It was my husband's birthday last Friday, and this was his cake. After last year's undertaking of an all-fondant cake in the form of a BMW cake for his 40th birthday, impressive as it was, fondant-covered cakes are not something I particularly enjoy. Give me beautiful, imperfectly perfect buttercream over fondant any day.
On Thursday, after an especially hard day at work, I found myself crying in the aisle of the hardware store while trying to pick out a birthday present for him. I find hardware stores overwhelming on a good day, but on that day, the prospect of making a decision seemed insurmountable. So I went home with the practical, but embarrassingly impersonal gift of a label maker for him to label and organize his tool box. At any rate, we had already decided together to buy patio furniture for his birthday, but patio furniture isn't all that exciting of a birthday gift either, and certainly not a surprise since he helped select everything.
Overridden with guilt, I started on the cake, hoping it would be spectacular, at least.
I love chocolate and cherries together, and the drama of drips of ganache trickling down the side of a cake like chocolate waterfalls. This is a dark chocolate cake, brushed with orange liqueur - just enough to hint at the flavor, but not so much as to make the cake boozy. Each layer of moist, dense cake is filled with tart cherry preserves.
A crumb coat of lightly salted vanilla buttercream leaves the cake slightly naked, revealing the dark chocolate cake underneath. I spooned ganache onto the cake, letting it run where it pleased, and finished with a few fresh cherries and shards of dark chocolate cherry almond bark.
When I had conceptualized this cake, I envisioned it with pink buttercream, but since it was for my husband, I saved the pink for another cake, another day.
Naked Chocolate Cake with Contreau and Cherries
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 cups light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 cup unsweetened special-dark cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon meringue powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons cream or whole milk
- 2-3 tablespoons orange liqueur (Contreau or Grand Marnier)
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups tart cherry preserves
- 1 1/2 ounces heavy whipping cream
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- fresh cherries, for garnish
The photographed cake is four 6-inch layers and two 4-inch layers, with enough batter left to make a single 8-inch layer to spare for a rainy day. The entire recipe yields enough batter to make a slightly bigger cake in three 8-inch and two 6-inch layers if you prefer.
This is a moist, dense cake which is ideal for soaking up the orange liqueur.
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the pans with non-stick spray.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then the vanilla and sour cream.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing until moistened. Stir in the boiling water until well combined.
Divide between your pans and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, covered loosely by a clean kitchen towel.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for two minutes until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the vanilla and cream, and whip on medium high speed for about five minutes, until very light and fluffy.
Turn the cakes out of the pans. Place the first cake on a cake board or serving pedestal. Fill a piping bag with buttercream and pipe a "dam" of buttercream around the edge of the cake. Poke a few holes in the cake with the end of a wooden skewer, then lightly brush with the orange liqueur - use about 1-2 teaspoons per cake layer. Spread the cake with a layer of the cherry preserves; the dam of buttercream will keep the preserves from spilling over the edges. Repeat with the rest of the cake layers.
Once all the cakes are filled and stacked, frost the cake all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream so that the chocolate cake shows through.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat, just until it simmers, then remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir until thick and smooth, and immediately pour over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Garnish with fresh cherries.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen