Monday, January 25, 2016

The Silver Palate's Chocolate Cake

The introduction to this cake recipe talks about its "incredible simplicity." As someone who rarely makes cakes, I think any recipe that requires me to whip egg whites until they have stiff peaks, fold in egg whites, melt chocolate with boiling water, and cook icing on the stove top doesn't qualify as incredibly simple. It's not that any of these tasks are so difficult, but I've made simpler cakes from scratch on the rare occasions that I've made them.

However, I'm not in this for the simplicity. In fact, I'm in it for what is different from what I've tried before as I hope the techniques used will produce a result which will surprise. After all, there's no point in doing what I've always done as it'll just give me what I've always had.

I've been craving a really lavish cake lately, and by "lavish", I mean something with good frosting. It is extremely rare for me to make such a cake and I tend to rely on supermarket bakeries when I get a craving. The reason is, in part, because they are more reliable when it comes to decent frosting than me. Mine always turns out tasting like powdered sugar and has a grainy texture. My frosting is also often too heavy. Part of the appeal of this recipe for "The Silver Palate's Chocolate Cake" is that the icing is made from chocolate chips and is cooked. That, to me, signaled an increased chance of something which didn't taste like my usual sub-par frosting attempts.

I followed the recipe precisely as stated except for two small changes. I don't have a tube pan, so I made two round layers. In accord with this change, I reduced the baking time to 30 minutes so as not to dry them out. The timing was perfect and the cakes rose well. They have substance without being too dense. They lack the overly hole-y look and texture of a cake mix cake, which I was happy about.

Because I had two smaller cakes, I stacked them in layers and spread a thin amount of the icing on top of the first layer before adding the second one. My cake looked like this:

Don't judge my stacking. I hurt my finger and manipulating anything is tricky. I kept getting icing on my latex-glove-protected, bandaged finger while trying to do this as it had to stick out all of the time. I think that the amount of icing is about right when the cake is made as a double layer one. However, it would have been more decadent with more filling. My husband felt that the proportions were exactly right for the amount of cake so that's quite a solid endorsement. The man likes a good cake to icing ratio.

One thing I can say about this cake is that the quality of both the baking chocolate and the semisweet morsels you use really matter. I used Trader Joe's baking chocolate because it was what I had, but I was impressed with its flavor when I tasted the batter. It's also easy to use if you don't have a kitchen scale as it is a box with four individually wrapped one-ounce portions. I used Nestle's semisweet morsels (the type used in Tollhouse cookies) for the icing. I think both worked well, but I wouldn't scale any lower on the chocolate scale than the Nestle's morsels and think that Ghirardelli's or some other high quality brand would be a good idea. If you use cheap chocolate, my guess is the flavor will suffer, but the texture will be fine.

This is a great chocolate cake that is worthy of the accolades it gets in comments on the recipe page, though I'm not sure what all the fuss is about using salted butter. Someone claimed that that would "ruin" the cake, but there is no salt in the actual recipe and I used salted butter and it didn't taste overly salty at all. My best guess is, again, that the type of chocolate may be a part of this, but salted butter should work fine.

When I ate this cake, my taste buds weren't sure what to make of it. I believe this is my first experience making a homemade chocolate cake. I've made only yellow cakes from scratch and there is a certain quality to this which is cleaner and fresher that is very hard to describe in words. It won't taste like you're accustomed to, but it will taste good.

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