Chocolate Cake with Caramel, Ganache + Toasted Almonds

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Happy 2019 everyone! I made this cake for New Year’s Eve last week. We went with a light dinner of Moroccan Tuna and Couscous with vegetables in hopes of having room for this cake. And we did! Wow, it’s the best cake I’ve ever made. I love making these layer cakes but it is a crazy amount of cake for us, and it’s rich too, so I froze about three-quarters of it. The original recipe had a different type of caramel filling, which I ended up not making because I didn’t have enough time that day, but I think I would try it the next time around. I took a short cut and bought a jar of salted caramel sauce, which was ok but not as good as the caramel sauce I’ve made in the past, so below I’m linking the homemade caramel recipe. Or you can buy a jar as I did if you’re short on time. I don’t know if I messed up the Ganache or not, but even at room temp, after it had been refrigerated, it was not spreadable at all, I had to microwave it to the point where it was almost liquid again, the recipe really insists on refrigerating it overnight, so I’m not sure why that didn’t work. I don’t have enough experience working with chocolate ganache to know how that could have worked out better. But it all came together in the end. This is a cake worth fussing over, actually it’s not really that fussy it just takes a bit of time. Since I was in the cutting-corners-mode that day, I almost didn’t bother to cut it into 4 layers, it would have been much quicker to just frost the middle and top layers for a 2-layer cake, and not have to worry about the possibility of the cakes falling apart while cutting them into layers. But I knew that the layers were going to matter, so that each bite has a bit of cake, ganache, caramel, salt and toasted almonds. And it did matter. It was worth it. The cake didn’t fall apart. Happy ending. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Cake with Caramel, Ganache + Toasted Almonds

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 cup hot water

  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee

  • 1 1/4 cups almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

Ganache Filling and Frosting

  • 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream

Caramel Sauce 

Recipe here

Fleur de sel or any flaked sea salt

Ganache Filling and Frosting

Place chocolate in large bowl. Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate; let soften 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is smooth. Cool, then cover and chill overnight. Ganache can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. (Note: even at room temp my frosting wasn’t spreadable and I needed to warm it up a bit)

Cake

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of each with parchment paper; butter paper and dust pan with flour.

Sift sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Add milk, eggs, and melted butter. Using electric mixer, beat at low speed until blended. Increase speed and beat 2 minutes. Stir 1 cup hot water and espresso powder in small bowl to dissolve. Add to batter; beat until blended (batter will be thin). Divide batter between pans (about 3 cups each).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 32 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Refrigerate cakes for an hour or two, it will make it much easier to cut them into layers. Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake around the perimeter in half so that you have 4 layers. (if you don’t have fancy baking tools to do this, like me, you can put the cake on a round metal sheet, like the bottom of a tart pan, place on top of an upside-down bowl that’s large enough to support it, hold your knife in the middle where you want to cut and spin the cake around slowly, keep doing this until it has cut all the way through, keeping your knife in a steady position)

Place 1 layer on platter; spread with 1/2 cup room-temperature ganache. Drizzle 1/4 cup room-temperature caramel sauce. Sprinkle caramel with large pinch of fleur de sel, then 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with second cake layer, ganache, caramel sauce, fleur de sel, and almonds. Repeat with third cake layer. Top with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Press remaining almonds onto the top, or sides (or both!). Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and chill. Let cake stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Honey Chocolate Fudge

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Healthy fudge!? For real? A few weeks ago Sprouted Kitchen started a Cooking Club. I like Sarah’s recipes and thought it would be fun to join, so I did. Each week she provides a shopping list and recipes for three meals and a snack. This is one of the snacks. As with most of her recipes it’s pretty healthy and made with natural ingredients. This is the second time I’ve made it. The first time I made it I used whole raw almonds, here I made it with toasted almond slivers. I definitely prefer toasted almonds.

It’s not exactly like fudge but similar and I like it better in a lot of ways. She said the recipe was created and inspired by Honey Mamas fudge which is made right here in Portland! You can check our their site to get some ideas on variations, adding coconut, peppermint or spices. Enjoy :)

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Honey Chocolate Fudge

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, well chopped

  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds 

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch) or raw cacao, plus more for dusting

  • pinch of sea salt

  • 1/3 cup honey 

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate along the bottom of the pan. 

In a food processor or a strong blender, combine the almonds, cocoa powder and sea salt. Pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse sand, about 10 times. You want some crunchy bits of almonds. 

In a saucepan, combine the honey and coconut oil and bring it to a gentle boil. Stir to mix. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Add the almond mixture and the rice cereal into the wet mixture and stir to combine. Any extra add-ins would go in here (coconut, seeds or more nuts). Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, smooth the top and put it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour. Store refrigerated or a very cool place.

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Coconut Cake

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Wouldn’t you know. On Jeff’s Birthday I’m ready to make this cake and… the oven is broken. It won’t heat and it’s only three years old! Luckily I had only prepared the cake pans while attempting to preheat the oven, so it wasn’t a total loss. We had an extended warranty on the stove but even with that it took a couple weeks to be resolved. Like it didn’t work when the repairman showed up, then it did and he left unsure of what was wrong, and then it didn’t again so he came back the next week after ordering parts. Turns out the ignitor needed replacing. Anyway, back to cake! I changed a few things but mostly stuck to this recipe. The original recipe says to buy a coconut and drill holes in it, bake it, crack it and all sorts of crazy stuff I didn’t want to do, so I just bought coconut cream and milk in cans at the market. It came out great. Really great. The texture of the cake is perfect, it has a nice density to it. The flavor is exactly what you would want. I read the reviews on the cake and one of the biggest complaints was the frosting, that it tasted too much like marshmallow, and I knew I didn’t want that super sweet stuff, so I made a version of the frosting I made last year for Jeff’s Birthday Cake with Mascarpone and whipped cream. Last time I ran short on frosting, so for this recipe I doubled it, then I went lightly frosting the layers (as you can see), but I ended up with so much leftover! I was concerned about running out, but believe me you can pile on the frosting between layers and have plenty for the top and sides. This is a delicious cake and well worth making.

