Sometimes, it's the basic things that can trip you up..... When I was working on…
Valentines Dessert Contest
About 4 years ago, we were looking for a good party/fellowship opportunity for our Sunday School class – so I borrowed an idea from a friend – have a Valentine’s Party where the men have the “opportunity” to make desserts for the ladies. Of course, we had to turn it into a competition and thus, the “Golden Spoon Award” was born. This year was the 4th annual Golden Spoon Valentines Dessert contest for our Sunday school class. As you can see from the pictures, we had a very wide variety of desserts for all to enjoy. I’ve got close up pictures of all of the desserts at the end of the post. The winner this year (for the second year in a row) was Richard R. with Phillo Cups with Orange Chocolate Mousse. Everything was incredibly good! The judges had a very difficult decision.
I was a bit rushed, so I decided to make the chocolate cake I made at Christmas with one of my favorite icings! When I was originally researching for a really good chocolate cake, I looked at my normal go to cookbooks for baking recipes. The recipes were mostly similar so I settled on one of the chocolate cake recipes out of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book. I didn’t adjust the recipe but added espresso powder to mine and changed up some of the process to simplify. I love cherries and had assisted in a class many years ago in Austin with one of my favorite restaurant chef’s – Jeff Blank. The cake was similar to a carrot cake, but he used a sour cherry cream cheese icing which was incredible! So the idea of putting together the chocolate cake with the cherry icing sounded like a great idea for Christmas, and it came out wonderful. Seemed like a good idea for Valentines as well – a chocolate cake with a pink icing. Looking through Rose’s book, there was a picture of another cake where she had used chocolate chips to decorate, so I decided a heart on top made out of chocolate chips would be another nice touch. And it almost worked – I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a pattern in the icing, but the chocolate chips were just too big to completely follow the lines. So the heart is a bit lopsided….. Carly like the idea and decided to help by adding more chips to the edge of the top and the sides.
So here’s what I did… (Note – have a LOT of pictures in this post, so I’m going to put most of them at the end……)
First, prepared everything and measured everything out. Use round parchment in the cake pans – I used to 9 inch pans and I buy precut parchment rounds since I hate cutting them out! Smear some butter on the bottom of the pan – it works like glue to hold the parchment in place before it goes in the oven. Sprayed the pans down with the baking spray that has flour in it.
I’ve made a lot of cakes that used chocolate or cocoa powder – what I liked about this recipe is that it used mostly cocoa powder, but also a little chocolate. I’ve often mixed cocoa powder with boiling water and thought that was simply to dissolve the cocoa powder. Several of the baking books I consulted included a little more information that I never really thought about before – Chocolate has a lot of similarities to coffee, chocolate is made from a roasted, ground up bean. Part of the purpose of the boiling water soak is to allow the chocolate to “brew” and develop more flavor. Makes a lot of sense after you hear that…..
The other “liquids” in this cake are sour cream and eggs (2 whole and 2 extra yolks). This all gets mixed together.
The next step was to put the dry ingredients in the mixer with the paddle and mix them well. To the dry ingredients, I added the softened butter and let that beat until well combined. I added the egg mixture. Next I added the chocolate mixture (it is VERY important to let the chocolate mixture cool, or it will melt the butter very nicely!). Now beat until I get a nice smooth cake batter. Shameless plug here – if you don’t have a beater blade for your stand mixer – what are you waiting for? These things are great! If you don’t have one, you will have to stop several times and scrape the bowl. I usually scrape it down once at the end and run the mixer a little bit if I need to.
Being a “recovering engineer,” I weigh the mixer bowl before I start and when the batter is finished. Then I put a cake pan on the scale and zero it and pour in the batter until I have half of it in the cake pan. Then put the other half in the second cake pan. Into the over for about 40 minutes – until tester in the center comes out clean and sides are beginning to pull away from the pan.
Now the really good part – off to make the sour cherry icing! Start by taking dried cherries and heavy whipping cream in a small pan. Heat the cream until the cherries get nice and plump – don’t let it boil! Set it aside to cool.
In a small food processor, I added the cherries and cream, vanilla and rum and processed until a nice puree forms – there will still be small chunks of cherry – you don’t want big chunks.
Back in the mixer, I put in the butter and cream cheese and beat with the paddle until nice and fluffy. Now I add in the cherry mixture. I start adding in the powdered sugar (Hint – use low speed – unless you just enjoy wearing powdered sugar and cleaning it up everywhere!) Keep adding the powdered sugar until the frosting is a consistency that you like. It will take somewhere around a pound of powdered sugar.
The only thing left is to assemble the cake, one layer on the bottom, cherry frosting in the middle, second cake and frosting over top and sides. Gosh darn it, you will have some frosting left over – Hmmmmm what to do with the extra frosting. Yes, I ate most of it (that’s why I can’t make this very often).
All that’s left is to slice and enjoy (I generally refrigerate to let the frosting set up, then let warm back to room temperature before serving).
Chocolatey Chocolate Cake with Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Icing
¾ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Valhrona, my favorite)
1 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Scharffenberger)
1 ½ tablespoon espresso powder
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum (Optional)
1 pound powdered sugar
Prepare everything – preheat oven to 350 degrees, spread butter in bottom of two 9 inch cake pans and line bottom with parchment. Spray the pans with baking spray with flour.
Sift cocoa powder into a small bowl and add the chopped chocolate and espresso powder. Pour boiling water over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (If it is still too hot when you need it, put bowl in refrigerator and stir often to make sure it doesn’t harden)
In another bowl mix the liquid ingredients – sour cream, vanilla extract, eggs and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients – flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Cut the butter into small chunks and add the butter to the mixer. Mix on low speed to combine, then increase speed until butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients.
Add the egg mixture and mix until well combined. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until well combined. Raise speed of mixer and beat for a minute or so until you have a very smooth cake batter.
Put half of the batter in each of the prepared pans. Level the batter by gently shaking or spinning the pans – do not beat the pan on the counter. Put in oven to bake for 35-40 minutes. Cake is done when test in center of cake comes out clean and it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. The cake will spring back when center is lightly pressed. Put pans on rack to cool. After 15 to 20 minutes remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely before icing.
To make the icing, put the cherries and cream in a small saucepan and heat until the cherries plump (the cream will thicken some as well). Do not let the cream boil. Let this mixture cool.
In a small food processor, add the cherry and cream mixture, vanilla and rum. Pulse 10-12 times until a puree forms – you should still have small pieces of cherries – if large chunks are still there, pulse a few more times.
In the mixer, put the softened butter and cream cheese and beat with paddle attachment until fluffy. Add the cherry mixture and mix until well combined. Begin adding the powdered sugar until the icing is the consistency you want – I normally use just under a pound of sugar to get to the stiffness I like.
Take one of the cakes and place on the cake plate. Cover and smooth with frosting. Add the second cake on top. Spread frosting on tops and sides. Let the cake sit for at least a few minutes to allow the frosting to set. (I like to refrigerate some). Cut and enjoy. Any remaining cake (like there will be any) should be kept in the refrigerator – allow to come to room temp before serving.
Desserts from the Contest:
Recipe Making Pictures
This Post Has 2 Comments
What a great idea….a pastry/cake contest….May I steel this idea?
I really love it!!!!!!!!!!
Why sure – I “borrowed” the idea (and the person I borrowed it from is now in our Sunday School Class….). This party is always a great time! But – you can’t get all fancy and out class my homemade trophy!