I’ve mentioned in the past that I love baking. I have been a small time baker, and I bake mainly (possibly only) for family and friends. Experimenting with new recipes (sometimes tough recipes) is my idea of a challenge.. 😉 Not to brag or anything, but my cakes and scones and cookies have been quite a hit amongst the near and dear ones. Usually, my cakes don’t live to see the next day, or even that very eve. If they vanish that quickly, I must be doing something right (or maybe everything wrong? :p). The cakes disappearing quickly can’t be taken as validation enough now, can it? Friends and family will say the cakes are good perhaps not to hurt your efforts. And me, I always loved what I baked. Not an ideal judge, am I now? The very sight of a cake baking in the oven makes me happy. And when I pull it out, and it comes out all perfect, ahh.. the feeling is priceless. So it was that I was looking for some kinda validation.
And these are how the validations came. I baked a cake (a chocolate chiffon cake with dark chocolate ganache) for a sleepover party at my friends’. And as is always, my friends lavished praises over the cake. The next day, the very little that was leftover from the night’s party went over to one of my friends’ office, and the people at her workplace were delighted with what they got to taste. So that was the first compliment from someone unknown to me, and boy was I happy! Validation #1!!! I am doing something right! After all! Now, there is this tradition at my workplace that new joinees will have to treat the other members of the team to sweets. Usually, people buy sweets and then distribute them. But then, with my growing level of confidence, I found myself baking batches of brownies to take to work (my first big batch of brownies that was). Being a new member of a team, I felt it was prudent that I be accepted and appreciated. Gosh, was I ever more nervous?! I don’t seem to remember! Thankfully, things went better than I hoped for. As is always, the initial questions were full of skepticism- ‘Who baked them?’ ‘You?’ ‘No way!’.The big box of brownies I took to work vanished in record time! What was even more satisfying was that I had people calling dibs on the last few crumbs that remained in the box! Validation #2! Now I have colleagues who ask expectantly when I’ll be bringing more brownies.
As my confidence began growing, I wanted to try my hand at a proper layered cake. And the perfect occasion came up. My parents’ anniversary. My parents are fans of the Black Forest Cake and I chose to try that. The first complex cake I was attempting. And every stage was filled with apprehensions, ‘what if’s’ and everything negative under the sky. Getting the right ingredients can always be a challenge. And then the right recipe to follow. Everything somehow fell into place and the cake did take shape. Looked perfect to the eyes. The genoise, the whipped cream, the chocolate shavings.. everything came together perfectly. But then looking perfect and tasting perfect are two entirely different things! My parents always say the cake tastes great. And usually there is just not enough cake to share with neighbours. This time around there was more than enough to be shared (4 layered cake, baby), and shared it was. And then, the wait. That eve I come back home and the entire neighbourhood is like-where did you buy the cake? stop joking and tell us how much the cake costs. Once the truth was revealed that it was my own hands that baked the cake, there were requests. yes! requests for another slice, and one neighbour went up to asking for an entire cake all for himself. He was even willing to pay more than what the market rate is!! Woah! that made my day! No, that more than made my day!! Talk about wanting a validation!!! VALIDATION just got served to me on a platter! 😀
So enough of all this talk. For baking enthusiasts, here is the amalgamation of recipes I followed for baking the cake (a combination of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible and Stephanie Jaworski’s Joy of Baking). And the end result was amazing. Best of both worlds.. 😉
Chocolate Genoise (Adapted from Joy of Baking):
- 3 tablespoons hot melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
- Butter, or spray with a non stick spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with wax paper.
- In a bowl, sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
- In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm.
- Remove from heat and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 8-10 minutes, using your hand mixer). (the batter will fall back into the bowl in a ribbon-like pattern).
- Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest.
- Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it).
- Then gently fold it into the egg batter. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (cake starts to shrink from sides of pan). Cool before removing from pan.
- Repeat the same process for another layer of genoise.
Note: The cake can be stored as such for two days or frozen for a month
Whipped Vanilla Cream (Adapted from The Cake Bible)
- 800 gms low fat cream (I used Amul 25% cream), chilled
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla bean scraped (if you’ve run out of vanilla beans, then the pure essence ought to suffice)
- 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar to suit your taste
- Refrigerate the bowl and beater for 15 minutes.
- In a small pan, melt the butter and 1/2 cup cream, stirring constantly till the butter has completely melted. Add the scraped vanilla seeds, and bean (or vanilla essence), mix well.
- Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup to cool to room temperature. .
- Beat the remaining cream with sugar until soft peaks are reached. Now begin adding the butter in a gradual stream, beating constantly on low speed, until stiff peaks are formed
Note: You’ll have to strain the vanilla beans before you start beating the cream to peaks)
Foolproof method I tell you! No more having to go from store to store looking for heavy whipping cream, or having to make do with powdered whipped creams!
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons cherry brandy / kirsch (I skipped this and the cake still tasted awesome)
- Bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Take off heat, stir in the liqueur (if using), cover and allow to cool.
Now to the cherries- you can use fresh cherries and make your own cherry filling, or go with the safe maraschino cherries. As I couldn’t get my hands on either of these, I used Cherry Pie filling from Mother’s Maid. Served my purpose really well.
Assembling the cake is an art in itself. Being my first layered cake, I was extra cautious than I usually am. Be sure you have a good serrated knife to help you with this.
Assembling the cake:
- Split each chocolate genoise horizontally to get 2 layers (4 layers from 2 genoises).
- Splatter both sides of each layer with the syrup, and reserve on platters. Make sure the entire cake is covered by syrup.
- Place the bottom layer on the serving platter.
- Reserve about 1/2 the cream for the topping and frosting. Take a third of the remaining cream and spread over the bottom later. Distribute 1/3 of the cherry pie filling over the cream, poking into the cream. Repeat with the remaining 3 layers.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream. Cover the sides with grated dark chocolate (choose the dark chocolate which you would enjoy eating by itself).
You can stop here (which is what i did) or decorate the top of the cake with rosettes and cherries).
Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hrs, to allow all the favours to blend in together.
Cut a slice (or two) and Dig in! Bon Appétit!!