We’ve had sun (SUN!) these past few days in the PNW. The kind thay warms your bones when it still feels cold on your face. But it’s sun nonetheless and if I have to be even two steps away from it, you might as well lock me indoors because that is torture.
If you think I’m only going to talk about the weather for the next few months, you’re right. Seasons are a new thing for me. Come to think of it, seasons are a new thing for itself! Themselves? I don’t know. All I know is that there are giant piles of snow in Massachusetts and the mayor sounds like he should be in The Departed. If I ever go to Boston, I’m just going to make them say “Baaahhstin”, “car”, “park” and “park my car at the car park” all the time. I’d do the same thing if I met the Brad Pitt from Snatch. Except I’d make him say “dog”.
(Sorry, America’s northeast. It’s going to rain tomorrow, if that’s any consolation. Oh and Washington wants me to tell you that it’s terrible here and it rains ALL THE TIME. ; ] )
Speaking of rain, I made my very first chocolate cake last week just in time for Valentine’s Day. I rarely talk about the food I make while writing my posts but I was really excited about these guys. I’ve been trying to understand baking more as a science lately and less as a magical end result-producing thing. That’s how I do linear equations and I’ll be damned if I’m taking that habit to the kitchen. Stay, linear eqs! It’s a wonderful feeling to set out with a plan and have it work out.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Well here I am, telling you in my loudest inside voice – that you can make this chocolate cake. You can use two kinds of chocolate, the barest of baking essentials, an oven and YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. I want you to. If you feel like you want to surprise the best person of your whole life, jump on this cake. If you’re sitting on the couch in the evening watching The Mindy Project (always) and you want something deep, dark and delicious to sink your teeth into, this is that cake. If you’ve already seen every episode of The Mindy Project, OMG share my excitement!!!
Also share my excitement over this cake. Rarely does something so formulaic make me so happy. I’m a free spirit. In my mind, I’m not bound by rules. If somebody does something and calls it the coolest thing ever, I want to do the exact opposite. Formulas, yikes. Cake formulas, that I can do. I’m here to give you the basics because I had to dig up the internet just to find me a simple recipe for chocolate cake and I still didn’t see one. Simple is hard to come by in the world wide web of clutter. What I did find instead were encouraging words from Shauna on Gluten-free Girl about cake ratios.
1 part flour
1 part sugar
1 part butter
1 part eggs (which in my case, I broke it up into eggs and sour cream)
I thought: “Why not give myself a confidence boost while teaching myself something new?” It looked like an easy enough plan and so I did it. I’m happy about this chocolate cake. I’m really happy about this chocolate cake. While the rest of the internet keeps churning out flavour combinations that can blow your mind, here I am, claiming my space with the simplest of simple. The easiest party trick in the book and yet, the most glamorous. I’m hardly bragging about my chocolate cake. Instead, I’m trying to tap the non-bakers on the shoulder and say: “If I can do this you’re already on step 3 icing this baby.”
Just like we got early spring, you got this cake. As if chocolate wasn’t a good enough reason.
Mini chocolate layer cakes with dark chocolate ganache
- This cake uses four 4″ ramekins that make 2 mini layer cakes.
- The ganache cane be made up to a week in advance. Store well-covered in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Once you are ready to use it, bring it to room temperature or to a more spreadable consistency. You can do this much quicker by putting it in the microwave for 10 seconds in 5 seconds intervals. Check it to see if it’s smooth yet firm enough to frost the cake.
- The chocolate ganache recipe makes more than called for. However, this is by no means a bag thing. You can make truffles (with zillions of toppings), cookies, brownies, fudge or you can just plain eat it with a spoon. You can also freeze it for the next time you want to make a cake.
- This cake is a perfect dessert for 4 people which is why I ate almost 1 whole cake by myself. If you don’t want to be like me, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it till you want to eat it. Bring it to room temperature before you do, of course.
- You can leave out the sour cream and add another egg instead (40 gms though). Remember the eggs have to weigh a total of 140 gms.
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
- 1 tbsp of unsalted butter, to grease the ramekins
- 2 tbsp (approx) unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder, to dust the ramekins
- 89 gms (1/2 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao or higher)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 140 gms unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 140 gms unsalted butter (1 stick + 2.5 tbsp), at room temperature
- 140 gms (1/2 cup + 1/8 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs (100 gms), at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp sour cream (40 gms), at room temperature
- 2 tbsp toasted almonds, to sprinkle on top
For the chocolate ganache
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 227 gms bittersweet chocolate chips
- A pinch of salt
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and get the ramekins ready for the cake batter. Grease the ramekins with the butter and dust them with the cocoa powder. Just put a bit of the cocoa powder into the ramekin and tap the edges until it coats the whole container.
Put a small saucepan of water on the stove and heat it till the water is simmers. Place a heat-proof or glass bowl over the simmering saucepan and fill it up with the chocolate chips. Whisk in hand, stir the chocolate chips until they are just beginning to melt. As soon as the start to melt, take the bowl off the heat and keep whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.
Use a 1/4 cup of the water from the saucepan and spoon in a 1/4 cup of the cocoa powder. Mix it well until it forms a smooth paste. Set aside for later.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a stand-in mixer, your (trusty) hand or a hand beater, cream the butter and sugar. The two should combine and be light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time to the mixture, making sure that the first egg is completely incorporated into the butter-sugar before adding the second one. Next, add the vanilla extract and the whiskey and mix until just combined. Right before the flour, add the melted chocolate and the dutch-processed cocoa powder (that you mixed in hot water). Beat until the everything comes together.
Now comes the flour addition (finally, right?). I recommend doing half the flour at a time. Add the first part of the flour and beat it in until just uncorporated. Add the sour cream and the remaining flour and mix just until no visible streaks of flour can be seen. Don’t over mix. Also, don’t forget to scrape down the bowl and getting in all the flour that sticks there.
Spoon about 3-4 tbsp of the cake batter into the 4 ramekins, filling it to 3/4 level (it might take more or less batter but as long as you stick to the 3/4 level, you’ll be okay). Smooth down the top of the batter ever-so-slightly. If you have a baking sheet, it would come in handy at this point. Place the ramekins on the baking sheet and place it in the oven on the upper-middle rack for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean (if it has some crumbs on it, it’s okay. What you don’t want is the toothpick to be coated with unbaked batter).
Let the cakes cool completely before unmoulding them. Cut off the tops to with a serrated knife just to flatten the cake, making it easier to spread the ganache. You now have 4 mini cake layers that will make 2 mini chocolate cakes.
For the ganache: Put the chocolate chips in a small glass bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until bubbles form along the rim of the cream. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate chips, let it sit for 30 seconds and then whisk until the chocolate chips are completely melted into a smooth, creamy liquid. Let it cool for about 15 minutes and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the ganache for about two hours or until it turns firm.
To assemble: Spread a thick layer of ganache on top of two of the layers. Place the other two layers on top of their buddies. Spread the rest of the ganache over the entire cake. Top with toasted almonds. And enjoy!