Saturday, January 23, 2010

Black and White Checkerboard Cake

My Grandmother gave me a set of checkerboard pans for Christmas; a set of three 9-in pans with a plastic insert that allows me to pour alternating circles of flavors and create this impressive checkerboard cake. And I wanted an impressive cake to bring to the restaurant along with my old standby, the Hummingbird Cake.

I used a recipe from Sky High Cakes called "Black and White Park Avenue Cake" and it features layers of white and dark chocolate with White Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. The recipes uses buttermilk, which I always take as a good sign, and mixes the ingredients in a way I haven't encountered before...dry...butter...wet...then eggs.
My batter didn't rise very much, and it was SUPER messy and very difficult to ration the batter to have enough for each circle, so my layers came out sort of lopsided, but the end result was fantastic.

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled

Chocolate Ganache, for filling.

Preheat Oven to 350, butter and line 3 8 or 9-in pans with parchment rounds.

Place sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend on low for 30 seconds. Add the softened butter and one cup of buttermilk; beat until just combined and evenly moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and vanilla. Add to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down sides of the bowl. Beat until just mixed.

For the dark chocolate batter, whisk 1 cup of the batter into the melted chocolate, then gently whisk in another 3 cups.
For the white chocolate, whisk 1 cup of batter in to the melted chocolate, then gently mix that into the rest of the batter.

Use your cake divider and a pastry bag to fill the pans. You will need two layers with 2 circles of chocolate and one with 2 circles of white chocolate.

Bake for about 25 minutes (mine was less). Allow cakes to cool a bit in the pans and then turn onto wire racks to cool completely.

Make your Chocolate Ganache by heating a half cup of heavy cream and mixing in 6 oz of semi-sweet chocolate. Let sit for a minute to melt, then whisk until smooth.

White Chocolate Buttercream
(I changed this a little bit from the book.)

4 egg whites
4 oz good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, being careful not to scald it. Set aside to cool.

Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Heat until the sugar reachs 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, or what I do is wait until just before it starts turning dark. A few minutes into boiling your sugar, start whipping your egg whites on high speed.

When the sugar is hot enough and the eggs are at medium-to high volume (soft peaks), slowly pour a steady stream of boiling sugar into the egg whites, still whipping on high. Whip for at least 5 minutes on medium-high, until the bowl has cooled to near room temperature.

Reduce the speed to medium low and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mixture may appear to curdle at some point, but keep whipping and it will come together. When it is smooth, add the melted white chocolate and mix well.

Assemble the layers so the checkerboard pattern can form. Spread chocolate ganache on top of the first and second layers, then freeze for 15 minutes to set. Frost the cake using the white chocolate buttercream, and add chocolate disk decorations, if desired.

Enjoy the oohs and aaahs!

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