May 5, 2009
You will never hear the words, “When I cook I am…. clean, meticulous, wary, careful or non-destructive” come out of my mouth. This is because I am none of those things. I am destructive and messy. I have covered myself in flour, dropped red food coloring gel into the carpet, and lost a tray of deviled eggs because of my two left feet. When I am done creating in the kitchen, Alex will jokingly take a match in the danger zone under the ruse that he is going to burn it instead of clean it.
So last week, when I got my first real cake order, I prepared myself for more of the same. But it never came. Sure, my first Betty Boop lost her arm and the first cartoon bubble was missing a word but those were minor mistakes and easily fixable. The fact that the recipe was missing instructions on when to add the sugar and the first layer almost went without, it was no match for my cunning skills. One lick of the spoon and I knew what happened.
I was on the home stretch with an almost flawless victory under my belt, and then it happened. My face was a little funky from the hours of work in the kitchen; there was a little of this and a smidgen of that splattered across my cheeks. I searched the kitchen for something to help with my problem and I picked up a damp paper towel from the growing pile of discarded ones on the counter. I wiped my face vigorously, excited about clean complexion that was coming. Around the thirty second mark, I realized my mistake. I had picked up the paper towel I used to grease my cake pans and had just greased my face with the buttery remains.
Gross. I felt gross. After 3 face washings, still gross. Telling this story now, gross. So maybe from now on, I will start paying attention. Or maybe not because, quite honestly without these stories to tell, life might become a little less gross, but it would definitely be a lot more boring.
Inspiration and Recipe come from Sass and Veracity
For the cake…
2 c. sugar
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. natural unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 lg. eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. boiling water
For the filling…
7 oz. sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 c.)
4 oz. chopped almonds (about 1 c.)
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 T vanilla
1/4-1/2 c. heavy cream
For the topping…
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (1-1/4 c.)
10 oz. semisweet chocolate
3 T light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the coconut on one baking sheet, and the chopped nuts on another. Bake for about 15 minutes or until coconut is just beginning to brown and nuts are aromatic. Remove from oven, and stir, then set aside.
Turn the oven temperature up to 350 degrees F and prepare two 8″ x 3″ cake pans by lightly oiling, lining the bottoms with parchment, oiling again, then lightly dusting with flour. Set them on a large cookie sheet if you can. Heat some water to the boiling point — you’ll need to add it to the batter.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt. Whisk a few times to blend well. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients, and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the mixture and mix well.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and place them in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center is clean after removed.
Cool the layers in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove them and cool on the racks completely. When the layers are completely cool, cut each in half horizontally to create four layers. Remove all parchment.
To prepare the filling, after removing the cake layers from the oven, turn the temperature up to 425 degrees F. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a casserole dish that will fit inside a larger pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan to reach half way up the sides of the casserole. Cover the entire set up with foil and seal well. Bake for 45 minutes. At that point, remove the foil with extreme caution as steam will be released, and check the water level. Add more hot water to reach half way up the sides of the casserole again, seal well with foil and place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. The milk should be thick and the color of a rich caramel. Stir, and keep warm and covered.
To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate in small pieces, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the corn syrup. Reserve 1 cup in a bowl and place it in the fridge to thicken, about 1 hour. Stir well occasionally until it reaches a spreadable point. Keep the remainder of the chocolate mixture at room temperature.
To assemble the cake, mix the dulce de leche, most of the coconut (save some for decoration if you wish), nuts and vanilla and stir well. The mixture must be spreadable. Pour in just enough heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency and mix well.
Place the first cake layer on a piece of cardboard cut for the cake, or the removable metal bottom of a cake pan and place it over a baking rack set above a baking sheet to collect excess glaze when the topping goes on. Divide the filling into three equal quantities. Mound 1/3 of the filling onto the first layer and spread with an offset spatula that has been dipped in water. Continue until all layers are assembled.
Cover the sides and top of the cake with the chilled chocolate. If it’s too firm, put it in the microwave for 5 seconds and stir until it softens, but do not over use the microwave or you’ll ruin the chocolate. Make sure the warm chocolate is pourable, reheating over an extremely low flame briefly, and then stirring until glossy and smooth. Pour over the center of the cake, and with an offset spatula, gently push it to the sides and over, smoothing as you go as little as possible. Warm water to dip the spatula in works wonders for this. Allow to sit until the chocolate is finished dripping, and remove to a cake platter then refrigerate until serving. To slice, warm a knife in hot water.
– I did not need all the coconut and almonds to make a filling for the cake. I used the remainder as topping.
– The cake is very moist and was probably not the best for sculpting but it was very very very good.
– The dulche de leche took longer then an hour and a half. I tripled the filling and it took about two hours to get to the right color.
– I never added the vanilla to the dulche de leche. I am realizing that now while re-reading the directions but the filling was perfect. It was caramel rich and delicious without it. So it is up to you.
Cindy, Alex and I all tried the components separately. Cindy made a mini cake of the leftover pieces and claimed it ethereal. I thought the cake was exactly as amazing but still very rich. Milk would probably be a requirement.
I have had nothing but glowing reviews from the party the cake was made for. The birthday girl was over the moon and everyone had more than one slice than night.
There are many elements to this cake but it comes together quite nicely. The chocolate ganache frosting was some of the best that has come out of my kitchen.
Betty Boop Instructions
I bought gumpaste from our local Michael’s. The cake was a last minute kind of thing and I didn’t have time to make some.
I colored the gumpaste with Wilton’s color gel. I colored it to match her complexion. Then I rolled the gumpaste thin. I used my pasta roller to get the gumpaste as thin as possible. I took it to the 1 setting on my pasta roller.
I laid the gumpaste over the coloring page I had printed out and painted/traced her. I used the Wilton color gels to make paint. I took a half of teaspoon of the color and a couple drops of vodka and mixed it together. Once I painted the outline, I cut her out with an exacto knife. After she was cut, I painted the rest of her.
She dried within 2-3 hours (because she was so thin). Be very careful. Gumpaste is very fragile. The first Betty can tell you about that; I mean once she gets her arm back.