Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chocolate Lover's Birthday Cake!

Okay, I must admit, I'm starting to be a cake junkie. 

My definition of a cake junkie: One who makes cakes just because. One who makes cakes for birthdays. One who makes 2 cakes for birthdays. One who makes cake and eats it just for funzies. (Insert my name).

Here's another celebration cake for my brother's birthday recently. Who doesn't want chocolate cake for their birthday? Of course everyone does!
Chocolate Lover's Birthday Cake!
This was a chocolate-based cake, using my favorite dense and moist chocolate cake recipe found here, here, and here. With this cake, I decided to go bigger, 9-inch round cake big.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
(Recipe adapted here)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder
  • a pinch of table salt
  • 4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
Directions: In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the room temperature butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together the powder sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the butter 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between additional cups. Incorporate well. While the mixer is on, add 1 tablespoon at a time of cream until you have a nice smooth and fluffy consistency. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until set. Remove from refrigerator when ready to frost cakes. 

This was one of the most complex cakes I've ever made. So bare with me, there is a lot of steps to this cake. But that being said, it was also the most fun and gratifying cake!

This tutorial is full of tips!!! It will make your life easier.

I started with the cooled 9-inch round cake and sliced it in half using this cake slicing tool. 
The tool sliced the cake in half well, and I was able to separate the 2 halves without breaking
I'm actually really glad I bought that tool, I don't think I would've gotten the same results with just a knife.

Making this cake was a little bit easier than the last cake I made seen here because I picked up a lot of tips for myself to make my life easier when decorating cakes. Practice makes perfect, right...

Tip #1: Make sure you have good cake.
Tip #2: Make sure you have good frosting.

The rest of the tips are just optional from here on out...

Tip # 3: Have the right tools: cake pans, cake slicer, offset spatulas, chopping board, good hardy knife, cardboard cake rounds, parchment paper, rotating cake stand, large glass measuring cup, and other basic baking tools you may think of...

Tip #4: When slicing the cake in half, make sure you are on a level table or counter top. Measure where you want the cake to be split using the cake slicer, and maintain a level eye when maneuvering the tool across the cake. The whole point is to get an even looking cake.

Once you have the 2 halves. It's time to assemble the cake.

Start by placing a cardboard cake round in the center of the revolving cake stand. Then place 4 thin even-cut strips of parchment paper around the edge of the cardboard round. Then place the first layer cake on top of the parchment paper, like this...
Tip #5: The parchment paper trick is helpful when achieving a smooth trim on the bottom of the cake. When it's removed  at the end, the bottom trim of the cake looks clean with smooth edges. 

Next, using and offset spatula, add a dollop of frosting onto the center of the first cake layer and spread evenly allowing for excess frosting to spread to the edge of the cake.
 Then, center the second layer of cake on top of the frosting.
Seal the crumbs on the sides of the cake using more frosting. Cover the whole sides of the cake.

Tip #6: Take your time with covering the sides of the cake, this is where most of the crumbs will be disturbed if not done gently. Add more frosting than necessary. It is easier to remove excess frosting later.

After the edges are covered, place another dollop of frosting on top of the cake, allowing for excess to spread to the edge.
Tip #7: I used 2 offset spatulas to get this cake as smooth as my powers would allow. The large spatula I used for spreading the frosting evenly on top of the cake. The small spatula I used for the edges/sides of the cake, which gave me more control.
When I got the whole cake covered with frosting, with minimal amount of crumbs as I can get, all I did was even it out. 
Tip #8: It's important to keep the spatula as level and as steady as possible while turning the rotating cake stand. It's a lot of multitasking, but it's the most important step in order to get a smooth looking cake. This is when it is really helpful to have the right tools. 

But once you are happy with the way the cake looks, refrigerate it for at lest 30 minutes to let the frosting set. Once you see the frosting set, remove the parchment paper from the bottom edges of the cake and see how smooth the bottom trim looks! Then, place the cake back in the refrigerator for at least another hour to continue setting.
Meanwhile, work on the decoration! Make the ganache! See instructions here. The only thing different this time for the ganache, 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1 cup Ghirardelli 60% dark cocoa baking chips. That's it!
Tip #9: It's so much easier to pour ganache on to cake with one of these glass measuring cups. Especially, when moving quickly, this allowed me to pout the ganache with one hand, while I smooth it out with the other using an offset spatula.
(Too bad I don't have another hand to take a picture of that...)

For additional decoration, I prepared chocolate triangles for garnishing the top of the cake. I used only 1 ingredient, Ghirardelli chocolate chips. All I did was melt about 1/4 a cup of the chocolate in the microwave, 30 second intervals at a time, mixing in between until smooth. Then I spread it over a clean cutting board (use a cutting board that is only used for non-meat products, or else the chocolate might get contaminated). 
Let it set in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes. When it is set and hard, take a hardy knife, and gently cut triangle shapes from the large piece of chocolate. 
Okay, so a thousand years is now time to take the refrigerated cake out and ganache it!
Set up a similar apparatus like so...rotating cake stand, damp cloth/paper towel, a serving cake stand, and the cake. 
By the way, this is the fun part!!
Pour the ganache starting in the center of the cake, allow the ganache to spread on its own, until it stops, in which you may use a large offset spatula to help the ganache reach the edges of the cake. I must admit, the chocolate did get all over the place, so I just got the small spatula and cleaned up the edges of excess ganache at the bottom of the cake. But honestly, this was just for looks, because I do love excess chocolate. =)

Tip #10: Make sure the ganache is fluid enough for pouring, but not too warm or hot, because it might melt the frosting. Also, make sure the cake is straight out of the refrigerator before you ganache it, so that way the ganache is less likely to melt the frosting and makes for easier spreading.

When you're happy with the ganache. Pop the cake back in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chocolate ganache sets. 
To help anchor the chocolate triangles on the cake, take some excess frosting and place it in a piping bag with whatever piping tip you choose. I used Wilton's 1M piping tip. 
You should have something like this...
Finally, now it's time to eat cake!!!
Happy Birthday Chocolate lovers!!!

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