Sep 14, 2009

Marble Velvet Cake

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."


Anonymous said...

Oh my! I can almost taste that cake from your superb description. I was happy to recently get a e-mail from Amazon saying that Heavenly Cakes will be shipping early. I can't wait. I will have to go back and re-read your posts so I will know what to bake first.
Thanks, Barbara

Julie said...

Lovely cake, I especially like the photo of the slice that shows the marbling and the texture. I laughed at the comment from your taster, Bill, regarding their state of mind... hee hee.

Re: Heavenly cakes shipping- I keep checking Amazon to see if mine is on its way yet, I've heard those who bought from Barnes & Noble are already receiving theirs!

Have a nice Labor Day!

hector said...

Marie, from your choices of recipes, I have the impression you have baked all Cake Bible cakes and are now choosing what is missing! At last, this marble cake must be the one common marble cake but with the melt in the mouth texture fine crumb only Rose knows how! This is global warming, book warming part... Goo job!

Marie said...

If the books are shipping early, I'd better print my third recipe ASAP!

Thank you--this Labor Day will be the first weekend I've gone without baking a cake since June. I'll be in withdrawal by the time I get back.

Good guess, but wrong. I've baked only two cakes from the Cake Bible (because I thought they looked so hard--that just shows how wrong you can be!). This is indeed a Rose kind of marble cake!

hector said...

Good job! Mispelled.

I will be making the golden almond lemon cake next month which is now! What brand of sourcream do u use if it makes a difference? The regular kind with all the emulsifiers and stabilizers, or Daisy brand with just pure milk cream? This is the same cake as the daisy pan cake I think. I made the grand marnier chocolate chip cake last month and it was a bit denser than what I am used to, with some pockets of pastiness. We think is due to grinding the almonds too fine. Or perhaps on my tropical weather, syruping the cakes right off the oven and while still on the pan is to be avoided? I always notice my butter cakes are never dry even if overbaked and leaving them in the pan after baking for konger than 5 minutes does create a bottom layer of paste!

Also wanted to tell you that I used my Julia Child movie gift card for the nordicware heart fluted pan and this marble cake should fill this is almost sensous to see swirls of chocolate thru vanilla in a heart.

Making lemon roses like there is no tomorrow for this next cake, and after that I promise to rest!

Today was frustrating, driving around to find some white marble to top my 2 small work tables, and been treated like when buying a new car. Why can these pietra people be so snob sometimes?

On the subject of book sale, just a friendly reminder if you like Rose' new bread DVD (the same on youtube, but better quality), to follow my order instructions and get your DVD ASAP. Been sending quite a few and need to deplete my copies to make room to the cake DVD...


Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Yet another cake to add to the Must Try category. :)

Marie said...

I usually use Organic Valley or Daisy sour cream--I don't know if it makes a big difference in the cake, but I like their taste. I can't wait to see what you do with your new Nordicware heart pan!

I have to take the rest of this cake into work tomorrow--otherwise, I might violate my one-piece rule.

Melinda said...

I need that mixer blade! Cool. I was asking Rose about the mixer blade when she was here. Nice to see it in action.
The marble cake looks very swanky and arty. Bootiful, as they would say here.
Good luck on your supreme court thingy...take a cake.

doughadear said...

I read about the beater blade on Rose's blog and thought it was the greatest invention since sliced bread. I may be going a little overbroad here but if you bake cakes you know how fabulous this attachment is especially if you don't like scraping the bowl. I will have to find out where I can get one in Toronto.
Marble cake is a particular favourite of my husband's and this one looks very nice especially as it is made with sour cream which always makes cakes taste great. I am actually impressed by the men's comments as they will usually just give you a thumbs up.

Marie said...

Thank you for wishing me good luck! I can use all the luck that's thrown my way. I think you'd love the Beater Blade--assuming you go back to baking. I know you said you'd bake for other people, but what's the fun in that?

Just click on Beater Blade in the post, and it should take you to the website where you can order it. I'm one of those people who don't like scraping the bowl, so I was very keen on it.
The men were good tasters, and they weren't even drunk.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

if you've put as much attention and detail into your oral argument as this posting you should have great success tomorrow!

just back from the epicurean event in michigan and happily exhausted but before unpacking had to see if there was a new posting. thanks for warning us next week or i'd feel so let down.

you gave such valuable information about the beater blade and the description of the marble cake....your postings are like a book within a book and jim's wonderful photos! i wish they all could be printed out into a go along with book! they are positively brilliant, entertaining, and invaluable.

doughadear said...

Thank you Marie, I will do that.

Anonymous said...

Good luck today Marie! According to the blog, people are already receiving copies of the new book.

Marie said...

Baking is certainly more immediately satisfying than oral argument. Imagine baking all day and serving someone only to have the person give you an inscrutable yet grim look and announce that they are taking your dessert under advisement and will issue an opinion in due course. That's what happens at the end of an oral argument. (Well, except that the justices don't say "dessert," of course).

I got my copy today! I was so excited, but I had planned to post my last recipe just before the book came out, so my timing was a little off.

jini said...

well, you have sold me on the beater blade. it looks like a most essential tool. i hope all went well with your court appearance.
i am home and trying to catch up with everything here. i'm also missing a certain california family like the dickens!

Marie said...

I guess I couldn't claim the BeaterBlade is in the same category with food and water, but it's definitely nice to have.
I think you're going to have to spend more time in CA than ever before--not too much of a hardship!