Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Best Chocolate Cake

I have the recipe for the best chocolate cake.  Yes, that is a BOLD statement, but I truly believe that it's a TRUE statement.  If you made this cake, you would understand where I am coming from.  For me to consider a chocolate cake to be really good, it has to meet a certain criteria.  Here is my criteria for what I believe constitutes a good chocolate cake:
This is what my best chocolate cake looks like
  1. A good chocolate cake should not be a mere vehicle for frosting or butter cream.  A good chocolate cake should be able to stand on its own.
  2. A good chocolate cake should have depth of flavor.
  3. The only after taste a good chocolate cake should have is chocolate.
  4. A good chocolate cake should have a fine crumb.
  5. A good chocolate cake should be moist, and remain fresh if properly stored, for a few days (if you hide it from your husband the masses).
  6. When a good chocolate cake is baking, it should fill the air with an aroma that stops people dead in their tracks and makes them think they have died and gone to heaven.
  7. When you eat a small piece of a good chocolate cake, you contemplate each bite and nothing else in the world matters.
  8. When my husband eats you eat an even bigger piece of a good chocolate cake, you break out in a  chocolate sweat, right between your upper lip and your nose.
  9. A good chocolate cake makes your mouth feel happy.
Last weekend we were invited to a dinner party and I volunteered to bring dessert.  I did not not know everyone attending, so I thought it safe to bring one chocolate dessert and one non-chocolate dessert.   The only chocolate cake I considered bringing was this Chocolate Guinness Cake.  The Guinness and the little bit of molasses, not to mention the brown sugar, give this moist cake a deep, complex flavor. Yes, it was the right choice.

Chocolate Stout Cake
adapted from  Fine Cooking 61, pp. 46  December 2004
This cake makes a big bundt cake, 12 mini bundt cakes, or about 18- 24 cupcakes 

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness or other stout of your choice
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, measured then sifted
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, not dutch processed (Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa works fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 ounces of dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Hershey's special dark chips, chopped)
Ganache Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Extra butter and cocoa to prepare your pan. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Position rack in the center of the oven
Butter a 10 or 12 cup bundt pan, then dust with cocoa.  Tap out any excess.
Pour Guinness and molasses into a small saucepan and heat over high heat until it begins to simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly while preparing the batter.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
Cream the butter in a large bowl on medium speed for one minute until light and smooth.  Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture alternating with the Guinness mixture, starting with the dry mixture and ending with the dry mixture.  Scrape sides of bowl and then mix on medium speed until blended, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the finely chopped chocolate.

Spread batter into the bundt pan.  Batter will be thick.  Bake for 45-50 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If you are making mini bundts, bake for 35 minutes, cupcakes for 25 minutes.
Test cakes for doneness with a wooden skewer or cake tester.  Insert into center of cake; it should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.  When done, set pan on rack to cool.  Be careful not to remove from pan to early. Cool for 30 - 40 minutes.
Invert onto rack and gently remove pan.  Let cool and drizzle with ganache when cake is still slightly warm.  If you are making small cakes or cupackes, they freeze well.  Do not freeze with ganache.  Add ganache to defrosted cakes before serving.

Making the Ganache
Bring cream to a boil in a small heavy pan.  Remove from heat and add the semi sweet chocolate chips.  Let the chips melt in the cream for about a minute and then whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Let cool for 3 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds.  You may want to flavor ganache.  I add a little Jamison's Whiskey for a St. Patricks Day cake.  Some Grand Marnier or Kaluha  also adds a nice touch.  Just add a tablespoon to the hot cream if you want to add a flavoring.  Drizzle the slightly warm cake with ganache.  Let ganache set and serve at room temperature.
Pour yourself a tall glass of milk or a cup of coffee....cut yourself a slice of heaven, and get lost in a chocolate experience.  It meets all the criteria.  See for yourself.

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