photo by Anthony Palatta
I'm getting a reputation.
Last month, I brought a strawberry cake to one of my writing classes for a student's birthday. This month, three students who have birthdays got together and made a request: CHOCOLATE!!!
I'm more of a lemon guy myself, but I know that I'm in the minority here, so I've found a few chocolate recipes I can always count on, like this simple yet astoundingly good Martha Stewart recipe for one-bowl chocolate cake.
I made two 8-inch round layers, and then split these in half. I also made a simple syrup (1 cup sugar, 5/8 cup water brought to a boil, plus a tablespoon of creme de cacao) and brushed it on the cut layers. I shouldn't have bothered. Martha's cake is moist and delicious enough without it.
The last time I made this cake, I paired it with a simple buttercream frosting. This time, I decided to experiment with a recipe for chocolate buttercream from Warren Brown's cookbook Cakelove. I ended up with the most delicious icing I'd ever tasted.
In a large bowl, mix 6 egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar (Brown calls for superfine sugar), 2 tbsp of potato starch (I'm not sure what this does, but Brown swears by potato starch), and 3 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder. In a large saucepan on the stove, bring 2 cups of milk and 1 1/2 cups of sugar (superfine is preferred) to a boil.
Slowly whisk the milk into the yolks until combined, then pour the new mixture back into the pan and return to the stove. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles. Boil for one minute, then pour the mixture into a stand mixer bowl and whip (with whip attachment) until it's cooled to room temperature. Brown says this takes about 5 minutes. Try 10. It's important that your mixture is cool or the frosting will go all runny on you.
Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low and add 1 pound of unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pats, one pat at a time, plus 2 teaspoons of vanilla. When it's all in, whip on medium speed until smooth.
The results are creamy and light, with a rich chocolate flavor that's not overly sweet. The buttercream can be a bit wet at room temperature, but firms up like butter in your fridge, so you want it to be slightly cooler than room temp, but not cold. I'd say it's best to frost and serve the same day if you can, though I served mine the day after and the results were fine, though I'd have liked the frosting to be a bit firmer.