Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sweet and Salty Cake

A GEM of a cake, from Baked.

I was near Charleston last weekend for a Fuchs family girls' weekend. My mom and I drove down together, and we stopped in Charleston on the way. I remembered hearing that Baked has a branch there, but it took me completely by surprise to come across it in the street. I literally sprinted to it, thinking "Spicy Brownie. Spicy Brownie. Spicy Brownie."

Unfortunately, the South's taste buds are not exactly attuned to the spicy-sweet combo. The ladies behind the counter said they tried selling it when they first opened, but no one was interested. They did, however, have a Sweet and Salty Brownie, which was a dense, chocolately brownie married with salted caramel and sea salt.

It was so good it made my eyebrows contract and my mouth hang open in shock and delight. The sea salt joins with the salted caramel and makes the dark chocolate unfold a million different love letters in your mouth. It's an experience, people.

So this week, I opened my Baked cookbook zoomed in on the Sweet and Salty Cake. It did not disappoint. See NOTES before starting.

Chocolate Layers

3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cup AP flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly pack dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Butter 3 8-in round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter said parchment and flour it, too. When I made this I was skimming the recipe and I just buttered and floured the pans...this cake definitely needs the parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, hot water and sour cream. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together for 5 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for 5 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a tie, beating well after each addition, then add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat for 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. (mine only took 30 min, so check early. I took it out when there were just a few crumbs sticking the knife I stuck in the middle). Let the pans cool for 20 min before removing the cakes and allowing to cool completely.

UPDATE: I now substitute light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses for the dark brown sugar for a lovely moist cake.

Salted Caramel
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 t fleur de sel (sea salt. I used celtic sea salt, but you will get different results with different varieties. Don't use table salt, please.)
1 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/4 sour cream

In a small saucepan, combine the cream and the fleur de sel. heat slowly over low heat until the salt is dissolved. Do not boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/4 cup water and the corn syrup. Stir them together and the heat over high heat without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 350 degrees or until the mixture is dark amber.

NOTE: It is better to undercook than overcook caramel, because overcooked caramel tastes bitter. Bear in mind that it will cooking for a bit after you remove it from the heat, and you can even have a bowl of ice-water ready to dip the pan in to stop the cooking process.

Let the mixture cool for 1 minute, then add the cream mixture to the caramel.

NOTE: It is best to slowly pour the cream into the caramel, whisking all the time. This will ensure a smooth, fully combined caramel.

Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel cool to room temp. Refrigerate it in a covered container until you're ready to use it.

Whipped Caramel Chocolate Ganache

1 pound dark chocolate (60-70%cacao), chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into 1/2 in pieces.

Put the chocolate in a large heat proof bowl and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat.

Meanwhile, keeping an eye on the cream so it doesn't burn, in a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup water with the cup of sugar and the cornsyrup, stirring together. Heat on high without stirring until an instant read or candy thermometer reads 350 or until the mixture is dark amber, 6-8 minutes (see NOTES above). Remove from heat and let cool one minute.

Slowly add the cream to the caramel and stir to combine. Slowly stir for 2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and caramel in little circles until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat at high speed until fluffy.

NOTE: I had some problems with this frosting being kind of loose at room temperature. I ended up frosting it in shifts with freezer time in between (late for work, too, as always). When I frosted the cupcakes I added a couple cups of confectioner's sugar, and this helped the situation a lot and didn't affect the taste too much. So give yourself time for cooling and whipping and freezing if necessary.

To assemble the cake, spread the caramel across each layer and sprinkle with sea salt. Freeze the layers for a few minutes to stiffen the caramel. Spread 3/4 cup ganache each over two of the layers and assemble the cake. Coat the cake with a "Crumb Coat" of frosting and refrigerate for 15 minutes to stiffen up. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining ganache. Garnish with more sea salt.

Serve the cake at room temperature with lots of MILK.

Let me know how yours turns out!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I've linked your post to my Sweet and Salty Cake post. You're welcome to join my cookbook giveaway.

    Baking is my Zen will be having a
    from August 8 through August 14, 2010.

    The giveaway will be the ‘not yet released’ cookbook,
    Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
    By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

    Carmen of Baking is my Zen