Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Devil's Food Cake

It took a little trial and error, but I finally got a chocolate cake recipe that I'm happy with. I might even go so far as to call it a devil's food cake, since that was the original intent, and some of the ideas came from devil's food cake recipes.

Regardless of where the other ideas came from, the recipe that this was based on was my brownie recipe, which was in turn based on a classic brownie recipe from Food Network's site. The reason I decided to base mine off of a brownie recipe was simple: I wanted chocolate. I wanted intense chocolate flavor, and outside of chewiness, that's what brownies are all about.

I did look at several real devil's food cake recipes before I started, and one interesting one used whipped egg whites as a leavener. I thought it was interesting, so I tried it out with my brownies. I also used cake flour instead of all-purpose or bread flour, since I was going for a tender, rather than chewy texture. I also realized that the recipe yielded a dense batter, which would be difficult to leaven with egg whites, so I added a little whole milk to thin things out a bit.

What I ended up with was a nice, round brownie that was still a little chewy, and only slightly thicker than the original recipe. Looking at the recipe, I realized that it needed a few things. First of all, it needed more leavening. I decided to pull out the stops and use chemical leaveners (baking soda and/or powder) in addition to a few more egg whites. I also needed more flour, for more structure and volume, and a little more liquid. Taking a cue of other devil's food recipes, I decided to use both baking soda and baking powder in combination with buttermilk. The acidity of the buttermilk would react with the baking soda and cause a little more rise, and the added moisture would help with the fluidity of the batter. I also decided to add a little salt to help with the chocolate flavor. Speaking of the chocolate flavor, I decided that it was still way too intense for somebody to finish off a full slice of cake. Good for a little brownie, not so much for a larger cake slice.

I present to you the new ingredient list:

2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites, at warm room tempurature
1 teaspoon warm water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan (preferably 3 inches tall) and a cake heating core. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter together over a double boiler, and then remove from the heat. Mix in the white and brown sugar, and then the vanilla, buttermilk and egg yolks slowly.

You could add the dry ingredients at this point, but the baking soda would start to react to the buttermilk immediately. I decided to wait a moment. Clean the beaters with soap and warm water, making sure there is no trace of fat on them, and rinse them off. Beat the egg whites, warm water and cream of tartar together in a metal bowl until they form medium peaks. The warm water and cream of tartar should help with this.

You need to work quickly at this point, since those egg whites are probably already starting to deflate. Mix the dry goods into the chocolate mixture. This will go a lot quicker than you'd think. Then stir in about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites. This will lighten the batter a little. Fold in the next 1/3 of the egg whites, and then the last 1/3. Carefully pour this into your prepared cake pan. Make sure to use the heating core (as per the included directions)! This cake is leavened partially by egg whites, just like an angel food cake, and it needs a little extra heat in the center. But since it has a lot of other things in there for structure, you shouldn't have a problem with greasing everything.

Bake that cake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center (between the heating core and the side of the pan) comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minues before inverting out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

For those of you who licked the batter off of the spatula or the beaters, you may notice that it tastes a lot like chocolate pudding. With all that chocolate, egg yolk and milk, who's surprised? When the cake is baked and cooled before consumption, you'll find that it has decent structure that is generally only found in drier cakes, but a level of moisture that far surpasses them. In short, despite the relative expense of such an eggy recipe, this cake should be perfect for sculpting 3D cakes, as seen on TV (and in the Tutorials area of this blog).

My attempt with this recipe yielded a cake that looked like it had fallen in the center, because I did not use a heating core. Still, the cake was easily leveled and delicious when frosted with cream cheese icing. For my fellow chocoholics out there, I imagine a good chocolate frosting would do you good as well. Whatever you do with it, don't waste a good cake. Your mother would be disappinted in you.

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