Sunday, May 23, 2010

chocolate ganache cake

I would consider this my go to chocolate cake- the recipe never fails (thank you, Ina), it can be made in advance, and the ganache is to die for. I regularly make this cake for birthday's, including for 75 plus guests at my father's 60th birthday. Probably the height of my commitment to this cake was for my sisters bridal shower. I should preface this by saying that when I got married, my older sister hosted the loveliest most thoughtful bridal shower for me. Additionally, she is ridiculously smart, hardworking and continues to be my biggest cheerleader and most thoughtful friend. So, when she was engaged, I was determined to have a charming party for her. One small obstacle is that I live about a 3 hour plane ride away. I was scheduled to arrive 4 hours before the party and was fully resolved on not having some grocery/warehouse store crisco sugar frosted pink roses cake nightmare (I am just going to say it: I hate those things. I realize that someday when I have kids and they request a batman/spiderman/strawberry shortcake themed cake, I may feel differently, but I will revisit my prejudice then). I made two of these chocolate cakes the day before, wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap, and purchased a cake box from a local bakery to set on my lap during the flight. (It was an early morning flight, and several of my fellow passengers, while sipping cups of coffee, asked me if they could have some of whatever was in the bakery box. They were politely denied). I also made the ganache the day before and poured it into small tupperware containers and stowed them in my carry on suitcase. When I arrived for the party, I simply microwaved the ganache and poured it over the cakes. Totally worth it.
The recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa.

 Chocolate Ganache Cake

1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 16 oz. can Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour

1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 8-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. (Yes, I know this is a bit tedious, but really fully worth the time investment to avoid that terrible moment when the cake does not come out of the pan.)

2) Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.

3) Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cake will be tough.

4) Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the pan.

(This really is the best stuff ever. A spoonful of it straight from the fridge has been known to change the outlook of entire days.)

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz good semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1) Cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

2) Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze.

3) I generally leave the cake undecorated. However, as you can see from the picture below, a small jumble of blackberries is rather pleasing against the sheen of the ganache. Ina Garten also recommends candied violets or gold leaf.

3) The frosted cake should not be refrigerated. However, unfrosted, the cake will keep well for up to a week when wrapped tightly in plastic and stowed in the fridge. I would not recommend making the ganache too far in advance, as small spooned out scoops tend to stealthily dwindle the amount of ganache in direct proportion to the length of time it is left in the fridge.

cream cheese poundcake

This is the cake that I make most often and is probably my favorite recipe. Whenever I make this cake, I think of my mother and sisters. I almost always make it when they visit, as it keeps well over a few days and is just perfect for breakfast or a mid-day snack.
It is charming in an Anne Shirley-y sort of way. To me it is the perfect pound cake as the cream cheese helps keep it dense without being dry (a crime too many pound cakes commit). It is vanilla scented heaven and brilliant with any variety of berry sauce (raspberry coulis, fresh sliced strawberries, stewed blueberries etc...). If the need to dress it up arises, one can certainly add a glaze but mostly I think it is swell the way it is.
The recipe is from a friend who taught me all kinds of things about entertaining, hosting, and being gracious. She served this cake at afternoon tea parties. I believe it is originally from a cookbook that was a collection of bed and breakfast recipes.

Cream Cheese Poundcake

1 8 ounce package cream cheese (room temperature)
3 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Note: do not preheat the oven. This recipe calls for placing the cake in a cold oven.

1) Butter and flour a standard size bundt cake pan.

2) Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Beat in sugar.

3) Alternately add 2 eggs, 1 cup flour until all are added. Blend in the vanilla. The batter will be a lovely pale yellow and rather thick. Pour and spoon the batter into the pre-greased bundt pan. Take care to level the batter out.

4) Place in a cold oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes.

5) When it is finished baking it may still look a little stick on top. It's fine. The bottom (or top in this case) will always be a little sticky and my husband swears it's the best part of the cake.

6) Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. Then run a butter knife around the edges and pay special attention to the center as the cake seems to rise and get a bit stuck around it. After 30 minutes, flip out on to a wire rack to cool.

This cake will keep for several days if wrapped well and left at room temperature.