Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tribute Cake


Tribute Cake from “BitterSweet” by Alice Medrich and Flo Braker

You can prepare the ganache up to 4 days in advance, and you can assemble the cake up to two days before glazing.

For the Cake:
2 cups (7 oz.) sifted (before measuring) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sifted cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
½ cup lukewarm water
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of the cake pans with rounds of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then sift onto a sheet of wax paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and lukewarm water; set aside to cool. In a glass measure, combine the buttermilk, the remaining ½ cup of water, and the vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs briefly to combine the whites and yolks.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few seconds, until creamy. Gradually add the sugars and beat until creamy. Gradually add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. With the mixer on medium, slowly add the eggs, taking about 2 minutes in all. Continue to beat, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is fluffy and velvety.

Stop the mixer and scrape in the cocoa mixture, then beat on medium speed just until combined. Stop the mixer, add one-third of the flour mixture, and beat on low speed only until no flour is visible. Stop the mixer and add half of the buttermilk mixture, and beat only until is absorbed. Repeat with half of the remaining flour, then all of the remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour. Scrape the bowl as necessary, and beat only enough to incorporate the ingredients after each addition.

Pour the batter into the pans and spread it level. Bake until the layers spring back slightly when lightly pressed with your fingers and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the layers on a rack for about 5 minutes before unmolding to cool completely, right side up, on the rack.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped medium fine
2 cups heavy cream


To make the ganache; Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cram over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes to be sure all of the chocolate particles are completely melted.

Stir the ganache until perfectly smooth. Let cool. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the ganache for at least 6 hours or overnight; it must be very cold or it will curdle when it is whipped.

When you are ready to use the ganache (but not before), whip it until it is stiff enough to hold a nice shape and seems spreadable, but don’t overdo.

To assemble the cake: Beat the chilled ganache with an electric mixer on medium speed just until it stiffens and holds its shape like very thick whipped cream but can still be easily spread. Do not over beat.

Place one cake layer upside down, on the cardboard cake circle. Spread with half of the ganache. Place the second cake layer upside down on the ganache and press into place. Spread with the remaining ganache and top with the third layer of cake (upside down). Chill the cake at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before glazing it.

Glace A L’Eau
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cup into several pieces
½ cup water or strong coffee
Pinch of salt


Combine all the ingredients in a small heatproof bowl and set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water; stirring frequently until the chocolate and butter are almost completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir gently until completely melted. Let cool to 90 F before using.

Spread a very thin layer of the cooled glaze over the top and sides of the cake. This layer is called the crumb coat; it is just to smooth the surface, glue on any crumbs and fill any cracks. Chill the cake for a few minutes to set the crumb coat.

Set the bowl of the remaining glaze in a pan of barely simmering water and reheat very gently, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is fluid and shiny; it should be no warmer than 90 F. Center the cake on the turntable or lazy Susan. Have a clean, dry, metal icing spatula ready. Pour all of the glaze over the center of the cake. Working quickly, using the spatula to scoop up excess glaze and touch it to those spots left uncoated, use the spatula to scoop up excess glaze and touch it to those spots, but don’t spread it: spreading the glaze as it begins to set will make it look dull. Refrigerate the cake immediately.

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