Thursday, October 6, 2016

Birthday Cake Bonanza (or "You want me to do what with that cookie dough?")


I say often that one of the greatest joys in my life is cooking and baking for the people I love. Today is no exception.  It is my wife’s birthday, so cake is a must. 

The road to this cake started a couple of years ago when my friend Carolyn introduced me to the baking blog SprinkleBakes.  It is full of incredibly creative recipes and techniques, one of which is the Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk cake.  I’d long wanted to try it, but for some reason, the cake itself didn’t really appeal to me.  It was the filling and the frosting that kept nagging at me.  Chocolate chip cookie dough filling and a boiled milk frosting.  (WHAAAAT? I know, right?)

Fast forward to last week when I asked my wife what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday.  She loves asking me to bake something I’ve always wanted to try, but I can be stubborn and want it to be all about her. So, like any successful married couple, we compromised.  She asked for chocolate cake and left the rest up to me.

Then it hit me.  Chocolate cake with that filling and frosting!!  It could be incredible!!

I didn’t want to fall back on my usual chocolate cake, which is a chocolate stout cake.  It’s heavy and dense and would be too much with this combination of adornments.

So I turned to the internet and found an interesting sounding cake on the King Arthur Flour website.  It’s just called “Moist Chocolate Cake.”  What intrigued me about this recipe is that it called for both butter and vegetable oil.  The description said it had a fine, moist crumb that you could pick up with the back of your fork, which is something both my wife and I do to clean the cake crumbs off the plate.  Perfect, I thought.  That is it.

The cake turned out light and yet had a very tight crumb.  And the method of mixing was very odd to me. I’ve never come across a cake that you mix like this one. I was so confused that I started mixing it wrong. I sifted all the dry ingredients into a bowl and set it aside.  Then I was flummoxed by the fact that I couldn’t get the butter and vegetable oil to mix until it looked like sand (read the recipe. Have a laugh at my expense). Because I couldn’t get that the recipe wanted me to dump all of the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl, then add the butter and vegetable oil (interesting, right? Both butter AND oil) and mix it until it looked like sand.  Then add all the liquid (coffee, milk and vanilla) in one fell swoop.  And lastly, add the eggs one at a time (at least that seemed normal).

The cake turned out beautifully.  It was amazingly light and a tight, even crumb. Mine turned out a little crumbly because I used spelt flour in deference to my wife’s wheat sensitivity. But with regular cake flour, that’d be a stunningly unique cake. Definitely putting this one in my arsenal.

And then we come to the filling. Chocolate chip cookie dough? Really?  Oh, yeah, baby. Really.  Thanks to SprinkleBakes, a wonderfully creative baking blog, I saw this as a possibility for the first time. It’s pretty much regular cookie dough, but without eggs or other leavening, then thinned with heavy cream to spreading consistency and speckled with mini chocolate chips to make it easier to spread.  Oh my gods, it is good. I have a little leftover…I may have to put that in some ice cream.

The most unfamiliar item in this cake equation was the frosting. Boiled milk frosting. I was intrigued. Such a strange recipe. Frosting with flour in it?  What? 

You start with a little flour, some milk and salt. You cook that until it gets thick, kind of like a b├ęchamel without butter. Then you let it cool while you beat AN ENTIRE POUND OF BUTTER and two cups of confectioner’s sugar and some vanilla until fluffy.  Then you add the flour & milk goop, which is now actually the consistency of pudding a tablespoon at a time, beating it well.  When it’s all together, you beat it for 6 minutes.  Magically, in that time, the grit of the sugar disappears and the frosting comes out light and smooth and tasting like vanilla pudding. And it’s so beautifully white.  It’s alchemy, I swear.

And the combination of the cake, the filling and the frosting? Holy moly! I may have met my match.  It is so rich, even a small piece was almost too much.  Almost.  It was definitely worthy of a special birthday for the most special person in my life.

If you want to try some recipes that are a little bit off the beaten path, I highly recommend these, together or separately. 

For the cake, look at the King Arthur Flour company’s recipe for their Moist Chocolate Cake: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/moist-chocolate-cake-recipe

For the filling and frosting, check out the SprinkleBakes Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk cake recipe here: http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2015/05/chocolate-chip-cookies-and-milk-cake.html

On another note, it feels good to be back in the saddle. Stay tuned for some more regular thoughts on restaurants and cooking and baking and other food related stuff.  Thanks for stopping by.