Thursday, March 01, 2007

Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake

I don't know how the rest of the world deals with stuff. But here, at El Rancho Harpo when I get tired of wallowing in my misery I take action, sometimes drastic action to blast myself out of the funks I am prone to inhabit.

At Christmas one of the most welcome gifts I received came from litbrit with a copy of the out of print cookbook "Death By Chocolate" by Marcel Desaulniers, a fucking gawd of a pastry chef. It is one of the finest works on how to work with this magical, mood-altering substance.

Anyway, when the malaise came knocking last night, I didn't bury myself in a book or flail around at my harp, I went into the kitchen.

This one grabbed my eye and I went to work. When I was finished I invited some friends over for coffee and cake this afternoon.



4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken small
8 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (measured melted)
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or sea salt, the important part is not iodized)
2 cups very tightly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pur vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream


1 cup heavy cream (manufacturing cream from Smart & Final is the absolute bomb)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons baker's sugar (very fine granulated)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small (Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 70% cocoa mass bars)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate broken small
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate broken small
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 pound unsalted butter (at room temperature)
5 egg whites
1 cup baker's sugar

Heat oven to 350°.

Heat around 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler over medium heat. In the top part melt 4 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate, stirring the whole time, until totally melted and smooth. (or use the microwave, but with this recipe, because there is going to be a lot of individual meltings I decided to go with the double boiler method. Having the already at temperature water on the stove just made it seem easier to me)

Lightly butter the inside of two 9-by-1 1/2" cake pans. Flour with 1 teaspoon of cake flour, shaking out the excess into the two cups remaining cake flour. Sift that with the baking soda and salt onto wax paper and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle) and beat on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for 2 more minutes. Scrape it down, beat it 2 more.

Add the four eggs, one at a time while beating on high. Give it at least thirty seconds on high between each egg, when all the eggs are in beat on high for another 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla, reduce the mixer to low, and beat on low for another minute.

Heat 1 cup of water to a boil. While you're waiting for the water to boil, with the mixer on low add a third of the sifted dry ingredients and a third of the sour cream. Beat for 30 seconds. Repeat that until all the ingredients are incorporated, add the cup of boiling water and beat it all together for at least 30 more seconds. Remove the bowl from the stand and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides down and work the batter thoroughly to ensure absolute smoothness.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a rack for fifteen minutes, invert onto cake circles (you can get these at any high end chef's supply, or just cut your own out of cardboard) and refridgerate uncovered while you make the ganache and the frosting.

For the ganache, heat the cream, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan over a medium high flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring this to the brink of a boil (if you let it boil it will bubble over and you will have a totally gross and ugly mess that will defy all your attempts to clean from this moment forward, go ahead, guess how I figured this part out). Pour the cream immediately over the chocolate chunks and the espresso powder in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or just plop a plastic cutting board over the top of the bowl and leave it alone for ten minutes, then stir until smooth and glossy. If any of this gets on your fingers during this part of the process licking them is an appropriate first step of the cleaning. Don't forget to wash with soap and dry thoroughly after though. Keep this at room temperature while you amke the buttercream.

Go back to the double boiler with another 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, 2 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate and 2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the top half (which you of course washed and dried scrupulously, and I mean completely, one little tiny smidgen of water will ruin everything) Heat while stirring until completely smooth and melted. Set aside.

Put the pound of butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, beat on low for 2 minutes, increase to medium and beat for another 3. Scrape down and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Move to a large stainless or glass mixing bowl.

Back to the double boiler with the 5 egg whites and cup of baker's sugar in the top half. Gently whisk the egg whites with the sugar over the hot water for about 5 minutes. If you have an instant read (or even better one of those tricked out laser no touch beauties) thermometer you want a reading of 120°. Transfer the hot egg whites to the bowl of the stand mixer (this time use the baloon whip) and beat on the highest level until stiff peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Fold the melted chocolate into the butter, using a rubber spatula gently to thoroughly combine. Slowly, gently fold in the whipped egg whites into this until completely mixed. Set aside at room temperature.

To assemble the cake use a long slicing knife to trim off the top and make the cake rounds completely level (SNACK TIME!). Slice each round horizontally to make 2 equal layers. Place the top layer of the cake into a closed springform pan. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate espresso buttercream over the cake in the springform. Blac the bottom layer of the first cake onto the buttercream and press gently into place. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the ganache over the cake layer spreading the ganache evenly to the edges. Refrigerate the remaining ganache. Place the top layer of the second cake on top of the ganache and press gently into place. (this is a pretty resiliant cake but there's no call for roughness) Spread another 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream evenly over this layer. Place the final cake round, cut side down, onto the buttercream and gently press into place.

Cover the cake and pan closely with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for an hour.

Remove the cake from the freezer and with the thin metal blade of a cake spatula cut gently around the sides of the pan. Release the springsides and place the cake on a frosting spindle. Fill a pasty bag fitted with a large star tip with 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream. Fill another bag with a medium star tip with the remaining ganache. Evenly spread the remaining buttercream around the cake.

Alternate rings of buttercream and ganache stars until the top of the cake is completely covered, if there's still more left in the bags pipe a row of stars around the bottom. Refrigerate the cake at least an hour before cutting and slicing.

Cut the cake with a serrated slicer that has been run under hot water and wiped dry for each slice. Allow to come to room temperature (five to ten minutes) and serve. I like to garnish this with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings. I served it with demitasse cups of espresso with a twist of lemon.


