Saturday, March 26, 2011

Filbert-Me-Up with a Lot of ChocALot Ridiculous 9-Layer Birthday Cake

The title of this posting is long, silly, and basically over-the-top. Exactly like this cake. Although, the cake wasn't really too silly. It was completely extravagent and totally delicious. For something so outrageous, it was incredibly perfectly balanced both in textures - rich and moist without being heavy or dense, and flavors - sweet and chocolaty but velvet down the throat.

The inspiration for this cake came from a delicious Delaviuda chocolate bar my aunt gave me for Christmas, which she purchased at The Spainish Table - a delighful Spainish imports kitchen, cooking, and grocery store in Seattle. The candy bar was 10.5 ounces of solid (unscored/unsquared) rich and creamy hazelnut-flavored chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate - and I ate the whole thing myself. The individual layers sort of slid apart as I bit off a chunk, but still melted together into the smoothest sweetness imaginable with a touch of richness from the nuts but without that sometimes overpowering hazelnut of some Italian pralines. I was closing in on the last few bites,  I was struck with a vision: build a cake on the same foundations as this chocolate bar: hazelnut, white chocolate, and dark chocolate. I wish I'd thought of that in time to save some for garnish!

Instead, I polished off the little that was left, and made a pilgrimage downtown. Between the special trip to the specialty market, paying for parking and paying for imported chocolate, this was one expensive candy bar. But I can only say four words about it. It worth it.

Now that my muse was in hand, my task was to create a cake that would match the silkiness, glamour, and delight of the original bar. The concept was clear in my head - I would make three cakes: a nut layer, a white layer, and a chocolate layer, and sandwich them with frosting just as the bar is constructed. But which specific recipes will complement each other without conflict, without overpowering each other, and without being simply too extravagent?

I used the Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible, the Moist Buttery Nut Cake (using hazelnuts) from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, and a plain vanilla cake made with oil and just egg whites (the yolks will turn the batter yellow.) I filled and frosted it with a whipped ganache made from milk chocolate and flavored with Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), and glazed with bittersweet chocolate ganache (all the chocolate bars I used were Lindt, creating appropriate mixtures between the milk, 55% bittersweet, and 70% bittersweet bars.) The crowning glory of course were curls of the Delaviuda Tres Chocolates bar, and simple roasted hazelnuts.

Each cake recipe made two 9" layers, and I only needed one each (the rest are in the freezer -whatever will I do with them???) Because it was a birthday cake, I made it all the more dramatic by cutting each layer into three thin layers, and alternating them stacked in the same order as the chocolate bar. The entire cake was frosted with whipped ganache, to create a smooth surface for the ganache glaze.

Needless to say, only thin slices of this cake were required, but even so, and even though it would be unfair to call it anything other than rich, it was surprisingly light, balanced, and entirely delightful. It needs nothing to accompany it other than a toast of good cheer, lots of friends to share it with, and a cup of black coffee.

Moist Buttery Nut Cake
by Nick Malgieri, from "How to Bake", page 275
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
2 cups all puropose flour
1 cup (about 4 ounces) ground nuts (I used hazelnuts this time, but I've also made this cake with almonds)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Grease and line with parchment two 9" round pans.
Preheat oven to 350.
Beat butter and sguar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine flour, nuts, baking powder and soda. Add 1/4 to butter mixture, and alternate with 1/3 of milk. Repeat, ending with flour, until well combined.
Pour batter into prepared pans ande bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans 5 minutes, then invert and cool completely.
This cake stays moist for a long time.

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