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Coconut Cake

  • Butter, for cake pan
  • 14 1/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • Coconut flakes 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and then flour the pans. Set aside.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bang the pans on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate, they will be easier to slice. While the cakes are chilling prepare the frosting (recipe below) Assemble: Cut across the equator of each to form 4 layers.  Frost each layer with a generous amount, then top with coconut flakes.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cup mascarpone
  • 2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Beat together all ingredients in a stand mixer for a couple minutes until fluffy. 

Adapted from Alton Brown

Apple Pie

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As simple as it can be to make Apple Pie, I still found myself searching for a recipe last week. You might remember I’ve made a French Apple Pie, but it’s actually been a very long time since I’ve made a traditional Apple Pie. So here it is! And the pie crust here is really my favorite, it’s easy to roll out and work with, when baked it keeps it form nicely without falling apart and at the same time doesn’t taste like cardboard. The apples? For this pie I used King David apples that we picked up at an apple festival last month. I’m never sure which apples are which these days with so many varieties, is it good for baking? eating? This was a good choice, they didn’t mush up and had a really nice texture, some bite to it, with a spicy flavor. So thumbs up on the King David Apples. 

We had a lovely Thanksgiving for two this year. I made a turkey roulade - a turkey breast rolled with dried cherry and sausage stuffing. It was the third time I’ve made this and it works out really great for a small feast. It’s deserving of a blog post so I’ll just have to make it again. I’m sure Jeff won’t mind.

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Apple Pie

  • 6-8 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Lemon juice, 1/2 lemon squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 clove
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg for egg wash 
  • 1 tablespoon or so Muscovado sugar (or large granulated sugar)

Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

To make the dough in a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt until combined, about 5 pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 5-7 pulses (you don’t want to over work the dough too much or it will become tough.) Remove from processor and place dough in large bowl, add 6 tablespoons of the ice water, combine with wood spoon. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it’s crumbly, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide in half (I make one half slightly larger for the bottom crust) and shape each into a disk. Wrap separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

 

Filling and Assembly

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

In small bowl combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. In large bowl place sliced apples, squeeze lemon juice, then add flour mixture and toss until well combined. Set aside.

Roll out your bottom crust about 2-3” larger than diameter of pie dish, place in pie dish and trim around the edges. Add the apple mixture. Roll your top crust to fit, cut out any desired designs, place on top of pie, trim any excess and pinch the edges together with thumb and forefinger. Roll out any additional dough and use pie cutter to top with leaf or apple design. Adding a leaf pattern around the edges looks pretty. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and brush over top of pie, sprinkle some granulated sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until brown. Allow to cool a bit before serving. It will slice better if you refrigerate and then bring to room temp. 

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Also, I’m sorry to see these pie cutters are no longer available, I’m sure there are more out there but this was a nice selection of designs. 

Strawberry, Thyme + Peach Buttermilk Cake

It was Jeff’s birthday last week and I wanted to make him a special cake. I’ve never made a layer cake before and felt it long overdue. So I picked up some cake pans and cake stand and made it happen. I remembered that Eva from Adventures in Cooking has a lot of nice cake recipes and this one caught my eye. Oh boy is this good! The mascarpone whipped cream frosting is just about perfect. It’s creamy, holds up really well and it’s not overly sweet. I have to say that’s one thing I’m not crazy about when it comes to cakes. That insanely sweet frosting that overshadows any other flavor. But with this cake you can appreciate all the flavors together, a bit of ginger and thyme in the cake, layered with fresh peaches, strawberries and the perfectly creamy not-to-sweet frosting. Since this was my first time cutting cakes into layers it was a bit lopsided but not too bad. One thing, I would double the frosting recipe, I only had enough for three layers and this should be a four layer cake. Overall it inspired me to make more cakes. There is something happy and fun about a layered cake, and I find myself dreaming up new ideas which are sure to be posted on this blog. Enjoy!

Strawberry + Peach Buttermilk Cake With Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large peach, pitted and chopped
  • 3 large strawberries, diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced fresh thyme leaves

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

(you might want to double this frosting for a 4-layer cake)

  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 peaches, cut into eighths
  • fresh fruit or flowers for garnishing on top

For the cake mix together the flour, baking soda, ginger and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 2 (8-inch) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper, set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lower the speed and add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until a batter forms, then stir in the strawberries, peaches, and thyme until just incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter between the 2 (8-inch) cake pans and bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake coms out relatively clean (unless you poked throughfruit bit), about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes before running a spatula around the edge of the pan and flipping the pan over onto a wire rack, removing the pan and allowing the cakes to cool completely on the racks.

For the mascarpone whipped cream, beat together the mascarpone, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment at medium high speed until fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Trim the top of the cakes so that you have a fairly flat surface. Then cut each of the cake layers in half horizontally using a sharp bread knife, you should now have 4 layers. Divide the mascarpone whipped cream into 4 parts and spread out 3 parts between the layers of cake along with the fresh strawberry and peach slices. Place the remaining fourth of the mascarpone whipped cream on top of the cake in a dollop and arrange fresh fruit or flowers around it, serve immediately. Will last a few days refrigerated.

Adapted from Adventures in Cooking