“I eat cake every single morning. I go into the bakery, I pour a cup of coffee, and I have a piece of cake… and I don’t ever want to wake up any other way.” – Chef Owner Meg Ray or Miette Bakery in San Francisco.
This quote has stuck with me for years. I believe cake has a place in our lives. I got bitten by the cake bug when I was little. My mom used to decorate them for special occasions and for all of our birthdays. In my teen years I decided to learn how to decorate cakes and would do so as often as I could. To much chagrin my family didn’t love having cake at every turn. It started with simple American Buttercream Icings. It then evolved to a commercial icing product called Pastry Pride. Then I settled into a whipped cream frosting. After the initial bombarding my family with cake all the time it scaled back to just on special occasions that I would do a cake… but there was a problem. I was more interested in decorating techniques than the quality of the cake or the icing.
As I got to the end of the teen years I shifted from cakes to cookies and cakes were the rare occasion. It wasn’t until meeting my husband that cake came back into focus. He is absolutely a cake person. He is also VERY opinionated when it comes to cake. The moistness, the crumb, the delicate flavor, and the icing. All have to be just right or you can see it on his face. Don’t get me wrong he’ll eat so-so cake but when it’s spot on it’s bliss for him.
The first time I made him my white chocolate torte with lemon curd, raspberries, and a whipped cream frosting he was in a state of bliss. This gave me all the encouragement I needed. The issue was the portion of cake the was typical. Not many people have the appetite for a “standard size” piece of cake after a meal. So cake stayed a special occasion thing. I kept thinking to myself who doses a petite woman who runs a bakery and eats a piece of cake every day stay so petite? That question moved to the back of my mind for some time.
Wanting to expand beyond one amazing cake I went back to my cookbooks, I went back to me clippings, and I looked online. I started to think about flavor and quality of ingredients. This first stop in this journey was to find a chocolate cake. One that was rich and decadent. One that when you took your first bite you succumbed to what good chocolate should taste like. This took me to finally trying a recipe out of Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s most charming pastry shop.
The recipe I landed on was Double Chocolate Cake. This rich moist cake was a combination of high quality cocoa and 70% cacao chocolate. The first time I made it my husband and I were blown away. It was super moist and chocolaty. Instantly I knew I had a winner. I will disclose this cake has a lot of steps and is a bit of work but it’s so worth it.
The Chocolate Cake Recipe:
- 7 ½ ounces All-Purpose Flour
- 4 ½ ounces Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
- ¾ teaspoon Salt
Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl and set them aside.
- 2 ounces Cacao Chocolate, 70%, coarsely chopped
- 8 fl ounces Boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and let sit for 15 minutes, then whisk smooth.
- 8 fl ounces Buttermilk
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla
Mix the buttermilk and the vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.
- 2 Jumbo Eggs, room temperature
Place the eggs into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium until frothy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle the oil in, making a thick emulsified base. With the mixer still on low slowly add the sugar. Once all the sugar is added raise the speed to medium and until light and fluffy.
- 4 fl ounces Canola Oil
- 15 ounces Granulated Sugar
Stop the mixer and add the melted chocolate. Turn the mixer to low and fully mix in the chocolate. With the mixer running on low slowly add the buttermilk mixture.
Take the liquid base off the stand mixer and add the dry ingredients. Fold in the dry ingredients until you don’t see any more flour streaks. The batter will be lumpy. Pass the batter through a fine mesh sieve using the back of a rubber spatula to work all the lumps through the sieve.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 9-inch pans, either square or round. Grease them and line them with parchment. If you prefer you can also butter the pan and dust it but as always with chocolate cake dust with cocoa not flour.
Divide the batter between the two pans. I had about 716 grams per pan. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes just until a tester inserted comes out clean. Try not to over bake. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling wrack.
Prepare your frosting. In the cookbook it’s simple referred to as European Buttercream. I have made this icing twice but find it problematic. After doing some digging around on the internet I am fairly certain most people would refer to this recipe as Italian Buttercream. There are also French Buttercream’s and Swiss Buttercream’s. The next time I do this cake I am thinking I will do the Swiss Buttercream as it’s recipe is much less fussy. For this post I will give you both recipes.
For the European Buttercream:
- 400 grams Granulated Sugar
- 2 ⅝ fl ounces Water
Add both ingredients to a small sauce pan. Attach a candy thermometer. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir the sugar gently with a rubber spatula just until it is absorbed into the water. Bring the sugar to 248ºF.
While you’re getting your sugar to temperature:
- 5 Large Egg Whites
- 1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
Place in a bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment. Begin whisking the whites until foamy.
As soon as your sugar is at temperature pull from the heat and slowly pour into the egg whites as it’s beating. Keep the mixer on low to keep the hot sugar from splattering out of the bowl. Once all the sugar is added raise the speed to high and whip for 5-10 minutes until the egg whites are stiff and shiny and the temperature is 70-75ºF.
