the amount of butter that we had to cream, so a non-butter-based frosting was preferred.  Luckily, Dorie's Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake fit the bill on every count: simple to put together, beautiful in its presentation, and delicious.

The only thing that makes this cake tricky is the cutting of the layers.  Last time I made it I had issues with the layers breaking apart as I cut them so Rebecca was put in charge of that, but she had the same problem.  So be sure to be very careful about that.  (Rebecca protests that the altitude caused the cake to sink in the middle, but I say there's no shame in having broken layers.  The frosting covers them up pretty well.)

The cake was delicious - always is, no matter how weird it looks - but I would especially recommend using Valrhona chocolate for this recipe.  I found some at Trader Joe's for three dollars a bar and it went really well with this cake, because it's got fruity overtones that match beautifully with the jam.  We used strawberry preserves, which was kind of an accident since I thought they were raspberry, but it was still tasty and we served the cake with tiny sweet strawberries we got at the farmers' market.  A very special cake for a very special day!  

Recipe after the jump.

Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake
From Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup best-quality red raspberry or cherry jam-for filling
1 teaspoon water
For the Frosting
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9 1/2 x 5 inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess.  Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on the top of one another.
To Make the Cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda 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 and sugar together at medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until very light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each one goes in.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream.  Still working on a low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix only until they disappear into the batter,  Give the batter a last stir with a sturdy rubber spatula and scrape the batter into the pan.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.  If, after about 45 minutes, the cake looks as if its browning too quickly, cover it losely with a foil tent.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for about 5 minutes before turning it out on the to rack.  Cool to room temperature upside down.
To Fill The Cake: Bring the jam and water to a boil over low heat or in a microwave oven.  Stir to smooth it, and keep at hand.
The top of the cake will become the bottom layer, so if it is uneven and your cake rocks a bit on the counter, turn it right side up and use a long serrated knife to level it.  Using the serrated knife, cut the cake into 3 even layers.  Put the first layer (originally the top of the cake) cut side up on a long serving plate and spread half of the jam over it.  Cover with the middle layer and spread that layer with the remaining jam.  Lift the top layer into place, cut side down.  Use a small pastry brush to chase away any crumbs on the top or sides of the cake.
To Make The Frosting: Fit a heatproof bowl into a pan of gently simmering water, add the chocolate and warm, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted.  Still working over the hot water, stir in the sour cream.  Don’t be concerned if the cream tightens-just keep stirring gently and the frosting will become smooth and glossy.
Remove from the heat and cover the sides and top of the cake with the still warm frosting.
Dorie says its ready to serve as soon as it is frosted, but likes to wait about an hour, until the frosting develops the slightest little crust; the frosting underneath the crust will still be soft and velvety.  Serve with a bit of whipped cream and if you’d like a pitcher of the Smooth & Tangy Chocolate Sauce.
Playing Around If you want to serve the cake with a sauce that is perfectly matched to it, double the frosting recipe and use half for the frosting and the other half to make a sauce.
for the sauce: bring about 1 cup whole milk (amount is your preference of consistency) almost to a boil.  Put the bowl of extra frosting back over the pan of hot water and gently whisk in the hot milk a little at a time, adding as much as you want to get the desired consistency.  The sauce is ready to use when it is as thick or thin as you’d like and perfectly smooth.  You can make the sauce in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; just warm it gently before serving.

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