In the meantime, I've been busy with cake: last weekend I made two dozen chai tea latte and red velvet cupcakes for a birthday party, this past week I was asked to make a Black Forest cake, and this week I have an order for a red velvet cake for Thanksgiving delivery. I'm not exactly rolling in profits, but cake makes people happy, and I like making people happy, so I like making cake.
Layer cakes are my nemesis. Put a piping bag in my hands and I can serve up some drop-dead gorgeous cupcakes. Pie crust? A snap. Layer cakes, though, refuse to unmold themselves from pans; layers become lopsided; crumbs leap out of the frosting despite my careful attempts at "crumb layers." This week I learned that I clearly need to work on my whipped cream frosting; the cake has sort of a "stucco" look to it; charming, to be sure, but not quite what I was going for. I stopped trying to smooth it out because I didn't want to ruin the sides entirely. I wanted to post this cake today, and in a momentary lapse of sanity, I almost Photoshopped the side of it to make it look smooth and even.
Then I thought, what am I doing?
There's been a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately, it seems, about people's self-portrayal of perfection online, in Facebook and in blogs. It's true that I am my father's daughter, and I am a perfectionist. But it's also true that the blogs I like reading the most, and the people I feel closest to, are the ones who honestly portray flawed lives, who experience the range of human emotion, who meet adversity and have to figure out what the hell they're going to do next. Because that's really what the adventure is about, isn't it? Loving what is, even as it's falling down around your ears?
The holidays sometimes produce more stress than joy, because of expectations (yours, theirs) of perfection. This week, I'm reminding you to go easy on yourself. Life is not a Norman Rockwell picture or a Martha Stewart magazine layout. And if you have to excuse yourself from the Thanksgiving table, pull up a chair over here. There's a lopsided, but really delicious, piece of cake waiting for you.
Black Forest Cake
Devil’s Food Cake (recipe below)
cherry filling: 1 14.5-ounce can tart cherries (drained) + 1/4 cup cherry preserves + 1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)
whipped cream: 2 pints heavy cream + 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch, divided
1 ounce shaved, semisweet chocolate (use vegetable peeler on room temperature chocolate)
Bake and cool the Devil’s Food cake layers.
Prep the cherry filling.
To make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip cream and confectioner’s sugar until stiff. Place in the refrigerator.
To assemble the cake:
Place the first layer on your base.
Spread a very thin layer of cherry preserves on the cookie bottom. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream over the cherry preserves.
Carefully place the top layer of cake, top-side down, on the whipped cream. Brush the cake with 1 1/2 tablespoons of kirsch.
Spoon half (for a triple decker cake) of the cherry filling evenly on top of the cake. Top with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of whipped cream. Top with the remaining chocolate layer, bottom-side up. Brush the cake with the remaining kirsch.
If you have three 8 inch layers, repeat the steps above with your last layer.
Pile most of the rest of the whipped cream on top of the cake (save a cup or so), and gently spread the whipped cream to cover the top and sides of the cake. Fit a pastry bag with a large decorating tip, and fill the bag with whipped cream. Pipe a rosette on each eighth of the cake.
Place the maraschino cherries on a clean kitchen towel to drain, and pat them (as dry as possible) before placing one in the center of each rosette. Decorate the top by piling the shaved chocolate in the center.
If you have any whipped cream left, pipe a border along the bottom edge of the cake.Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. Use a long, sharp knife, and wipe it off with a damp towel between slices.
|(thanks, Mia, for sending photos of the sliced cake!)|
Adapted from Kathleen King’s “Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook”
Makes two 9-inch cakes or three 8-inch cakes
2 1/4 c. cake flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. salted butter
2 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 oz. good unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. boiling water
2 t. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour two 9-inch or three 8-inch springform pans or round cake pans (I used cocoa powder instead of flour).
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the melted chocolate.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk in three stages, ending with the flour. Add the boiling water and vanilla. Mix well, but don’t overmix. (The mixture will be VERY thin.) Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pans on a wire rack, and let the cakes cool completely in the pans before unmolding. (If the middles dip a little, the cakes are still OK.)
Once the cakes are cool, you can wrap them in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator.