Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cake, Cookies and Champagne

A few weeks ago, between several pieces of nigiri and several more glasses of wine, a friend and I both mused upon the best kind of desserts.  Her list included a lot of chocolate.  It was unfortunately a futile situation that night, destined for unfulfilled dessert desires, since our favorites leaned decidedly towards the non-Japanese kind; but luckily for her, she has an upcoming birthday.  Better late than never, right?

Chocolate cake is pretty easy to do -- I'm sure all of you have a favorite recipe, and I certainly do -- but it can drift toward tedium after a while, so it was time to think of something to spruce this cake up. My friend happens to love macarons, (don't we all?) so I figured a combination of the two would likely be a winner.  And maybe some Luxardo cherries to break it up a bit. Have you ever had Luxardo cherries?  They're basically a candied cherry, but to call them Maraschino cherries seems blasphemous.  None of that candy red color or sickly sweet taste . . . they are divine (and mainly used in cocktails, but diversification is good.)

So, here we are:

Chocolate Fudge Champagne Cake
filled with 
Luxardo Cherry and White Chocolate Mousse
topped with
Chocolate ButterFrosting
Luxardo Cherry Macarons

Whew!!! That was a mouthful -- literally!  It's almost harder to say it than to make it!  

I must say, I made the macarons on a different day, because it was too much to do all at once.  Because it's a Thomas Keller recipe, I can't replicate it here on the blog, but macaron recipes are everywhere if you really want to try your hand at them. They're not hard to make; the key is to mix in enough egg whites so that the shells even out and aren't lumpy-bumpy on top.  It's not really an exact science, which is where it gets a little tricky -- mostly trial and error. And to add another wrench into the formula -- the liquidity of the mixture is highly dependent on the humidity of the surroundings.  Which is why I have a different recipe for winter than I do for summer.  (Well, at least now I do. . .)

(Not that it changes the taste of the shells at all if the meringue ratio is off-- they just aren't very pretty when they aren't totally smooth and shiny.) 

I filled the macarons with a basic buttercream, but just added 3 teaspoons of Luxardo cherry juice at the end and whipped until fluffy to give it a kiss of cherry-ness.

Chocolate Fudge Champagne Cake

Duncan Hines Devils Cake Mix
4 Eggs
1 cup Champagne
1/3 cup Butter, melted and cooled
1 small package Chocolate Fudge Jello Instant Pudding
1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Espresso Powder

Spray your pans with nonstick cooking spray.  (I used a 6 in diameter, 3 in high cake pan and a jumbo muffin tin. This amount of cake batter made enough to fill the cake pan and 4 jumbo muffin cups.) 
Stir the Champagne until mostly flat.  Add all the ingredients together.  Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to one hour for the cake; 20 minutes for the cupcakes.

Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn out onto cake board to cool completely.  Torte as desired.

White Chocolate Mousse

Beat 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream with one small package of White Chocolate Jello Instant Pudding until soft peaks form.  Chill until needed.

Chocolate Butter Frosting from Cookies and Cups
This is the most amazing frosting.  Mainly because all it is is chocolate and butter.  Yes -- it's chocolate butter.  Let that marinate in your mind for a bit.  Chocolate Butter.  It is as good as it sounds.  (And slightly off topic, but relevant I think. . . the genius blogger who though of this, posted it on her blog, referenced above.  And in the discussion, among the "OMG, I would sell my soul for this stuff" kind of comment that dominated the boards, was one that basically said "OMG, that's sooo much butter.  If you add organic honey, and 7 drops of distilled water, and lavender seeds from a farm by the sea, and 2 day old 33 degree almond milk, it would be sooo much healthier.  Because, there's sooo much butter in this. . ."

Okay, so I may have embellished the comment a little, but really people?  It's chocolate butter.  It never promised to be anything else.  And it's easy and delicious.  And if you eat chocolate butter every once in almost never, it's not going to kill you (probably.) So live a little, because this really is one of those bucket list things -- eat chocolate butter before you die.  You won't regret it.  I most certainly did not.  One regret that I did have was that because this has no stabilizing agents, the frosting is extremely soft.  Like it's just a little too soft to cover with fondant without causing a bit of a headache.  Much better for a cupcake frosting, or as a cake frosting.  You live, you learn. (But mainly you learn that chocolate butter is ahhh-mayy-zing.)

Here are my pictures to describe pretty much the easiest process ever:
Cut one pound of unsalted butter into chunks and add to saucepan. Melt. (Yes, it's a lot of butter, but it's okay.  As long as you don't sit and eat the frosting out of the bowl, which, trust me, requires more restraint than you would think.)

Add 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and whisk until melted.  Now the original recipe says whisk frequently but I whisked constantly, mostly because I didn't have any more chocolate and I didn't want to go out in the snow to get more.  No, this isn't an old recipe that I've been hoarding; it snowed two weekends ago over here.  I have the video to prove it.  I guess the polar vortex couldn't let this winter go by without poking it's nose in where it's not (ever) wanted.  But this past weekend it was in the 80's so the painful snow-in-April memory is fading. . . thankfully.

 Cool completely and then refrigerate until solid.  This takes an hour or so.  When it's completely solid, dig the chocolate mixture out of the pan and place in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip until fluffy.

Remember how I cautioned not to eat this directly out of the bowl?  Well, I take that back.  If you dig the solid chocolate mixture out teaspoon by teaspoon, you deserve some frosting goodness.  Because it is a workout!  Make sure you use a spoon that doesn't bend. . . by the end I was sweating (and remember, it was cold enough to snow.)

Voila -- isn't it beautiful!!  It tastes even better than it looks.  Light, airy, ethereal.  Like I said, it's an effort not to just eat the whole thing right out of the mixing bowl.

If your self-control wins out, set aside until you're ready to frost the cake.

Now, take your layers of choco-cake.  Place one layer on the cake board and fill with a thick coating of the white chocolate mousse filling.  Dig little holes in the filling and fill each hole with a Luxardo cherry (drained.) When all the holes have cherries in them, cover with a layer of white chocolate mousse.  Top with another layer of cake and pipe mousse in the space between the two cake layers, so that there isn't any air visible. Smooth until even. Frost the cake and chill (the cake. . . although you can chill too. . . )

While the cake is in the refrigerator, make mini roses.  These are really easy and look fairly realistic.  Here's how to do it:
Using a circle cutter, punch 7 circles from very thinly rolled fondant.  Leave one circle the way it is.  Then thin out the edge of the remainder of the circles, so that each disk is slightly larger than the one before, with the smallest disk being the one that has not been touched.  Place the circles in a line, starting with the smallest one and progressing to the largest one, which each overlapping the one before it. Press down on the overlap so that the circles stick together. Repeat the process 3 times. (I made an extra one so I'd be able to experiment a bit.)

Then, starting with the left most (smallest) circle, roll upon itself, until the entire line of circles are rolled into a cylinder. The tighter, the better. Gently cut the cylinder in half with a very sharp knife.
Frill the outside "petals" of each half to make them look as realistic as possible.  If you would like, you can add an extra petal or two (half a circle,) to make the rose look fuller. You should have six roses.

I wanted to try my hand at airbrushing, so I painted this one pink.

It turned out pretty well, but then I thought of how lovely a combination of colors would be -- so I finally settled on a base coat of yellow sheen, and a light top coat of pink.

Fondant the cake. (Note, like I said this is a super airy frosting, so when I tried to top with the fondant -- which was rolled too thin to begin with, it squashed all around and made a really lumpy-bumpy surface which was very not cool.  And then when I went to remove the fondant and start with a new sheet, it took off half of the frosting -- very, very, not cool.  I patched it up the best I could with another layer of the white chocolate mousse, which was firm enough to handle the fondant.  Which should tell you something, since the white chocolate mousse is essentially a whipped cream. . . not usually lauded for its superior stability.  So, yeah, in the future, no fondant on top of this frosting. . . )

Anyways, after the whole debacle, my kitchen was in shambles and I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. . . and I forgot to take pictures. So you'll just have to imagine it.  I airbrushed the cake with Americolor yellow sheen. Then, to match the color, I dyed the rest of the white chocolate mousse with a yellow gel food color, after which I piped six rosettes around the cake.  Between each rosette, I piped a small star of mousse.  On each small star, I placed a mini rose, and on each rosette, I stuck a macaron, vertically.  A quick sprinkle with some sugar pearls. . and then. . . the final product.

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