Thursday, August 4, 2011

Birthday Showdown: Mini Chocolate Devil's Food Cake with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Okay, I admit it.

     I've been avoiding the heck out of updating this blog recently.  Why? Because I've got 4 recipes to load on here in addition to the one I'm about to hit you with.  For my mother's birthday last week I decided to make her cake. But I couldn't pick just one. So, I made two. (I was going to make a 3rd, but the whole point of that one was the frosting, which was an unforgivable that was out.)
     Both of the cakes turned out MARVELOUSLY, though I'm certainly glad I experimented with this chocolate one the first time around.  Or at least, I'm glad I experimented with the original frosting recipe that was with the cake recipe, because if there's one thing I've learned from these experiments, ladies and gentleman, it's that I have no idea what the heck Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frostings are supposed to be, but they don't like me...and me?  I'm not so sure I like them either.

     This chocolate cake, however, I grew to like very, very much.
(Note: Photos of finished cakes are from my practice session when I didn't get the frosting quite right, but I assure you, it still tasted FANTASTIC...that's why there wasn't time to snap photos when I perfected it on the second go!)

     When my mom told me--after I gave her the selection of pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cobblers, etc--that she wanted cake for her birthday, I was immediately torn.  Part of me wanted to make her something deliciously sinful--rich, mouthwatering, and therefore obviously chocolate.  Another part of me, however, wanted to give her something dainty and ladylike, light and summery.  So I compromised.  I had recently realized that I had some leftover cash on a Hobby Lobby giftcard, so...what did I do with it?  Why, I bought 3 4-inch cakepans and a 4-inch springform pan, of course!
     I'm actually not crazy, or too addicted to the whole 'smaller-is-cuter' stigma women carry; I've genuinely just been looking for a way to downsize my desserts.  There is just one of me, after all, and while I've got quite the sweet tooth, I do recognize that eating an entire cake in one sitting (likely to happen, if you know me at all) is bad.  And if I space it out to healthy proportions, all my baked goods would probably go stale before I could get to them.  So these little pans are my solution.  Frankly, particularly with single layer cakes, I could indeed eat them in one sitting--they serve up slightly less than your average slice of a 2-layer cake.  However, I feel that if I'm gonna give portion control a whirl, I might as well go ahead and declare these to be for 1-2 servings each, particularly if you double-stack them.
     Onto the actual baking part...the first time around, this cake took me a wee bit longer to make than I would have liked.  It was partially just because I was unfamiliar with the recipe instructions (it went much faster the second time) and partially because, if you follow the link I'll post that takes you to the original recipe, you'll see that it originally calls for a Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I'll save you another tragic tale and just sum that up in saying: it went horribly. And I wasted almost an entire newly opened bag of confectioner's sugar in trying to save it. Grand.
     Anyway, the first time around I 3/4-ed the recipe.  Yes, that's right, not halved, but 3/4-ed.  Awkward, I know, but I really didn't have any clue as to how much batter my little cake pans were going to hold in comparison to the typical 2 9-inch cake pans recipes called for.  I ended up with tons of leftovers which I turned into cupcakes, and therefore simply halved the recipe the second time around, which filled all 3 mini cake pans, (which I used as individual, single-layer cakes for my family and I) and then a thicker cake in the 4-inch springform pan for my mother (the thicker cake I sliced into two layers, and put some frosting in between them--yuummm!), and, finally, used the leftovers to make a handful of mini-cupcakes.  If you're using only about 4-inch cake pans, I'd say this recipe would probably produce 6 cakes.
     The recipe was generally smooth sailing both times (though it consumes several bowls), though I have to say--for whatever reason, the chocolate mixture was much thicker the first time I made it, and while the cake was delightfully moist & dense both times, it was also a little more so the first time around.  Proportionally all of the ingredients were the same, so I'm not entirely sure how this happen. I DID use an extra egg yolk, rather than properly halving the egg, the first time, which could have led to the batter difference, but I've no idea why the chocolate mixture was so much more watery the second time around.
Added too many raspberries the first time and it made my frosting
the TINIEST bit liquid-y, which, unfortunately, is very visible in the
following photos of the finished practice cakes...

    But god, is this stuff good.

     Alright, I've chatted enough (apologies), time for the recipe.  I'm going to give you all the proportions for mini-cakes, but, of course, I shall link you to the original should you want to make the full-monty! (PS...definitely thinking of, rather than more frosting, making a raspberry curd/puree for a filling next time!)

For baking beginners:  Don't try Swiss Meringue Buttercream frostings unless you're really, really confident, kitchen-savvy, or some sort of food chemistry genius.  Just don't.  This is the best advice I can give to you today.
For baking experts: Any idea why the compositions of the cakes may have changed, even though the proportion of ingredients did not?

Chocolate Devil's Food Cake adapted from Lulu at Home

¾  cup all purpose flour
½  tsp baking powder
¼  tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbls boiling water
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I only had Hershey's cocoa powder, so that's what I went with)
5 Tbls unsalted butter, softened
¾ Cup packed light brown sugar
1.5 large eggs, room temperature 
¼ Cup Sour cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease your mini cake pans & place parchment paper on the bottom to ensure easy, non-stick removal.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate (and heat-proof) large bowl, whisk the boiling water, unsweetened chocolate, and cocoa powder, and set aside.  (Should be very smooth, no lumps!)
  4. Beat the butter & sugar together at about medium speed until they are well combined and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Then, beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
  5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture to the egg mixture, then add 1/3 of the chocolate mixture.  Then back to the dry ingredients, etc, until everything is incorporated and smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pans, about 2/3 of the way full. Tap the sides to try & get rid of any air bubbles. (I found that this recipe did produce several for me both times).
  7. Baking times will vary based on the size pan that you use, but I would start checking around 20 minutes.  If you're not sure, the cake should be set (not jelloid when you move it) and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center should come out clean.
  8. Once you remove the cakes, wait a few minutes for them to cool a bit, then invert onto cooling racks (or in my case, some wax paper on a countertop).  This not only cools the cakes faster, but if your cakes rise as much as mine did, it will flatten out the tops.
  9. Frost (if you can wait that long) and enjoy!

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting adapted from...well, the recipe I put up earlier.  Instead of lime juice, simply add about 5-6 fresh raspberries into your frosting and beat well...and save a few berries for garnish!

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