Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chocolate Festival/Overkill Cake

Baking a lot is really not a problem for me--the bigger problems are the movement of the baked goods out of the house, getting photos taken before the goods have become (even more) unattractive, and especially finding time to blog about them! I made the Chocolate Festival Cake on Sunday, and here it is Friday, with half of it sitting untouched on the counter waiting for the trash can, I'm afraid.
I was very excited to make the Chocolate Festival Cake because it was a big All-American kind of cake, "as American as a Hershey bar," and Sami and I had been invited to a big All-American potluck. Well, actually, it was a party for arts faculty, which means our kind of people, which means not necessarily All-American. But I digress.
I made this cake rather in a rush, I admit. I had a big church meeting in the morning, for which I was responsible for making chili and for which I also made a sour cream coffee cake (yum!). So that was already three things going on in the kitchen between when we arrived back from the airport at 7:30 Saturday evening and when I needed to leave for church at 9:25. Somewhat tight, yes. Thanks to a helpful husband and a Crock-Pot, no problem with the chili. The coffee cake is not that difficult and made it into the oven by 7 or so. But with all the getting ready to go and packing up chili so that it wouldn't spill all over my trunk, the chocolate cake had just made it in the oven when I left. Claire was responsible for testing it and taking it out of the oven, which she did, but I neglected to tell her to unmold the cake after a certain amount of time. So I returned at 2 to a cake that had a hollow tunnel on the top. No problem, it would be inverted and frosted anyway. But I was a bit dismayed at how the cake fell apart upon unmolding--more of a tunnel.
No problem--frosting time. This was basically a peanut butter ganache. That was the best part of this cake. Two great tastes that taste great together, indeed!
I was hoping this would get devoured at the potluck, but there were at least 15 desserts and a lot of other delicious food, so my chances weren't so good. So I did my best to "sell" the cake. I got lots of takers, but no-one said anything to me. That should have told me something. I just know that the next day they were telling each other, "Bless her heart (you always preface a negative comment in the South with this), she just made a really nasty cake." And when I finally sat down at home the next day to have a slice, I couldn't help but agree.
So what went wrong? I see I've made this cake before, for "Alicia's shower (wedding? baby?). A bit much," were my cryptic comments. And I think that's part of the problem. Peanut butter and chocolate, yummy. Peanut butter and banana, also classic. Chocolate and banana, OK. Chocolate, banana, and peanut butter? Maybe too much. Also too much going on for a good cake texture, I believe.
I think salt was also an issue. Now you can see from my last post that I have no fear of salt in desserts, but this was too much. But this recipe called for a full teaspoon of salt as well as a cup of peanut butter, which in the processed form I used was also quite salty. So there was a preponderance of salty flavor going on here. If you make this cake (and I guess you have to, Alicia!), consider either using a natural peanut butter without added salt or just dialing the salt way back. I think that the cake was probably also underbaked. Claire says that the toothpick was clean, but this big behemoth of a cake was just probably too much for one tiny toothpick. But really, I think this is maybe just too much for one cake. I'm looking forward to reading your take on this.
Here's the recipe I made, if you're curious. But really, if you want to make an over-the-top chocolate/peanut butter extravaganza, this will probably fill the bill more deliciously.

Chocolate Festival Cake

4 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used a bar of Ghiradelli 60%)
3 cups (12 oz.) sifted flour
1 c. (3 oz.) Dutch-process cocoa
1 T. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt (but really, be careful here)
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 c. (9.25 oz.) peanut butter (recommend natural, unsalted rather than Jif)
1 T. vanilla
2 c. (14 oz.) brown sugar
1 c. (8 oz., about 2) ripe mashed bananas
6 large eggs
1-1/4 c. milk

Heat the oven to 350; spray a tube pan or angel food cake pan with Pam. This batter is probably too fragile for a Bundt pan. Line the bottom with parchment (Trace a circle of the outside and cut, fold the circle in half, and cut a small x in the middle of the circle. Should fit right in there.) and spray again. Break the chocolate into pieces, put it into a small microwave-safe bowl, and melt it on high for a minute, stopping to stir after 30 seconds. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set that aside. Now cream the butter, then add the peanut butter and vanilla, then the sugar, and give it a good long beating until it's smooth--I would say at least 2 minutes. Then add the chocolate, and then the bananas, and then the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Add the flour in 3 batches alternating with the milk in 2 batches. There's so much batter at this point that it splattered all over the place and I did the last few additions by hand. Now put the batter into the pan, tap or rotate it to smooth it out, and put it in the oven. Check the cake after an hour with a really long skewer. The cake might need another 10-15 minutes for a total of 1 hour 15 minutes. But check from time to time. Maida suggests covering the cake with foil after an hour to keep it from getting burned. I didn't have that problem. When the cake is really done, let it cool on a rack for 20 minutes (not 5 hours) and then unmold it. Let it cool completely and then frost it with the following:

10 oz. milk chocolate (Trader Joe's Pound Plus, oh yeah)
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 c. (5 T.) butter
1 c. (9 oz.) peanut butter
(Maida calls for an egg, but I can't see why I would want to put a raw egg in a ganache. I'm curious about that as well, Alicia)

Get out a big microwave-safe bowl and break up the chocolate into it. You'll probably need to chop the unsweetened chocolate with a knife if it's the Baker's kind. Put the butter in there as well. Then microwave on High for 30 seconds, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. After much stirring, I had to give mine another 10 seconds. Then add the peanut butter and beat it with an electric mixer until it's really smooth. Put the ganache in the freezer for a bit while you enjoy licking the beaters. Then when you're already half an hour for the party, get the frosting out of the freezer and ask your husband to frost the cake. Maida recommends making peaks and swirls, but he went for the smooth look, which was good because the frosting was still a bit on the runny side.
It says this serves 24, which may be true. All I know is that I don't even want to look at it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. Since I really don't care much for the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, I would really not be the one to help finish this one. You sounded like a one-armed paper hanger last Sunday morning!