Monday, February 15, 2016

Moist Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake

Ohhhh I admit I'm a sucker for classics. In a world that breathes constant innovation, sometimes I only crave comfort. It's hard not to feel obligated to try the NEW thing. Gotta check out that new flavour that probably sounds better than it tastes. How many iPhone versions are there now? I don't even have one.

Every week I stand in front of a grocery aisle (it's probably (most definitely) the ice cream aisle) and stare at the racks for 25 minutes. Pinapple cherry explosion, birthday cake extravaganza, rainbow confetti blast, mango tango chili, nutty butter bonkers... whaaaa? New flavous, new combinations and new products... sometimes it's my job, and sometimes I just give in to the pressure of the lady giving me the stink eye as I reach for French Vanilla Bean. What? I like the specks. Every product in her cart has at least 3 adjectives in the title. Flavour shaming hurts ya'll!

Every now and then I put aside the whisky, the limes, the lemons, the chili pepper and the sweet spices and I seek comfort in baking with pure chocolate and vanilla.

Like mama's lasagna, Nonna's skillet fried potatoes and anyone's apple pie... it hits the spot everytime, anytime.

Chocolate Vanilla Marble Cake can be so right when we respect the purity of the feature flavours.

Chocolate - let's use the best. For me that means 70% bittersweet. But you may like the suble taste of semisweet. Even milk chocolate will perform in this recipe. Use what you like, just be sure to use butter! Butter enhances chocolate. Shortening does not. Period.

Vanilla. It's easy to take vanilla for granted. It's everywhere! But if you really want to taste vanilla, then go to the source. Get the bean and harvest those seeds. Even that won't get you there though - it would be a waste to just throw them into the batter without thought. Those powerful flavours are fat soluble so take the opportunity to extract their full potential by mixing them in with warm melted butter right from the start. I go bananas for Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar - robust, coffee-like and just a bit floral.

My only beef with these kinds of classic cakes is the texture... mostly dry and dense despite using too much butter. Whyyyy?!

Not today. Not on my time.

Eggs take first place today... all five of them. They give structure and lightness so we can use less flour to build this cake. That takes care of the dense part and the dryness dilemma.

Yolks and whites stay separate. Each is beaten to full volume with sugar. The yolky mixture turns into a batter with melted butter, flour and baking powder. This one batter gets divided in two - one takes an extra helping of vanilla and the other gets a chocolate bath. Lucky.

When we choose simple over psycho, we get rewarded with more occassions.

I see chocolate-vanilla toast with peanut butter and bananas for breakfast.
I see an afternoon snack paired with some lightly sweetened berries.
I see marble cake soaking under a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge sauce before bed.

It doesn't mean I'm not creative, it doesn't mean you're lame. It means I like chocolate, you like vanilla and it's Ok.

There's always tomorrow to test how mashed potato cake tastes with salted caramel and blue cheese. Tomorrow, maybe.

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake 
Makes 8-10 servings

5 large eggs, separated
½ cup plus 2 tbsp (125g) sugar, divided
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Bourbon vanilla extract
125g (4.5oz) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
¼ tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Line 22x11cm loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the exposed sides.

Gently melt butter with vanilla bean seeds in a small saucepan and then set aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar until pale, thick and tripled in volume using an electric hand mixer. This will take about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in cooled melted butter. Sift together flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and then gently fold into the egg yolk mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls. Fold vanilla extract into one and the melted chocolate into the other. Beat egg whites with salt to soft peaks and then gradually whisk in remaining 2 tbsp of sugar until they hold stiff peaks. Gently fold half of the egg whites into each cake mixture.

Spoon layers of vanilla and chocolate mixtures alternately into prepared pan. Swirl the two mixtures together by running a skewer through them and creating a marbled effect. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
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