Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Raspberry Devil's Food Cake

I'm definitely THAT person.

I'm the one who scopes out the pizza before everyone arrives to the dinner table so I can snag the best piece. You know, the slice that has the perfect sauce-to-cheese ratio, the crispiest crust, the perfect amount of pepperoni and the most mushrooms.

Ya, that's me.

I do the same thing with cake, pies....even chips. It's kind of weird.

Let's take this Devil's Food Cake for example. I'd definitely call my piece on this one. I can tell if there's an unevenness in the frosting level and I'll chose the section that has the thickest frosting. That is, when the frosting is this dang good!

I'm gracious when I have guests though. If I really like you, I'll probably give you the better piece. Probably. But, I'd have to really, really like you. When it comes to food, I get a bit possessive, but I honestly do like to share.

Now, I love chocolate. Devil's Food Cake is obv. for the chocoholics of the world. Chocolate cake plus chocolate frosting means chocolate all over my face.

The name comes from the brick-red hue that the cake takes on due to a reaction between cocoa powder and baking soda. Have you ever noticed the difference between natural cocoa and Dutch-processed cocoa? The Dutch stuff is darker, redder in colour because "dutching" refers to a process where cocoa is washed with an alkalizing or basic agent (like potassium bicarbonate) to neutralize its acidity. This causes the phenolic colour pigments in cocoa to change.

Unlike what many bakers believe, you can actually get a red brick colour from Dutch-processed cocoa. Most  people think that you need natural cocoa because the acidity is intact, which produces the red colour. I sort of disagree. The redness comes from dutching, which is alkalization. So, even if you use a lightly Dutch-processed cocoa, such as Fry's, which has a tan colour, you can coax more redness out of it by including it in a slightly alkaline batter. Just avoid heavily dutched, dark or black cocoa.

I like the raspberries with the chocolate...I don't like raspberry-flavoured chocolate, but I like raspberries separately with chocolate. Separate but together. Like me and will power.

Dark chocolate has a way with tart flavours sometimes, and it just seems to work. The bittersweet stuff is what you need for this cake, and this is where it's time to splurge. Please don't use crappy leftover Halloween chocolate, or I might just have to come to your door and give you a trick.

When you make this cake, do your best to keep things even so that you don't have any weirdos like me trying to snatch the piece with the most raspberries and thickest frosting. Above all, bring some to your neighbour or your great Aunt Ethel. I'm sure they'd be delighted and you'd put a smile on their faces. Share the wealth and everyone will be happy!

PS - If you really do have a great Aunt Ethel, I would laugh my pants off.

PSS - You can share lots of things on my facebook page because I love when you leave sweet nothings on my wall.

Raspberry Devil's Food Cake
Makes one 2-layer 9-inch cake

For the cake:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup boiling water
½ cup full fat sour cream
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
2 cups 35% whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar

For the filling:
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup 35% whipping cream
1 pint fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans and dust lightly with flour, knocking out the excess. Line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk ingredients together to blend evenly; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Let it cool for 1 to 2 minutes and then whisk in sour cream until well blended; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy, about 10 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl half-way through mixing. Beat in vanilla extract. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is well incorporated, about 10 seconds between each addition. The batter will change from looking curdled to smooth and homogenous.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with the cocoa mixture. Do not beat more than 10-15 seconds between additions. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and then beat on medium-high speed for 3-5 seconds to create a smooth batter, but be sure not to over beat or the cake will be tough and dry. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the batter a few times using a rubber spatula to ensure that everything is evenly blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans and smooth the surface. Rap the pans on your countertop to let any large air bubbles escape. Bake until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 25-28 minutes. Transfer cakes to wire racks to cool for about 20 minutes. Run a butter knife around the outside edges of the cakes, invert the pans to release the cakes and remove the parchment paper. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, bring cream and sugar to a boil in a saucepan and immediately pour over chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 3 minutes and then stir until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool at room temperature, stirring every 10 minutes or so. This will take about 1 1/2 hours but you can put it in the fridge to speed it up. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't harden.

To make the filling, whisk together cocoa, sugar and cream. Refrigerate until fully chilled. Once chilled, beat the cream with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Resist the temptation beat on high speed since this mixture can go from smooth to grainy very quickly.

To assemble the cake, first trim the tops of the cake layers if necessary using a serrated knife so that they have an even, flat (not domed) surface. Place one layer on a turn-table or a serving plate. Spread half of the whipped cream filling over the top, leaving about ½-inch border around the edges since it will spread slightly with the weight of the top layer. Place about two-thirds of the fresh raspberries over the filling in a single layer. Spread the remaining filling over the raspberries. Place the top cake layer precisely over the filling. Using a large off-set spatula, place about 1 cup of the frosting over the cake, spread it out to the edges and bring it down to cover the sides. Continue applying frosting to the cake until all sides are covered evenly.

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