- 1 ½ pounds Unsalted Butter, room temperature
With the mixer on medium start adding the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. The consistency will change as you add more and more butter. Don’t worry about it if the frosting looks like it’s curdling just keep adding the butter. Once all the butter is added beat until silky smooth. Then add your flavorings. Start with adding:
- 2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
If making Raspberry Icing add 3 ounces of raspberry juice per cup of vanilla icing. If you’re making this whole batch raspberry you’ll need about 9 ounces of juice. Add 2-3 ounces at a time and taste as you go. Depending on the raspberries ripeness and variety you may want more or less.
- 246 grams Fresh Raspberries
- 1 fl ounce Water
- 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Gently stir your raspberries as they cook until they have all broken down and liquefied. Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove the pulp and the seeds. This will yield about 3 ounces.
A few notes: OK, so I had issues with the melted sugar mixture cooling too quickly. It seemed like there was a lot left in the pan. In the cookbook she also says to pour it from the pan into a heat proof measure and slowly pour into the egg whites. This cooled it even more and splattered sugar to the side of the bowl and the top of the whisk. In short it was a very messy process.
Knowing there had to be better technique to making this buttercream I googled around about European Buttercream only to learn about all the different kinds. In doing so I stumbled across Chef Alan Tetreault, of Global Sugar Art. He has a Youtube Video showing how to make Swiss Buttercream. Seeing his technique I was highly encouraged. By doing this recipe rather than the one I had done it would have addressed all the issues in heating the sugar and safely getting it into the egg whites as well as getting it fully incorporated. So if you are wanting a silky smooth, light and fluffy icing this is what I would try next.
For the Swiss Buttercream:
- 240 ml Egg Whites
- 454 grams Granulated Sugar, superfine is better
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla
Place the egg whites, Sugar, and Vanilla in a bowl of an electric mixer.
Place the bowl over a pot of hot steaming water. (Not boiling, just steaming.) Whisk occasionally until the temperature is 140º – 160ºF (5-10 minutes). The consistency should be smooth and creamy.
Place the bowl on mixer, whip to stiff peaks (5 – 10 minutes). Hold a cold flexible ice pack on the bottom of the bowl to help chill the mixture. (If you don’t have an ice pack that’s OK it will just take a little longer to lower the temperature of the icing. (You want the temperature of the icing to be in the low 70’s. Once the egg and sugar mixture is whipped and cooled start adding the butter and then the shortening 1 tablespoon at a time.Once all the fat is added mix for another 1 ½ minutes. Should look VERY light and fluffy.
- 454 grams Butter (1 pound)
- 270 grams Shortening
You can do all butter if you prefer but do it partially butter and shortening will give better stability to your icing and won’t be so prone to melting in warm temperatures.
Stop the mixer and add:
- 390 grams Powdered Sugar all at once.
Cover the mixer loosely with a towel and turn on to a low speed. Once the powdered sugar is worked in raise the speed to high and whip for another 2 minutes. At this point you can add any flavorings you would like.
The reason I like this recipe: This recipe still uses the same principles as the European in that it’s a meringue that you add melted sugar to and then cool and add the fat. However, where it differs is that it’s not done in a separate pan. I like this both for clean up and it means the full amount of sugar makes it into this recipe instead of leaving a bunch in the pan and in the measure. It also warms the bowl. This is important so that when you go to whip the sugar and the whites you’re not immediately hardening sugar to the side of the bowl. In the end this recipe seem much less stressful and messy.
So, I started this post about having cake every day and my quest on how to make that possible. The answer is in portions. Starting with the shape of cake I make. I now pretty much only make square cakes as they are much easier to portion and serve. I always do a 9-inch square. Next is icing. I rarely ice the sides of my cakes. This makes all the pieces uniform and consistent in how much icing you’ll get.
Then it’s time to cut the cake. I cut my cakes into 16 pieces (After it’s been able to chill overnight in the fridge. This will make it much easier to slice and handle.) I then put single pieces into airtight containers and freeze them. Every morning I pull one out of the freezer and put it on the counter. By the time we’re done with dinner It’s at the perfect temperature.
I then take that one 2-inch square of cake and slice it in half. This gives me two perfect sized servings. They weigh usually around 2 or 2 ½ ounces and they are a few small bites. This is perfect for after dinner and at the end of the day. It’s that little sweet treat. Kind of like the “cherry on top”. By doing this my husband and I can have cake everyday. Using high quality ingredients means that I don’t need huge pieces as each bite is going to be exceptional. This also means that one cake will last my husband and I 16 days. So we go through about 2 cakes a month. As a cook and a baker I love this! I can always be working on a new cake, I can keep them seasonal, and I can grow my skill set!
So now I too can’t imagine a day without cake.