Last week, the lovely J had a birthday, and a few friends came over to have a few drinks. I made cake. It went over pretty well, and I was asked to post the recipe. So here it is!
It’s from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Say what you will about Martha’s show and her magazine and her persnicketiness and her crafting bordering on the ridiculous and her jail time and setting the housekeeping bar too high for us mere mortals etc etc… That Baking Handbook is amazing. Every recipe a winner. I make all my cakes from this book. The icing recipe I used follows the cake recipe. My editorial comments are in parentheses.
One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes (only I make them in cake pans)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (I never put salt in my baking. I’m funny like that)
2 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1 /4 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups warm water
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. (Prepare 2, 9″ round cake pans. My preferred method, and I learned this at the cake decorating class I took, is to smear shortening on the bottom and sides of the pans (yes, that hydrogenated crap that gives you all kinds of nasty heart disease) and then flour the pans: put in about a tablespoon of flour and shake the pan around until all of the bottom and sides have been covered with a thin layer. Put whatever doesn’t stick back into your flour canister. Works every time. No sticking, ever! Those trans fats must be extra slick. It’s my only use for shortening, so I don’t feel so bad. I promise you that butter does not work as well. Ask me how I know.) Into the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; add the eggs and yolk, the milk, oil, vanilla and warm water. Beat on low speed until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide the batter evenly between your pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the centres comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack, and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Chocolate Variation)
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I use a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whatever method you like that doesn’t burn the chocolate is fine)
In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 160F.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, ad the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes (fear not! This has never happened to me.) Beat in the melted chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until the frosting is smooth.
(Then you even out the tops of your cakes so the layers lie flat, put one layer on the bottom, smear about a cup of icing on the top, put on the other layer. Cover everything with the rest of the icing. Done! I was all fancy last time and put some raspberries on top to make it pretty)
That’s it! The icing sounds complicated, but it’s really not, and about twenty orders of magnitude better than that crap they sell in the tubs at the supermarket. You don’t even need a fancy stand mixer – I’m positive the same could be achieved with a handheld one. Though I do have a love for my stand mixer that may not be healthy. Anyway, enjoy!