Aug 29, 2010

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

I was hoping for cooler, more chocolate-appropriate weather this weekend, but the thermometer is heading up toward 90, and who knows whether it will stop there. Even though a rich, heavy chocolate cake was not on my tempting-foods radar, I was unreasonably excited about it because it gave me a chance to use to new Fat Daddio's cake slicer and leveler. I don't think that Cooks of Crocus Hill has ever had a customer who carried on the way I did after asking if they had a cake slicer in stock. It turned out that they'd just received it the day before, and I was the first customer to buy it. They are probably thinking they should have ordered more. But before I could find out if the slicer worked better than my shaky bread knife, I had to bake the cake.
The cake is pretty easy. What makes it different from other chocolate cakes is that it's got a lot of butter, but one of its other ingredients is a small amount of canola oil. Compared to the German Chocolate Cake, it has a little less cocoa dissolved in the same amount of water, fewer eggs, more flour, less sugar, and more fat (butter plus oil vs. all oil).
I took my cake out of the oven after 25 minutes at 325 degrees on the convection setting. I didn't think it was done, but the cake tester came out empty. This is one of the first cakes I've managed to take out of the oven before it started to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Yes, I know that's what the directions say, but I usually second-guess myself and decide to bake it a few more minutes. Yet this cake, which I think achieved the perfect moment of doneness, is the only one that Jim said he thought was a bit dry.
The cake is a nice cake, but the star of this particular show is the ganache. Caramel makes me nervous for obvious reason--there's a very small window of opportunity for perfect caramel. Sometimes it's not amber enough, in which case it's not caramel, and sometimes it's no longer amber, in which case it's burnt. I dthink that this one was right on the money--if it had been left it on the burner any longer, it would have started to smell like carbon instead of caramel. I turned off the burner about 45 seconds after this picture was shot.
When you pour the hot cream into the caramel, it is suposed to "bubble up furiously," and indeed it does.
But after adding almost two cups of cream, the mixture looked like weak butterscotch, not like caramel. And when I tasted it straight out of the food processor, I thought the deep chocolate totally overwhelmed the caramel so that I figured the burnt sugary nuances would be lost.
On the other hand, I've never cut a cake so easily, so straightly, and so confidently. I'm in love with Fat Daddio's Cake Slicer and Leveler, and I want to use it every time I bake a cake, whether it needs it or not. It comes with zero directions--not a booklet, not a card, not a picture in universal cake decorating language--nada. My clever little brain figured out that if I unscrewed the feet and took them off, the wire landed at the exact middle of my cake. I used a gentle sawing motion, and got the cake cut in half before Jim could take the lens cap off his camera. I totally recommend this little gizmo.
My doubts about the cake returned when I started to frost it. As I have told myself on other occasions, "Self, remember that the ganache doesn't
become the proper consistency on a 90-degree summer day." But I was having dinner guests, and it was time to frost the cake, ready or not. Directions: "It should be the creamy consistency of softened butter." Reality: "It is like gloppy, creamy pudding."
I knew what was going to happen, and it did. The filling was okay, and my hopes lifted. (And can you see how nice and even the layers are?)
But when the ganache started to ooze down the sides, I know that this was not going to be a photogenic cake. And things went from bad to worse when I tried to remove the pieces of waxed paper from under the cake.

Oh well, I thought, there will be other bakers who will take pictures of a lovely chocolate layer cake with a ganache that is the proper consistency. But perhaps only I will have the Fat Daddio Slicer and Leveler. As seen on late night TV.
Tasting the ganache makes you feel like it merits a wine description: "Nicely integrated aroma of vanilla and dark chocolate. Flavors develop nicely and finish with lingering tastes of caramel and creme brulee. Rich mouth feel." It's a lovely chocolate cake, but it's more, and the more is the delicious caramel.
I don't know what else you should use this ganache on, but I do know that it shouldn't be limited to this cake. I also know that it might work better on a nice fall day, not in the dog days of summer.

Betty: "It melts in your mouth."
Sarah: "Light and airy. The raspberries are a perfect complement. And the ganache is phenomenal!"
James: "Yummy and chocolatey."
Jim: "Good chocolate flavor, but it seems a little dry. It goes well with red wine."


Katya said...

Now I feel lucky that I assembled it yesterday--it's hitting the nineties around here too. Butter cake or no, it went into the refrigerator case at the bakery, where hopefully it has been selling by the slice. It domed up quite a bit, so the layers were very thin, which changed the ganache to cake ratio and tilted it severely in the ganache's favor. Since the ganache was clearly the best part, though, that was no hardship.

