Sep 14, 2009
I have an oral argument before the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday. Whenever I have one of these arguments, I get obsessive about going over the record and trying to fine-tune my argument and think of any possible question that I might get asked. So I had to make something that didn't take a lot of time. On the other hand, Jim was hosting a little pre-high-school-reunion party at our house Saturday afternoon, so I wanted something a little festive for his old friends. The marble velvet cake looked like it fit the bill. Or filled the bill. According to Google sources, "fill the bill" is the correct idiom, and it originates as an expression from theater, as in, adding lesser-known entertainers to the "bill," so it looks more impressive.
But on to the cake.
Well, not quite. First, I have to talk about my nifty new appliance attachment--the Beater Blade. I got an e-mail from Gary Fallowes, the president of Beater Blade, who said that Rose had asked him to send me a Beater Blade, and he was just checking my address. I had never heard of a Beater Blade, but I was more than willing to accept a free gift. Here's a picture of it:
And here's what it does:
It wipes the side and the bottom of the bowl while it's mixing the ingredients. This isn't a big deal when you're making bread dough, but when you're baking cake, it is a big deal. Perhaps every fifth sentence in any given recipe is "Scrape down the sides of the bowl." It's a nuisance. I mean, it's not like global warming, but it is a nuisance. If you have this Beater Blade, you can ignore all sentences beginning with "scrape down."
Honestly, it's inventions like this that make me think there's hope for this country yet. I know, I know, it's just a mixer attachment; it's not a cure for cancer. But I love it when someone sees a need for a product and starts tinkering around and then starts manufacturing it. It's the American happily ever after story (until some big conglomerate buys up the little company and sucks the soul out of it, but that's another story).
And now, really, on to the cake.
If you make this cake with the optional ganache glaze, which I highly recommend, you'll melt chocolate in two different ways. The first chocolate, for the chocolate part of the marble, is melted either in the microwave, in 15-second bursts, or over hot water. I like the microwave method.
Put the chocolate aside to cool, and quickly whisk together a mixture of egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla.
The most fun part about making this cake involved--in case you couldn't tell--watching the Beater Blade turn flour, sugar, butter, and sour cream into a smooth batter in seconds. (Watch out that you don't turn it on too high--especially when you're mixing the dry ingredients, if you have the mixer on at anything above the lowest speed, you'll be sprayed with flour.)
And adding the egg mixture turns the white batter into a lovely creamy color.
It is a bit harder to scrape off the batter sticking to this new-fangled blade than it is from the older one--that was the only disadvantage I could see, and it's not a big one.
The now-cooled chocolate get mixed in about a third of the batter.
The next step--layering--is also fun. (You might think that I don't get out much or that I have a very loose definition of the word "fun," and both of these things might easily be true. But I make up for it with all the things I don't think are fun: watching American Idol, for example, or going to Twins games. So it all averages out).
Start with one-third of the plain batter, then top with half the chocolate batter.
Plain, chocolate, and end with plain.
Then, yet another fun thing to do--creating the marble pattern. (Also remember that when I wasn't baking cake, I was working on my oral argument, trying to figure out what question they were going to try to stump me with, so baking the cake seemed a lot more fun than if I were comparing it to, say, a gondola ride in Venice).
You just take a regular tablespoon and gently fold it through the batter, maybe six or eight times. Then smooth the top again--this time you'll see the marbling.
The cake takes nearly an hour to bake at 350. I baked it at 315 in my convection oven, and it was done after 50 minutes. I always worry that these long-baking cakes will get too brown, but there was no problem.
At this point, you can either serve the cake as is or you can add the ganache glaze if you want to "dress it up for special occasions." I say, don't save the ganache glaze for special occasions, or, in the alternative, tell yourself that eating the ganache glaze is a special occasion in itself. Although the cake is very rich and flavorful by itself, the ganache isn't gilding the lily. Its burst of pure chocolate enhances both cakes and lends a note of sophistication to the homey marble.
Besides, it's fun to make. This time the chocolate gets pulverized in the food processor
and slowly melts when boiling cream is poured over it.
After it's melted and gently stirred, it's poured through a small strainer. You could probably skip this step, although it does make the ganache completely smooth.
I never do that well with things that are supposed to look artlessly casual.
When it was cut, the cake showed pretty marble patterns. It was dense, but very moist and tender. To me, marble cake often seems like a compromise, designed to please everyone but making no one really happy. But this cake was more like a happy marriage--a joinder of equals who don't fight, but make each other better. And the ganache--it makes a good marriage blissful.
I will be gone next weekend, so there will be no Labor Day cake.
Bill: "Can I just say that I really, really, like it, or isn't that clever enough? And are you going to say that the entire tasting panel was drunk old codgers?"
Tom: "I like the texture and the moistness--there's a nice balance. When you have this firm texture, you often have a dry cake, and this definitely isn't."
Jim: "I especially like the ganache."
Bob: "I really like the crunchy crust part. This is a cake you want to savor."
Posted by Marie at 7:01 PM