The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Valentine's Day cake--and my new favorite ganache

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

Valentine's Day cake--and my new favorite ganache

Read the original blog post here!


On Valentine's Day, I rediscovered a heart-shaped cake pan in the back of my pantry and knew I had to put it to use. Since it was my first cake attempt, I wanted to use another fairly simple recipe, so I found this recipe for dark chocolate cake on allrecipes.com: Dark Chocolate Cake. It got some pretty excellent reviews from the site's readers, including one person who wrote, "I am a pastry chef, and this is the only chocolate cake that I will make from now on." Awfully high praise! When I pictured the finished cake, I couldn't get the image of a glossy chocolate ganache-covered heart cake out of my mind...so I dug up a recipe for red wine chocolate ganache I'd seen on cupcakeproject.com. What could be more sexy and romantic than dark chocolate cake with red wine ganache for Valentine's Day? Okay, here's something you should know about me (if you haven't already noticed): I'm a chocoholic. This means that I often don't consider a dessert worth eating unless it contains a fair amount of chocolate. This also means that I'll need you guys to urge me to try recipes that aren't all about chocolate. I'd gladly welcome any non-chocolate recipe suggestions any time! I didn't really run into any problems mixing the batter, although it did take a long time to prepare the chocolate mixture, sift all the dry ingredients, and beat everything together. I tend to be a slow worker, but I also lack some of the tools that would make all this a lot easier, like a freestanding mixer. The cake came out looking good, though I found those big cracks down the middle distracting. Is that normal for a cake? Maybe I filled the pan too high. Because I wanted to cover this cake with poured ganache instead of frosting, I knew I had to flip it over to hide those cracks. I did, and it looked pretty great. Because I had a lot of extra batter (the recipe fills three cake pans, which I don't have), I made some extra cupcakes. These looked nicer than my last ones, but just like last time, one oozed in the oven. Seriously, why does that happen? Of course, the oozy cupcake became my taste test. I liked this cake a lot, and I can see why it got good reviews: it had a delicate texture and a nice chocolate flavor. It wasn't as moist as my last batch of cupcakes, though, so I think I'll stick with that other recipe the next time I make chocolate cupcakes. But if you're looking for a classy dark chocolate cake, this is a lovely one. More on those cupcakes later! Back to the cake... The ganache was a breeze to make. I liked the way it tasted, though it's not for the faint of heart--that stuff is rich. The very thin layer I poured over the cake turned out to be plenty; if I'd spread it on, it might have been overwhelming. As for the pouring process, it went well except for two snags. Because the cake was so rounded on the bottom, it cracked a little when I flipped it over, which showed through the ganache. Second, it was difficult to coat the sides of the cake as thickly and neatly as I'd have liked. If I were to do it again, I'd make a little more ganache for that purpose. Here's a photo of the cake covered in ganache, plus an ill-advised decoration attempt. I've learned my lesson: ganache and edible red gel do not look good together. I wanted to make a border of gel hearts, but they barely showed up on the dark background. Should've known better. As you can see, I ended up with more of a broken-heart cake than a heart cake...which seemed a little more cynical than what I was going for. I decided to cover up my bad decoration and the crack down the middle with a design using pecans. It was very experimental, but I'm pleased with the outcome. The result was a tasty cake with just the right amount of tasty ganache. The pecans didn't hurt a bit, either. My mom, who loves all things rich and chocolatey, was in love. This was the first thing I'd baked entirely from scratch that I was truly proud of! I'll save my stories about frosting those cupcakes for my next post. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting! It's great to have supportive readers to keep an eye out for me as I stumble through this self-taught baking course.


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Comments

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

There was a question and answer from the Betty Crocker site about cake peaks and cracks:



Q. What causes a cake to rise to a peak or to crack open in the center? 
A. 
Beating the batter too much. Double-check the beating time in the package directions, and use low or medium speed on your standard or portable mixer. If you're beating the batter by hand, beat 150 strokes per minute—it's okay to rest now and then!


Make sure your oven isn’t too hot. To check your oven accuracy, use an oven thermometer.


Don't bake your cake too long. Use the test for doneness given in the package directions and recheck the baking time.


Be sure to use the size of pan called for in the package directions. Usually the pan size is marked on the bottom. If it isn't, measure the pan across the top from inside rim to inside rim. Then measure the depth by putting the ruler on the inside and measuring from the top edge to the bottom of the pan.


