A black apron, a jug of hot water, a couple of spatulas and Roseanne Cash – that is what I need on this Sunday afternoon to start frosting the chocolate cake I prepared for Luisa’s birthday. With “Rules of Travel” in the background (no, it’s not a country album, thank you very much) I dip the spatula in the hot water, wipe it quickly and start spreading the frosting on the round top of the cake.
Cooking is a meditative endeavour – not many activities in life can absorb me completely and catapult me into that such desired state of the “here and now”. Yoga used to do it at the beginning but now I find myself wondering about dinner while perched on one leg or about phone calls I have to return while standing on my head. Yes, yes, let’s go back to the breathing and all that. The reality is that there is nothing like having my hands in flour or concentrating over a cake to dissipate the rest. I am at one with the frosting.
Frosting and decorating are not two of my favourite activities in the pastry kitchen. I have little patience for the Swiss precision they both require. It’s not uncommon for cooks to specialize in either baking or decorating – a couple of cake decorators came to work in my kitchen without ever having baked a cake top to bottom first and I saw them struggle with recipes for a long while before getting comfortable.
The Martha Stewart in me, though, can frost decently and can decorate passably – good enough for birthdays and other occasions. Luisa wanted a chocolate cake for her birthday dinner so I settled on the ultimate chocolate cake or, what used to be called on the menu, “Chocolate on Chocolate”. It’s two disks of Devil’s Food Cake, filled with a butter ganache and frosted with the same.The end result is moist and, having used 99% unsweetened chocolate in the frosting, well, yes, extremely “chocolatey” in a grown up sort of way.
With Roseanne still belting in the background, tears of frosting dripping on my counter, I look at the end result – aside from a gentle sloping semi hidden by giant raspberries, I pronounce it not bad for a pastry chef.
1 1/4 C Sugar
1 C Heavy Cream
5 oz 99% cacao content chocolate (either in pastilles or roughly chopped)
4 oz Butter, cubed
1 ts Vanilla Extract
Devil’s Food Cake
2 C Sugar
1 3/4 C All Purpose Flour
3/4 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I use Valrhona)
1 1/2 ts Baking Powder
1 1/2 ts Baking Soda
1 ts Salt
1/2 C Corn Oil
1 C Milk
1 C Hot Water
- Cover the bottoms of 2 9” round cakes pans (possibly with removable bottoms) with parchment paper and butter or spray generously.
- Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, oil and milk and mix, on medium speed, for a few minutes.
- Lower the speed and, with the mixer running, pour in the hot water in a steady stream.
- The batter will be very thin – divide it equally between the two cake pans (if they have removable bottoms, you might want to wrap them in foil in case some of the batter seeps through) and bake at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out dry or the cakes spring back to the touch.
- While the cakes are baking, make the frosting by placing the sugar and cream in a saucepan. Cook on the stove, on medium heat, for 6 or 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chocolate and stir gently with a spatula (do not use a whisk – you do not want to incorporate air). Remove from the stove and add the vanilla extract. Pour in a bowl and let cool.
- Stir now and then so the top of the frosting will not harden. It will take 90 mins to 2 hours before the frosting reaches the desired consistency.
- Once the cakes are completely cooled, place one half on a platter or cake stand and spread about 1/3 of the frosting on it. Top it with the second cake and frost the whole thing.
- Now, if you have no idea how to perfectly (or passably frost) you will have to wait until tomorrow for a frosting lesson.