Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Own Raspberry Layer Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

When I search for a recipe on google, which gets no exact hits, just those hits google thinks 'you might have meant instead', I get worried.  Maybe everyone in the 'know' knows it would be a terrible idea.  Maybe those flavors just don't mix.  Maybe I misspelled 'cake'.

But, it turns out, sometimes I have ideas.  Ideas people haven't written thousands of recipes for.  Ideas that actually come from me and my culinary self. 

Like: Raspberry Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Now, I know what you are thinking: of course recipes for this exist out there.  Let my testify: you will find armloads of recipes for Chocolate-Raspberry Cake (like this one I did last year), or recipes for Raspberry Torte, or all the kind of cupcakes your heart could desire.  But, listen up google, while I love chocolate based cakes, I wanted something lighter, and while I love tortes, they aren't layer-y, celebration-y enough, and though I'm somewhat fond of cupcakes, they can never ever replace a cake.  What I really wanted was a layer cake, where the layers were raspberry cake and the frosting was dark chocolate.

So, I, much to my chagrin, had to come up with a recipe... of my own.  By which I mean, I pieced together and tweaked other recipes, but still, I felt pretty triumphant by the end.

For the cake layers, I took my cue from a three-layer strawberry cake (thank you, smittenkitchen).  But, it was a small crowd (and a small oven), so I slimmed it down to two layers, and swapped out the strawberries for the raspberries.

Before the steps, here's a tip.  If you don't happen to have 'cake flour', you can make your own.  Just mix 7/8 cup of regular flour and 1/8 cup cornstarch.  And instantly you have 1 cup of cake flour.

After you whisk together the dry ingredients, its time to put together some raspberry puree.  If you are smart (which I was not) you will use a 12 ounce bag of *defrosted* raspberries to get 1 cup of raspberry puree.  Do not attempt this with (a) frozen raspberries (you can't get them through a sieve)

or (b) 1 cup of frozen raspberries (you will never ever get 1 cup of sieved puree from that).

Unlike a lot of cakes, where you begin by creaming your butter and your sugar, for this one, you just throw the butter and raspberry puree in with the dry ingredients from the outset.

But, come on, how charming is the color of this batter?

I couldn't get over it.

Next, beat up some egg whites with milk.  Then, fold some of those eggs whites into the batter, to lighten it up.

Fold in the rest of the egg whites in 2 more additions.

Pour into two butter and parchment-ed cake pans.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

Let rest and turn out after 10-15 minutes.  Let cool for at least an hour, and then you can frost away.  Unlike last time I attempted to frost a cake (and did so with the elegance of a 5 year old),
this time, I surrounded the bottom of the plate with parchment, which I could then drip onto all I wanted, and remove when I was done.

It worked great.

Garnish with some raspberries.

And, this is important, while the cake will be...
...very good without extra, fresh raspberries...

...if you serve it with even more raspberries, it will be perfect.  Really, the extra bites of fresh raspberries brings out the somewhat subtle raspberry flavor in the cake itself.  So, they are a must.

 There you have it: my very own Raspberry Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

Raspberry Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting (adapted from smittenkitchen)
For the cake*:
3 cups cake flour**
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup pureed raspberries (passed through a sieve)***
5 extra large egg whites****
1/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons milk
Fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line with parchment and butter the paper.

But the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl.  Whisk together.  Add the butter and raspberry puree.  Mix to blend the ingredients.  Raise the speed to medium, beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and milk.*****  Add the whites to the batter in three additions, scraping the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake for 30-34 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the layers to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  Invert and turn onto wire racks and peel off the paper.  Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

For the dark chocolate ganache frosting (I've used this before)
8 ounces fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate1/2 cup heavy cream (aka heavy whipping cream)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Finely chop chocolate. In a small sauce pan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (30-40 minutes).

Frost the cake, garnishing with fresh raspberries.  Serve with more fresh raspberries.

*I did two layers for this cake, but if you want to do three, follow the smittenkitchen's measurements
**If you don't have cake flour, substitute 7/8 cup all-purpose flour and 1/8 cup cornstarch for 1 cup of cake flour
***I used 12 ounces of frozen raspberries, pureed them in a food processor, and then pressed them through a sieve to remove the seeds.
****Technically, it should be 5 1/3 egg whites, so I attempted to add 1/3 of an egg white, but you might be fine if you just did 5.
*****I'm not quite sure how much you are supposed to whisk the egg whites.  I'm sure soft peaks would be fine, but I just went for really very frothy.
******This makes some extra frosting

Friday, October 14, 2011

A purist fig preserve

First of all, I realize most of the country is now transitioning to that season called 'fall' where the leaves are turning and your are getting in the mood for apples, pears, and pumpkin baked goods; however, it was 100 degrees where I live yesterday, so the feel of summer is still lingering on.

Which makes this post about fig preseves not seem completely seasonally inappropriate.

Last year, I made Thomas Keller's Fig Jam from Ad Hoc at Home, which was absolutely wonderful: the figs were steeped in balsamic vinegar, there was a sachet of spices added... really a lovely fig jam.  But, a very assertive fig jam.  Perfect for pairing with meats and very strong cheeses, but this year, I wanted to try something a bit softer, that show cased the figs and figs alone.

But, the danger I find with all store-bought fig jams I have ever tried is that they are tooth-achingly sweet.  Figs are already incredibly sweet on their own; why drown out their subtle sweetness with pounds of sugar?  Seriously, the recipes I have been finding for fig preserves call for 2 pounds of sugar for 2 pounds of fig.  I decided, as with almost all other preserve recipes I know, to drastically cut the sugar.  Yes, this means they won't last for years, but isn't that just a reason to make more fig preserves next summer?

For this recipe, I opted for 1 cup of sugar for 2 pounds of figs.  The only other ingredient is a squeeze of lemon juice to try and balance out the sweetness of the figs.  The result is a very subtle, but intensely figgy fig preserve.  Perfect for a cheese board, but also a very pleasant spread for toast or biscuits.  It probably wouldn't pair with meat as well as the Keller jam, but, then again, there are worse things than a pantry stocked with an excess of preserved figs.

To make these, start with ripe figs.  This is actually the hardest part, as figs are only in season in the last summer early fall.
Next, quarter the figs.

Put them in a Dutch over, and toss them with 1 cup of sugar.

Let them sit for 30 minutes, until the liquid from the figs has mostly dissolved the sugar.

Next, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, but stir frequently.
Eventually the figs will begin to break down, and gain this lovely, lush deep purple color. 

But, you will need to find a way to get the figs to break down.  Sure, you could cook them for hours and hours... OR, you could break out the 'secret weapon' of canning: the potato masher.

Seriously, by mashing the figs with it (or apples or whatever you want to be broken down in your jam) you will achieve a much better consistency.

Eventually taste the preserves for sugar, and add a squeeze of lemon to cut the sweetness a bit.

After 30 minutes or so (or after it passes the plate test), you are done.  Put the preserves and sterilized jars.

And, you will be able to enjoy that taste of late summer in the seasons to come!

Fig Preserves
2 pounds of ripe figs
1 cup of sugar
1 lemon

Quarter the figs.  Put in a Dutch oven with 1 cup of sugar.  Let stand for 30 minutes, until most of the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a boil, over medium heat.  Stir frequently.  In order to achieve the right consistency, at the end, use a potato masher to mash the figs.  At the end, add a squeeze of lemon, to taste.  Once the right consistency and taste is achieve, put the preserves in sterilized jars.

Makes about 3 1/2 half-pint jars.