Sunday, January 15, 2012

German Chocolate Cake

Dies ist ein dang guter Kuchen!
{Translation from German: This is one dang good cake!

We have a winner folks. This will definitely be getting posted to the "favorites" page.
I made a German Chocolate birthday cake for one of my family peeps and all who tasted it, raved about it.... all except the 5 year old, but that's ok. We'll let it slide this time.

I learned a bunch of new techniques while preparing this cake and honestly it was very easy to do, however, it does take a long time. This here is a 4 hour cake, my friends.
{I felt pretty good about making it in 4 hours since the recipe said it would take closer to 5 ;D }
Making this cake was full of a lot of firsts for me.
First time toasting coconut and pecans.
First time using a cake level.
First time using baker's chocolate.
First time using a simple syrup.
It was great! And, again, so easy!

German Chocolate Cake
Yields: four 8-inch round cake layers; about 16 servings
(or two 4-inch round cake layers, two 8-inch round cake layers and 12 cupcakes.)
For the cake:
 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used baker's chocolate)
 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used baker's chocolate)
 6 tablespoons water
 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
 1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup sugar
 4 large eggs, separated
 2 cups all-purpose flour
 1 teaspoon baking powder
 1 teaspoon baking soda
 ½ teaspoon salt
 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
 1 cup heavy cream
 1 cup sugar
 3 large egg yolks
 6 Tbsp (3 ounces) butter, cut into smallish pieces
 ½ teaspoon salt
 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped (haha....don't forget to chop them)
 1 1/3 cups coconut (unsweetened or sweetened) toasted

For the syrup:
 1 cup water
 ¾ cup sugar
 3 teaspoons rum extract
{This makes quite a bit and you definitely won't use all of it so you could only make half or just save half in another container for later use. I would separate it before you use it on the cake so you don't get crumbs in it.}

For the chocolate ganache:
 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (to make it shiny and pretty)
 1 ½ ounces unsalted butter
 1 cup heavy cream

{Adapted from David Lebovitz's Recipe}
Make your cake:
1. Prepare your cake pans with non-stick spray and/or line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. I just used non-stick spray and the cakes slid right out. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. {I use the microwave} Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.

Wait a second... what is this "baking chocolate" you speak of?
Baking chocolate is simply cooled and hardened chocolate liquer (mixed with some fat, often lecithin, to produce a solid) that may or may not have added sugar, lecithin, and vanilla (giving the different "bittersweet", "semisweet" and other types of baking chocolate.) It contains 50-58% cocoa butter. Traditionally it is not sweetend with any sugar so it may also be known as "unsweetened chocolate", or "cooking chocolate". Hmmm.... interesting.

The coolest thing about baker's chocolate is that it comes individually wrapped in 1 ounce portions.
I thought this was awesome!

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cups of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.
4. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (P.S....I never sift)
5. Mix half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks.  I use a hand mixer. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff peaks form (peak of mixture stands straight up without bending/curling).
7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.
8. Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans (or cupcake tins) filling about half full, smooth the tops with a little shake or tap on the counter, and bake for about 45 minutes for 8 or 9-inch pans, 20 minutes for 4-inch pans and about 15 minutes for regular cupcakes. As always, test using a toothpick inserted into the center. It should come out clean. You may have noticed I often like to very slightly "undercook" my cakes so they finish cooking on the counter to ensure moistness but this cake will have so much moisture added that you don't really need to worry about the slight undercooking. Cool cake layers completely.
While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and ganache icing.
To make the filling:
1. Toast the coconut flakes and pecans by placing on a cookie sheet (I put them on the same tray) and bake at 350 degrees. (By-the-by, I used sweetened coconut because I couldn't find unsweetened. I really don't think it made a difference) Bake the pecans until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Toast the coconut until all is light brown, about 8 minutes. Stir them to prevent burning and get even browing. I removed the pecans before the coconut was done. All ovens are different so go by the smell and color more than the time. The aroma of coconut may make it a little harder to smell the pecans so pay attention and don’t scorch them. Once done, allow them to cool on the baking sheet.

