Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chocolate Espresso Cake with Espresso Dusted Chocolate Shards

Coffee and chocolate is a timeless combination of flavors.

A love affair of bitter and sweet.

A consummation of what defines a day's inception and conclusion, for many.  For me, at least.  Coffee in the morning, and a piece of dark chocolate after dinner?  Yes, please.

One of my aunts has a piece or two of dark chocolate with her coffee every morning.  I start my days with eggs, but trading those in for chocolate instead is pretty tempting.

My chocolate espresso cake with cappuccino buttercream has been one of my most loved cake recipes I've tested on friends and coworkers, so I always know it will go over well when I make it.

This time, though, I wrapped the cake in thin shards of dark chocolate that I melted down, sprinkled with salt and espresso powder and let harden again.  The result was quite stunning.

Aren't the bokeh flecks of salt on the chocolate so pretty?

It's funny, but every time I mix up this particular cake recipe with the boiling water, I'm astonished at the thin-ness of the batter, as it looks like little more than chocolate soup poured into cake pans.

And yet, somehow, it turns into cake...

Chocolate Espresso Cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-3 tablespoons cream or whole milk, if needed
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • espresso powder
  • coarse salt
  • finely chopped nuts, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with non-stick spray.

In a the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix gently on low speed for one minute, then on medium speed for two minutes.  Batter will be very thin.

Divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 25-28 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with clean kitchen towels, and cool completely.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and espresso powder until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, mixing until combined.  Add the vanilla and whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes, until very light and fluffy, adding the cream or milk as needed for desired consistency.

Frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.  Before the buttercream crusts over, decorate with the chocolate shards.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a large cutting board or the back of a baking sheet.  Melt the chocolate and spread into an even, thin layer over the paper; the chocolate should be about 1/16 of an inch thick.  Sprinkle with the espresso powder, salt and nuts or anything else you like.

Refrigerate for 3-4 minutes, just until the chocolate begins to thicken up, but is still soft.  Drag a knife through the soft chocolate in the size and shape of the shards that you want to decorate your cake with.  If you don't score your chocolate, you can also just cut or break it into random shards, but I wanted mine to look more uniform, which is why I scored it while it was soft.  Refrigerate until completely solid again (this can be done a day in advance as well).

While the chocolate is very cold and hard, and working quickly so the heat of your hands doesn't melt the chocolate, decorate your cake with the chocolate - it will easily lift off the parchment paper.

For a pretty holiday presentation, tie a bow around the cake.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen