FOOD & NUTRITION

Fancy desserts are always in style

Looking back and forward at Valentine's sweets

2/11/2014
BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ganache-Glazed Chocolate Bourbon Cake
Ganache-Glazed Chocolate Bourbon Cake

And now, a flavorful flourish for Valentine’s Day — the then-and-now look at stacks of sweets.

Don’t be shy about making either cake featured here, the one topped with candy buckeyes or the other, encircled by chocolate cabbage leaves.

Dramatic desserts, certainly, and ever-so-perfect when you want to show off, say at a class-reunion potluck when you-know-who will be there.

First, a scold. Tsk-tsk to bakers taking credit online for inventing the cabbage creation. “How clever you are,” people remark. “Wow you are amazing,” others say. Add excited punctuation marks and smiley faces here.

The cabbage cake, the one featured here in the black-and-white photo, was made after an editor challenged me, showing me a newspaper clipping of the cake/recipe, and saying “I bet you can’t make that.”

Yeah, right. This was going to be a “gotcha” cake walk.

When it was the editor’s birthday, I made and presented her with the veggie-inspired dessert, and it most certainly looked better than the one in the newspaper, a clipping from the Dark Ages, or at least the Dark Room Ages.

That means, then, this chocolate-molding technique is not something new, no matter the comments on or by posts or pins, tweets or twits.

And yikes! Some changes in the cabbage cake recipe online are downright, be nice, be nice, are downright different.

Although it is wonderful to see bakers giving something different a try, I cringe at the recommendation to build the cabbage base with an -- egads-- sponge cake.

When you peel back layers of silky chocolate cabbage leaves, you should be greeted by a splendid, sinful sort of decadence...a chocolate torte or chocolate-layered cake filled and coated with, say, mocha brandy frosting.

You want sponge? Use it to clean the kitchen counter.

Cabbage leaves make a good chocolate mold.
Cabbage leaves make a good chocolate mold.

Now to the cake under the cabbage leaves. I wasn’t wild about the results from the original recipe printed in a Detroit paper. Called Chocolate Cabbage Torte, the recipe called for scooping out the middles of two round cakes baked in stainless steel bowls. Crumbs were mixed with a mousse filling and then packed into the torte shell. It had no frosting other than melted chocolate to keep cabbage leaves in place.

The torte’s mouth feel was, well, crumbly crummy. And the baking procedure wasn’t worth the bother. So, I changed things up.

Simply bake your favorite chocolate cake in 8- or 9- inch round pans. Cut each layer into two layers, and smooth the mocha brandy frosting between layers. Shave to shape into a cake that can be covered with your leaves. If your leaves are large enough, you won’t need much of a trim.You can add whipped cream between layers, but then the cake must be refrigerated and can create serving issues if cake isn’t consumed while cake is chilled.

Okay, that wraps up the retro cake how-to tips. On to the Gen Now cake.

Much to the annoyance of my family’s Pinterest fans, not much being pinned is wholly new. Many new found faves have some connection straight to the past. The Buckeye Bourbon Cake is topped with Buckeye candies, and that confection recipe has made the circles for generations. But Buckeyes atop the bourbon-laced cake (as an extra component, the cake is layered with a peanut-butter cream filling), has a fresh appeal, and the taste? Over the moon, most assuredly.

 If you happen to have a vintage Buckeyes recipe that calls for using paraffin in the melted chocolate, toss that. There is no need for paraffin. Melt chocolate properly and you will get the gloss you want. And, have you ever seen a Buckeye with a worm hole in the top? What is it with Buckeyes that have a toothpick hole in the top?

People, people. If you have the time and talent to create such confections, spend a few extra minutes and “hide” the hole (see recipe for how-to tip).

Feeling overwhelmed already? That’s not the intent. Rather, this is my hurry scurry scramble to pass along additional hints/tips I picked up from my Mom, Barbara Romaker, who made thousands (literally) of cakes during her years of owning her own business, The Flour Shoppe. Now, both my daughters are talented bakers, each with their own specialties, and they know their Grandmother, who passed away last July, is smiling as the spatula passes to the next generation.

And now, without further ado, please join me in extending a warm welcome to the new food editor Mary Bilyeu.

Stick a fork in me. Yep, I’m done.

 

RECIPES

For the cake
  • 8 ounces bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup good-quality bourbon
  • 1 cup strong hot coffee
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (canola oil works fine)
  • ⅔ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup Hershey's Cocoa Special Dark
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the peanut butter filling

  • 2 ¼ cups peanut butter
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • For the Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole milk

Chocolate Bourbon Ganache

  • 4 ounces top-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (use the good stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Ingredients for Buckeye Candies
  • Peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, semi-sweet chocolate (see below for details on amounts)

Buckeye Candies

  • ½ pound butter at room temperature
  • 1 pound peanut butter
  • 1 ½ pound powdered sugar
  • 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate melting wafers

 

Buckeye Bourbon Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake, combine in medium-sized bowl the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Grease bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper, then grease and flour the paper-lined pans.

Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium, stirring at 30-second intervals until melted. Remove from microwave, and then stir in the bourbon and coffee. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy and pale in color. Add the oil and yogurt. Mix to combine. Slowly add in the chocolate mixture, blending until smooth.

Add the flour mixture; blend until just combined.

Pour the batter evenly among the three cake pans and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are set and centers no longer jiggle. Cool cake layers, in pans, on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run sharp knife around inside edges of pans, keeping blade close to pan edge to prevent crumbling the cake. Line cooling racks with wax paper. Invert cakes onto racks. Remove and discard parchment paper. Cool cakes completely.

For the peanut butter filling, combine butter and peanut butter in bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Set aside in another bowl.

To make chocolate frosting, combine in mixing bowl the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes or until frosting is light and fluffy. Thin with milk if needed.

To assemble: place one layer on a cake plate and spread about 1 cup of the peanut butter filling on the cake layer. Use spatula to spread a layer of filling evenly on the cake, keeping it about 1/ 2-inch away from edges. Repeat with second layer. Top with third layer. Smooth small amount of filling in thin layer on the top cake layer, spreading just to edges.

Refrigerate cake for few minutes to set the peanut butter filling. Then frost cake, top and sides.

To make the ganache, place chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl; set aside. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and let stand until chocolate has softened, about 5 minutes. Add butter and bourbon; stir until smooth.

Slowly pour ganache on middle of the top layer, gently spreading just to sides of cake. Allow ganache to drizzle down cake's sides. Let ganache set for about 30 minutes before decorating with buckeyes.

Here's the basic recipe for Buckeye candies. Make ahead or make candies while cake bakes/ cools so you are ready to place Buckeyes on ganache before it sets up:

In large bowl, double-sift powdered sugar. Mix powdered sugar, by hand, with butter and peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into small balls, chill or freeze candies for a few minutes. Meantime, melt chocolate. Place toothpick in center of chilled buckeye and dip into chocolate, leaving portion of top uncoated. Place on a wax-paper covered cookie sheet or flat tray. Repeat until all buckeyes, except 2, are coated.

Use uncoated candies to fill the toothpick holes. Buckeyes from trees do not have toothpick holes. Tip of a vegetable peeler can be used to tuck a teeny tiny piece into the hole; smooth the top. See photograph of the cake for example of what the finished product should look like. See? No holes.

Decorate the cake with the Buckeyes. You will have plenty of extras candies; if you would rather not have extras, cut the recipe by half.

Store cake, uncovered, in refrigerator.

Cake recipe adapted from halfbakedharvest.com; Buckeye candies recipe from Janet Romaker.

 

Chocolate Cabbage Cake

  • One two-layer, 8-inch round chocolate cake
  • Mocha Brandy frosting
  • 4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon Medaglia D'oro Imported Instant Espresso Powder (available in coffee-product aisles of local grocery stores)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/ 4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon brandy

Combine half-and-half with coffee granules or espresso powder in mixer bowl; let stand two minutes. Stir until coffee dissolves. Add remaining ingredients and beat, at low speed, until smooth. Punch up the power to fluff the frosting into peaks.

Slice cakes into four layers total. Place layer on cake plate, frost top of layer; repeat with all layers and then frost sides and smooth frosting across top.

Before frosting sets, position chocolate cabbage leaves to resemble a real cabbage. For extra security, "glue" the leaves into place with melted chocolate, placing it beneath the leaves to hide the "glue."

Cook’s note: Fear not. Making the cabbage leaves is a cinch. Seriously. Here's my handy-dandy tips.

Purchase a curly-leafed cabbage, meaning one that has some personality. Avoid cabbages devoid of bright green, heavy outer leaves. You want the sturdy leaves, the ones with deep veins that will give the detail you want. You need seven good leaves. Buy two cabbages if necessary. Leftover cabbage: make cole slaw or your favorite cabbage dish (such as mix together slivers of cabbage and fried bacon in skillet until flavors meld and cabbage is tender and then stir in cooked noodles. Sounds yucky, tastes yummy).

To create the leaves: Remove, gently, each outer cabbage leaf, one by one by one. Again, very gently, wash the leaves and pat them dry. Allow them to air dry to make sure no moisture remains.

Melt chocolate in double-boiler or rig up (as I do) a double-boiler using a large glass bowl set into a large pot that has couple inches of water in it. Do not allow bowl to touch the water. Put half of chocolate in the bowl; bring water to barely a simmer. Allow chocolate to melt. Turn off heat, remove pan from heat, and, using a wooden spoon, stir in balance of chocolate until melted.

With a clean pastry brush (an inch-wide works well; brushes are available at cake stores) coat the inner side of each cabbage leaf. Place coated leaves on wax-paper covered cookie sheet or flat tray. Allow chocolate to set. Recoat, holding each leaf to the light to find any areas that need additional coating. This does two things: reinforces the chocolate leaf and avoids any thin spots that detract from the pretty presentation.

After chocolate is set, carefully pull the cabbage leaves away from the chocolate. Wear cotton gloves, designed for working with chocolate, to avoid fingerprints. Gloves aren't a must have, though. If using bare hands, work with hand on the inside of the cabbage leaf and the fingerprints, if any, won't show.

Source: Janet Romaker