Food quote of note

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience"…Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Champagne and Chocolate

     It's that time of the month - CAKE TIME!  It's time to unveil April's entry for The Year of the Cake.  An unexpected pleasure of this blog has been that several of my talented "foodie friends" have decided to bake along with me - how fun is that?  My dear friend Rose has also embraced 2012 as The Year of the Cake and has joined me in my quest to bake a new cake every month.  So, this post will actually be a double feature - I'll share the stories, pictures and recipes of both of our April cakes - which is only appropriate, since we actually shared the cakes with each other as a double feature dessert for last week's Sunday Supper.   
     Champagne and chocolate - what a great combination!  Rosie and I each selected a cake to honor one of these delicious ingredients. 

     Let's start with the bubbly - Rosie's Pink Champagne Cake.  For her birthday last month, Rose recieved a cookbook with a very intriguing name - Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine and Beer.  Now, come on - who can resist that?  We raised our proverbial glasses to the Year of the Cake with a Pink Champagne cake.  This recipe includes champagne in both the cake and the frosting - again, who can resist that?   

Rosie's Pink Champagne Cake - looks as lovely as it tastes

Rosie joins me in celebating "2012 - The Year of the Cake"

     Now for the chocolate - for this I had to think "outside the box".  My husband's birthday is in April - so, he had the honor of selecting this month's cake.  What most of you don't know about my husband is that he has had a long-standing love affair with another woman - her name is Betty - Betty Crocker!  As much as it pains me to acknowledge this, my husband loves boxed chocolate cake - he craves a 9X13 pan of Betty's finest, topped with Chocolate frosting out of a can.  As you can imagine, I can't help but roll my eyes when my question "what cake would you like for your birthday, dear" is met with the same response year after year..."chocolate boxed cake".  While I am certainly not above making a cake from a mix and have done so many times, I worried that it wouldn't really be true to the intent of "The Year of the Cake".  So - I started my search for "the best chocolate cake" - hoping I could find a recipe that could banish all thoughts of Betty and her boxed treats from his mind. 
     For me, a really good chocolate cake means one thing and one thing only - MOIST!  No dark chocolate flourless torte or mocha mousse confection - I needed a homey, moist, rich chocolate cake that cried out for a big glass of whole milk, one that evoked thoughts of Grandma's kitchen table and made you begin to hum God Bless America.  As usual, when I'm looking for a recipe that won't let me down, I turn to our gal Ina - the Barefoot Contessa's Beatty's Chocolate Cake seemed like just the kind of chocolate cake that could go head-to-head with the beloved boxed tradition.  This cake uses buttermilk for moisture, a mix of cocoa and melted chocolate for a rich chocolate taste and a cup of coffee to deepen the flavor.  It was easy to make and turned out just like the picture in the cookbook - and most importantly, it tasted great.

Homemade chocolate cake - hopefully it compared with the boxed tradition.
     As you can imagine, we were all stuffed after each having a piece of both cakes.  But - I must admit, chocolate and champagne do go very well together! 

Pink Champagne Cake -- from Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine and Beer

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • egg whites
  • A few drops red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Champagne
Pink Champagne Frosting
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • A few drops red food coloring
     Preheat oven to 350  F.  Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans.
     In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar 3-5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat in egg whites one at a time.
     Mix in food coloring.  Beat in flour mixture and Champagne in three alternating additions, starting and ending with flour to prevent curdling.  Pour batter into pans and bake 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on rack.
     For the frosting:  In a mixing bowl, beat butter 1 minute.  Gradually add the confectioner's sugar, Champagne, milk vanilla, and food coloring - beat until smooth and creamy.  (Note - Rosie had to add more sugar to get a spreadable consistency)

Beatty's Chocolate Cake - slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home    
  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows
      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
     Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
     Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
      Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
     In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.  On low speed, add the chocolate and to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

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