Be sure the pans are not too close to each other or to the sides of the oven. The pans should be about an inch apart and away from the oven sides. Also, adjust the oven rack so that it's in the middle of the oven.


----


The cake and cupcakes look delicious. I prefer the Broken Heart cake. :P


 

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

lazybaker: That was incredibly helpful! Thanks so much! I definitely think I'm guilty of over-beating; until recently I didn't even know it was possible to over-beat. I'm also not entirely sure how accurate my oven temperature is, so I might need to test it out.


Thanks again for the advice! In case you ever feel like helping me out again, here's a link to my blog: LeighBakes.wordpress.com. It's chock-full of baking mistakes and questions. ;)


And yeah, I have to admit that the broken heart cake was pretty perfect, seeing as I had no one special to bake these things for...and had to eat 'em myself!

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Your cupcakes are overflowing because you are over-filling with batter.


Patricia

Dorians mom's picture
Dorians mom

A baker's fix for uneven cake (you learned the hard way that turning it over is not the answer!) is to take a piece of unwaxed dental floss and run it over the top to cut off the excess.  You can also do this with an offset spatula if you have one that's thin enough, perhaps serrated along one long edge.  Even a piece of quilting thread will work too.


If you have deep-ish cracks, you can use the resulting crumb to fill those in.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I just went back and looked at your pictures, and you're not overfilling. There's something like a pocket of unmixed levening, that's making a foaming reaction while the cupcakes are cooking. Do you whisk the baking powder with your flour really well before adding the wet ingredients?


It is sort of a puzzle, but if you make sure that everything's really well mixed, I think you may solve the problem.


Patricia

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

I think you're absolutely right--I remember not mixing my dry ingredients very well for that batch. And I just recently read in a baking book about how important it is to do so. Never even occurred to me! Thanks a lot for the advice; it helps to have someone look at your own work and point out the likeliest error. I'll be especially careful next time!


Leigh

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

Excellent advice--thanks! I've read that if you have the right pans, you shouldn't really ever have cakes that dome like that...is that true? In any case, I think I'll use your tip and just lop off the excess next time. I like the floss idea--that should do the trick.


Thanks again!


Leigh

Dorians mom's picture
Dorians mom

I'm thinking back to the kinds of cakes I've made in the past, and about the only ones I can remember not rising more in the middle are the sponges or angel foods.  The technique for those (angel cake uses only eggwhites), I believe, was to whip up the eggs separately and then gently fold the flour mixture into them. 


Honestly though, I don't know of any way to keep the middle from rising more than the edges even a little bit, since the edges will cook sooner.  Even professional bakers have to level the tops of their cakes, no matter what size or shape they are.


Robyn

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I haven't tried these, but they're supposed to make your cakes bake evenly, hence a level top.


http://www.shopbakersnook.com/m5/3921--bake-even-strips-by-wilton-large.html


If anyone who is reading this has tried them, can you give us a review?


Thanks,


Patricia

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

Okay, good to know. At the bakery where I work, we don't level our cakes, but I'm sure that's because they're spongey. Until I master that, I'll have to level mine.

sarafina's picture
sarafina

I would cool down the oven a tad and if, after you tap the pans to settle the batter, you take a rubber scrapper and ease the batter out of the middle to the sides, creating and artifical well in the center, as the batter warms it will flow back in to level the cake but it usually helps keep the center closer in profile to the sides. And I slice the top off before I take it out of the pan, using the sides of the pan to run the floss over so it comes out even and flat all the way around. Cuttin after it's outta the pan takes more care!


 


Looks beautiful and sounds delicious!

Dorians mom's picture
Dorians mom

Your comment brought back an old, old memory!  My mother used to drop the pans several times on the counter, and I think she said it was to get the air bubbles out or something to that effect.  It was sort of illogical sounding because once the cakes were in the oven, we were not supposed to do anything that would jiggle the stove like stomp around or slam doors, to keep the rising cakes from falling before time.

leighbakes's picture
leighbakes

That sounds like great advice. I forgot to tap the pan before putting it in, although I now remember seeing bakers doing that. Note to self. ;) Thanks very much!

sarafina's picture
sarafina

Tapping removes the large bubbles sometimes trapped by the thickness of the batter. These bubbles make unsightly hole in the finished product like this;



The tiny bubbles that develope in the oven that make the cake rise are the ones we tip toe around!