Sunday, January 20, 2008

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

Channning's birthday (45, btw) was coming up and he told me he wanted a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. And not the Most Awesome Cake Ever again, for variety. Fair enough.

So about a week or two before the event, we were on the couch and I decide to start an episode of America's Test Kitchen, the Cook's Illustrated show I raved about before. The episode was titled "Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake." Channing didn't bother to get up and ended up watching the whole thing with me. While not a cooking fan by any stretch, he was kind of interested in all of the segments, giving me his feedback on the host, etc. (we both agree, Christopher Kimball's not someone we'd like personally in real life, but he does a really good job with the show). When they presented the finished product, he said, "Okay, you can make me that cake." Even though it didn't have his beloved cream cheese frosting.

As best I remember, I have never, ever made a layer cake from scratch. I figured, okay, if this goes really badly, I can run across the street and get some chocolate cake mix. And if that goes badly, too, given my recent oven situations, then I can run back across the street and buy one. Since Channing has, more than once, expressed a fondness for Jewel's bakery cakes, this would be fine. Which was great to relieve the stress.

One interesting thing about the recipe is that it involves making a "chocolate pudding" from scratch, to add moistness. Overall, even with that step, it was pretty straightforward and easy. I did forget to swap out for the paddle attachment, but I don't think it made a huge difference.

The result was pretty darned good. I may have overcooked it just a bit, making it a little drier than they intended. It tested undone at 30 minutes and instead of adding 5, I may have added as much as 10 minutes, because I forgot to set the timer and got distracted. But all in all, it was fine. No emergency runs to Jewel needed. I was even able to remember the errors in frosting from the last cake and this turned out just right.

I did go ahead and make a traditional cream cheese frosting (i.e. no chocolate added). I've had issues before with it not being smooth enough, with some bits of cream cheese that didn't get mixed (which is easier to see when you make it chocolate - i.e. when it's not all ivory white colored). I made absolutely sure that the cream cheese was up to room temperature and soft before I started and it turned out great.

(Recipes to be scanned and posted soon. I promise).

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