I think yours looks good, Marie.

faithy said...

Wow..looks soo kind of cake..wish i could have a chance to make this..maybe during the free choice week..

evil cake lady said...

your perfectly leveled cake layers are beautiful! i am a little envious. kudos to you for figuring out how to work the leveler without instructions!

thanks for comparing the cake components of this one with the german chocolate. i like knowing these types of things.

great post as usual!

Anonymous said...

You'll never believe me when I tell you that I have had one of those levellers in my kitchen drawer for a couple of years and I have never used it!!! I bought it when I saw it in LIdl, a supermarket chain over here, and thought it might come in useful and it was so cheap I thought it was probably gimmicky and not much use. I shall have to get it out and try it now that you recommend it so highly! Your cake looks YUMMY, I must try that too! Jeannette.

Nicola said...

Fab leveling action. I think you have now swayed me to getting one. Although I think I could only buy it if it was called the Fat Daddio!

I feel your pain with the too soft icing and a rapidly approaching deadline. Nothing quite like watching all the filling oozing out the sides - taking crumbs along for the ride.

I made this cake this weekend, though not sure it was as successful as yours. Let's just say I am thankful for the restorative properties of ganache.

Must. post. blog. Now.

Marie said...

I didn't refrigerate my cake overnight, and I'm a little afraid to look at it now. Another 90-plus day here, so it will be moved to a colder place as soon as I have the nerve to see what it looks like.

Don't you have about three cakes lined up to make during Free Choice Week? :-)

I've bought so many kitchen gadgets that I've thought I just have to have and that don't work at all that I didn't have high hopes for this. But it does just what it says it will do. When I use it more, I may find that it's not easy to find the exact center of the cake--I can see that one layer is taller than the other--but it's much closer to an even split than I could do on my own.

Go find that leveler in the bottom of the drawer and get to work!

I like the name Fat Daddio too. Their web site says they don't sell to the general public, but I've bought their cake pans and now the leveler from stores. And I'm definitely the general public.!

Hanaâ said...

Congrats on your cake slicer purchase. Your layers are nice and even :o) As for the cake, it doesn’t look dry to me… I will be posting mine later tonight (I’ll include the Plum Upside Down Torte too). I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a 6” pan. I'm glad I did as it’s very chocolaty!

Jenn said...

Another funny post, Marie. Congrats on the new fancy tool. I'm glad you liked it!

Your layers does look very nice and even.

I made my cake last weekend and it was 90 degrees here (actually it's been mostly 90-100 degrees here all summer long). Which is why I'm so grateful you didn't schedule any buttercream cakes this summer.

Anyway, my post will be coming up tonight!

Melinda said...

I have a leveller exactly like yours. But I feel cheated because it was not called Fat Daddio's Cake leveller.
I guess they thought it wouldn't sell with a name like that in jolly old England. I think it is a huge selling point!

You cake looks delicious but a bit like me on a hot day...melting!

Marie said...

Really, how do they expect people to buy a cake slicer if they don't call it a Fat Daddio's? I think Wilton also makes one, but Wilton is not as good a name. My cake is in the refrigerator today, but I'm melting.

Marie said...

It wasn't dry at all! The tasting panel had quite a conversation about dryness, and Jim stuck to his guns, although he finally admitted that perhaps "dry" was not the word he was looking for.

Maybe we should have taken the summer off of baking, but the Heavenly Bakers are no wimps!

Jim said...

I am the least articulate one in the family. "Dry" was the only word that seemed to describe the cake; but it was a taste rather than a texture.

Monica said...

Marie... like yours, mine was a melting mess.. no amount of refrigerator timeout even help the hot mess it turned out to be.

I have those level cutter too - and every time I used them I cut the cake lopsided (!), I must totally be doing SOMETHING wrong.

And by the way, I can send you my 102 degrees your way, so we can melt together.

God, I wish I was back in 73 degree Vermont

Marie said...

Just like the Wicked Witch, we're melting, MELTING. What a world....
73-degree Vermont sounds great!

Shandy said...

What a beautiful description. I have the same worries when baking cakes. I think the cake may not be done, even when the toothpick clearly shows it is. My kitchen was hot too so I put the ganache in the refrigerator to stiffen up. Your likening the ganache to a wine description had me laughing because I was thinking the same thing and thought it was just me. The seems to have layers of flavor. BTW, GREAT cake leveler!

Mendy said...


Funny post! Looks delicious.