Monday, March 29, 2010

Chocolate sponge cake, or I'm no Macgyver

I have to say that I approached this recipe with trepidation. Reason One: Maida's chocolate cakes and I don't always get along, as seen in the Chocolate Festival Cake, Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake, and Red Beet Cake. Reason Two: Maida mentions in the headnotes that "You need an electric mixer on a stand for all the beating." Uh, no. Excellent workout for the arm, though. And Reason Three: You need a metal tube pan ("It must not be nonstick") for this thing to work. All I brought with me was silicon bakeware (it's much lighter in the suitcase), and the tube pan I borrowed from a friend was nonstick. So I had to improvise. If there's one thing I'm learning from this blog experience, it's how to improvise.

Here are the ingredients--oops, forgot the flour. But you can see right away that this will be a light, fluffy, no-butter cake.

Here's my improvised tube pan--a springform pan with a tin can in the middle. I probably should have opened the bottom of the can. And I probably should have centered it better.

Here's my improvised pan with the batter I spent 20 minutes mixing. It's a testament to how much I've been doing with my right arm that it didn't even hurt after all that.

Here's the cake out of the oven. As it was baking, I noticed that the batter got underneath the can and lifted it up. Oops. As I said, I'm no Macgyver.

And here's the cake. If my pan had been the correct size (I believe it was a bit big, although at one point the cake threatened to escape and spill over), perhaps it wouldn't be this flat. Still the cake is indeed "so light it feels as though it might fly away." And it did--straight into our mouths. But as light as it was, it was just kind of fluffy and sweet and cinnamon-y, but not very chocolatey. Claire said it needed frosting. I agreed--though I think a couple ounces of shaved chocolate folded into the batter might be even better. So I made ganache for the second half.

Mmmm...much better. This had better "fly away" to someone else's stomach before Claire and I devour the whole thing!

Here's the recipe. This is a great time to use the whisk attachment on your Kitchenaid.

Chocolate Sponge Cake
3/4 c. (2.6 oz.) sifted cake flour
1/4 c. (.75 oz.) cocoa powder
2 t. powdered instant espresso
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
6 large eggs, probably best room temperature
2 t. vanilla
1 scant cup (6.5 oz.) sugar
(2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, shaved)

Preheat the oven to 325. Get out an angel food cake pan--a two-piece metal tube pan, but don't butter or spray it. Get out a sifter or strainer and two pieces of waxed paper. Put the flour, cocoa, espresso, cinnamon, and salt in the sifter and sift that mixture 6 times onto the waxed paper (actually, Maida says 7), alternating pieces of paper. I'm not sure what exactly the function of all this sifting is, but it's kind of fun.
Now put your eggs and vanilla in the mixing bowl, put in the whisk attachment, and crank up the mixer to high. Let that go for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture has "the consistency of soft whipped cream." This took 15 minutes on my hand mixer; it may take less time with a more powerful stand mixer. Then add the sugar very gradually, beating 3 more minutes while you add it. Sift the dry ingredients over the eggs, give that a couple of quick folds, and then VERY BRIEFLY use the mixer to get the flour incorporated. (If you choose to, fold in the chocolate now.) Wet the angel food cake pan with cold water, shake it out, and then fill it with the cake batter. Maida says to put half on one side and half on the other; this was a very good idea for me since the can kept sliding around. You shouldn't have that problem with a real pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes (mine was a bit overdone at 35 minutes, but I have trouble converting Fahrenheit to Celsius), "until the top just barely springs back when pressed with a fingertip." Turn the pan upside down (no, you don't need to hang it from a Coke bottle like Mom used to do) and let it cool like that. When the cake is completely cool, carefully cut around the edges and then unmold the cake. Maida recommends serving this upside down, which is actually more attractive. You can serve this plain, with fruit and powdered sugar, or with a lovely ganache. And get ready for it to fly off the plate.

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