Sep 26, 2010

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

I am a food snob, or so I have often been told, especially by my daughters, in their more accusatory modes. And it's probably true. So not that surprising that I had a visceral negative reaction to the tomato-soup cake. Like the Ritz Cracker fake apple pie, I thought--you can do it, but why? Why substitute crackers for apples? Why dump a can of soup into a perfectly good cake? And yet, in the end I had to admit that it makes a very good, classic birthday-party-type all-American chocolate layer cake.
Also--I'll admit it--after the demanding diva Ms. Apple Charlotte, it felt good to get back to solid ground. Quick and Easy. The most difficult thing about making the ganache is chopping the chocolate. I thought I'd try the non-food-processor method because some people prefer it, but after chopping chocolate for a half hour and then still ending up with a few crunches in the ganache, I'm a food processor believer.
Whatever your method of choice, this haute-cuisine-sounding ganache just required you to mix lots of chocolate, lots of cream, and about a quarter-can of tomato soup. (I used mostly 62% Scharfenberger, with a little leftover
70% and a little milk chocolate to balance that out).
It soon turned into a richy, chocolatey (if a little runny) mixture, and I gave it a taste. Delicious....oh, but what's that aftertaste? It tastes like tomato soup.
Another taste. Yup. Could definitely taste the soup, and decided to take it on faith that the flavors would mellow out in the time it sat. I have finally learned my ganache make-ahead lesson. It takes more than a few hours for it to get to spreading consistency, and there's no way to rush it. So I made it in the morning and then got to the cake after eating dinner.
This cake is so easy! Mix together cocoa, four eggs, vanilla, and a can of soup. Jim had to use artificial light for these pictures and had a lot of trouble getting the colors of the egg yolks, cocoa, and soup.
The butter--almost a pound--is gradually added to the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda. Okay, the soup may give this recipe a demerit in my book, but massive amounts of butter? Wipe away the demerits; add extra credit.
Then the chocolate soup mixture is added gradually. The batter is lovely: thick, fluffy, and lots of it.
I tried to weigh the batter so I'd have layers of the same height, but I got confused by the tare button, so just decided that close was good enough.
It took about 30 minutes for the smaller layer to bake and about 35 minutes for the larger one. This is why I like to weigh and wish I weren't so easily confused by numbers.
It was closing in on 10:00, and I told Jim he was going to have to eat a slice of chocolate cake before going to bed. I thought he might grumble because he gets up so early, but he showed little reluctance.
And we were at the moment of truth where I had to test the ganache again. Oh ye of little faith! When will you learn to trust the master? Not a hint of tomato soup flavor, no matter how intently I tasted.

I am by no means a first-class icer, but this ganache was pretty easy to work with. It started getting a little sticky after a while, and I decided that I was at the point of diminishing returns, so I pronounced it good enough. I have a friend who insists that we'd all be much happier if we followed the "good enough" rule, although, truth be told, she's kind of a perfectionist herself.
I decided not to bother with the cookie decoration. Although I think it would be very impressive, I wanted to have just chocolate cake without the crunchiness of cookies. Also, I was running short of time--as usual--and just wanted to taste it.
A piece of this cake made a terrific bedtime snack. If you like to drink milk with cake, this would be the kind of cake you'd do it with. The cake is rich and moist, with a fine but sturdy texture. No discernible tomato taste. The ganache is rich, and does not at all remind you of a bowl of soup. Together, they're dynamite.

Jim: "Good cake. A light texture. I didn't taste any tomato soup, so I wasn't grossed out. It's not as good as a flourless chocolate cake, but I liked it."
(Jim told the two other people on the tasting panel that there was a mystery ingredient).
Jan: "I don't taste any mystery ingredient. Just chocolate cake, and I like chocolate cake."
Laurel: "There's pepper in the cake, isn't there? It's good." (I thought pepper was a good guess because it has subtle spicy undertones).


faithy said...

looks yummylicious to me! I too thought the addition of tomato soup sounded a bit weird though...

evil cake lady said...

i like the way you frosted your cake! it looks very rich and decadent. i'm glad you found this cake to be better tasting than it sounds. phew! i would love a piece of this cake for a bedtime snack tonight...but if i wait until 2 am i can break into my apple caramel charlotte!

Mendy said...


Your version looks really tempting. Kudos.

I like how Jim did not 'grumble' when he had to taste the cake.

Vicki said...

The cookie addition is cute but I like how your cake looks plain; a very rich, decadent chocolate cake. I wondered about the crunch factor, as well, although if any more cookies are snitched out of the can I won't have to worry.

Sarah the Bear said...

Marie, your cake looks rich and delicious! You were smart not to bother with the cookies--they were expensive and didn't add to the flavor of the final product. I'll have mine in tomorrow!

Andrea said...

Your cake looks delicious. I'm glad to hear that no one could taste the chocolate. I'm looking forward to cutting into mine this afternoon.

Katya said...

Sometimes good old fashioned chocolate cake is where it's at. I think I prefer the Devil's Food for texture, but I don't quarrel with chocolate cake.

Hanaâ said...

I like that you made your cake without the cookies (wish I had gone that route; would have saved myself a LOT of trouble). Your ganache is nice and shiny. I guess good things do come to those who wait. I ran out of patience. I waited for 3 hours, it was still runny, so I gave up and made whipped ganache instead. None of us could discern the tomato flavor in the cake or frosting (I hadn't told anybody beforehand). It was an interesting project :o)