One of my guests for coffee and cake was my Cousin, the brilliant attorney. They have reached a settlement on the rancher and the title dispute. The rancher's family will be granted residence rights in perpetuity (when the Indian side of a treaty says stuff like "as long as the grass grows" we mean that shit) for a yearly payment of 20 beef cows and 400 silver dollars. The family will be entitled to free medical care at the reservation clinics, is invited to participate in our collective free range cattle operation as a continuing partner, children of the family which are enrolled in college are welcome to apply to the reservation's program of tuition assistance with the same considerations given to Apache applicants, they can bring raw timber from their leasehold to the Apache sawmill and have it processed at cost plus 4%, they will refer any offers to buy the land to the Apache nation who will have final say on any sale or transfer. In the case of a sale the family and the White Mountain Nation will split the proceeds with 70% going to the family and 30% to the Apache. There's a lot more technical legalese and tiny little conditions and codicils involved with this deal, but my cousin is very proud of being able to hammer out an agreement where every party involved feels they have been treated justly and been well served. I am very proud of him myself. It really made the work I did making this cake seem all the more appropriate.

p.s. It tasted like at least three of the seven deadly sins done all at once.



Blogger Pogo said...

MB, there is nothing like Marcel's desserts. I have the good fortune to own a condo in Williamsburg, and when we go down there to visit we ALWAYS eat at the restaurant Marcel started there - the Trellis. My wife loves the white chocolate balloon, but I always go for one of the darker desserts, and I have never left without feeling a little dirty - and fully satisfied.

And BTW, tell your cousin the brilliant attorney that this lawyer thinks that is an inspired settlement. These things usually come down to an exchange of dollars and everyone feeling like they got screwed. This one gives everyone what they need and treats all involved like actual people. I am very impressed.

7:29 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i think that it is a work of genius. trying to put a price tag on a case like this would be insulting. this is about so much more. by putting the "lease payment" in the terms he did my cousin was able to convey to even a casual observer that this was about the relationship between people. by putting the emphasis on the symbolism of that relationship, the heart of the issue becomes something living and robust. yes, things have changed. the use of reservation land, participating in some of the financial programs if they choose to do so, medical care, all of that pays close attention to the situation of today while at the same time recognising and honoring our shared past.

i am very proud of my cousin for being able to see past the dry facts of the law and use it to the mutual benefit and future enhancement of the human beings who are involved.

his reverence for things like contracts shows through. he truly loves the law. but he also knows that laws which to not work in service to humanity are tools of oppression.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Mmmmmmmm. That sounds good.

11:55 AM  
Blogger konagod said...

Good morning, MB. I'm making my rounds today. God this sounds good! txrad made brownies last night which turned out quite well but I may put him on this project when those are eaten.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum?

If you don't, email me your mailing address and I will send you a copy.

- oddjob (who feels you should have a COMPLETE library of cooking decadence)

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum?

If you don't, email me your mailing address and I will send you a copy.

- oddjob (who feels you should have a COMPLETE library of cooking decadence)

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apologies for the double post! Feel free to eliminate all but the first one!

- oddjob (who curses f*cking Blogger yet again)

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

his reverence for things like contracts shows through. he truly loves the law. but he also knows that laws which to not work in service to humanity are tools of oppression.

It is so rare to find someone able to sucessfully navigate both the law and also the humanity and human intent that originally created the law in the first place!

- oddjob (who wishes Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, and Alito were so gifted!)

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, once you've read Rose's cookbook regardless of whether you ever use her recipes or not, you'll never lack for understanding in the making of pies & pastries ever again. She explains enough that you understand the chemistry behind the baking, so you really know (as far as a layman ever will) just what exactly it is you're doing to the flour, and why it achieves your baking goal (& thus what can be substituted when necessary and what to expect as a result of the substitution and how to compensate, if necessary), yet it's not the slightest bit unapproachable due to food chemistry geekiness.

Don't ask me how that's possible! I haven't a clue.

- oddjob (who has absolutely no clue how she keeps so slender when she is so passionate about baking)

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, now that I think of it, I need to get you my mom's recipe for something called "Texas hot cocoa cake". It's easy to make (most of my mom's recipes are) and it's a chocolate cake, but the cinnamon in the chocolate icing just really makes the cake sing!

- oddjob

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(if you let it boil it will bubble over and you will have a totally gross and ugly mess that will defy all your attempts to clean from this moment forward, go ahead, guess how I figured this part out)


Oh damn.........!


- oddjob

3:01 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, i learned a lot of my kitchen lessons the hard way. i'm very interested in the chemistry and other science involved with cooking. one thing that i've never been able to figure out is why, when dealing with things like angel cakes and soufflés or a mousse something whipped by hand has a different and superior texture than one whipped by machine. i even concede that it might be something hallucenatory on my part. but, i've blind tasted samples from recipes where the only difference was whipping the egg whites by hand and been able to tell the difference. maybe the berenbaum will be able to explain this one.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presumably the only difference is the uniformity of procedure. When you whisk by hand you obviously don't incorporate air in the same way a machine will. Even if you have very durable arms the way a human whisks simply won't be the same as the way a machine whisks. A human's whisking will have a periodicity to it that the machine will lack.

Other than that I can't think of a difference.

- oddjob

4:31 AM  
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3:58 PM  

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