Sorry about the awesome gold hue, these pictures were taken quickly
and at night....I shoud look into that
2. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the butter pieces, salt, toasted coconut and pecan pieces in a medium bowl.
3. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (a candy thermometer will read about 175°.)
4. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.) I forgot to chop my pecans before pouring the custard into them. I just spread it all out on an old baking sheet and chopped them in the goo. It worked out just fine. 

To make the syrup:
1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the rum extract.

To make the ganache icing:
To be perfectly honest, I was so confused about the concept of "ganache". I did know it was basically hot cream poured over chocolate. However, I thought it was supposed to be really thin and runny so you could dip things in it or pour it over goods but then I saw it used on desserts where it wasn't runny....I was just befuddled by the whole situation. After doing this cake I had a sort of "ah ha" moment. It came when I stuck my ganache in the fridge and it changed consistency... I feel kind of stupid for not realizing it before but apparently ganache can really be any consistency depending on how you treat it.... the temperature you use it at and how much cream you put in it. If you want a runny ganache.... add more cream or use it warm. If you want a really thick yummy rich ganache (but still soft) like the one in this recipe, "fridge it" to a spreadable consistency. If you want it fluffy like a frosting then once it is cool, just whip it! If you want it fudge like.... add a little less cream. Ah ha! It all makes sense now! I am going to experiment with this in the future because I likes me some ganache. :)

{FYI: Ganache is the French word for a mixture of equal parts (by weight) of heavy cream and chocolate. This results in a pourable ganache that will stay very soft when set. Adjust your consistency according to this reference.}
1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil using the microwave or stove. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand about a minute then stir until smooth. I recommend putting it in the fridge to help it thicken quicker, however, don’t leave it in so long that it turns almost solid (this one will). Keep an eye on it and take it out of the fridge once it is at spreadable consistency. It will take a very long time and may not even thicken enough at room temperature…. Don’t know. I didn’t wait long enough to see...
To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut cake layers in half horizontally. This is called "torting". I used a cake level for the first time and LOVE it. It was so nice and easy to make even layers. Having even layers is great for making sure your stack of cake doesn’t start leaning or become lopsided.
This is the one I used. I am sure any kind would work and it was only a few bucks.

Set the first cake layer on a cake board. Brush well with syrup along the top and sides. Don’t worry too much about making the cake soggy. A good slathering will be fine. I recommend using a brush that is only used for desserts (or at least a silicone one that is easily washed) so your chocolate cake doesn’t taste like the garlic marinade you used for dinner yesterday.

Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.

{I used two 4-inch round cake layers and torted them just in half to make the cake above}

{For the above cake, I used one 8-inch round cake torted in half}

To make the cupcakes, cut a cone shape out of the top of the cooled cupcake and eat the scrap for quality assurance purposes. Repeat for all cupcakes. Continue quality assurance monitoring as long as necessary. Save the rest of the samples in a baggie for later. Brush the entire top of the cupcake and inside the hole with the rum syrup. Spoon in the pecan/coconut mixture until it reaches the top. You can even make it look similar to the cakes by covering the whole top of the cupcake if you want.

Using a large spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the chocolate icing. When I was ready to ice the cake, my ganache was at the perfect consistency having put it in the fridge. Pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping. Use whatever tip you want. I used a medium sized star tip.

I used the same piping tip to do the decorative borders shown above and below.

The chocolate ganache is absolutely delicious on this cake and I recommend using a bunch! Use all of it, however, if you do have more than you want, drizzling it over some yummy vanilla bean ice cream is always advised. Mmmm....

For the cupcakes, I used the same tip and just did a swirly S-shaped design along the border of the cupcake. Cute!

So as I said before, I made a tall 4-inch cake, an 8-inch cake and 12 cupcakes. I knew this recipe was a success when I came home from work the next day and all but 2 cupcakes were MIA .... due to 1 person.... over 1 day.... I just couldn't do it.