August 22, 2016

Chocolate Cream Cheese Raspberry Cake

For Peter's birthday, I gave him a few different presents - he gets to fly a plane tomorrow! That was the big one. But since I gave it to him early (in failed hopes he could schedule the flight for his actual birthday while everyone else was at work), I felt the need to supplement on his actual birthday. I altered my schedule so I could cook him breakfast without making him wake up at the crack of dawn - chocolate chip waffles with homemade syrup, eggs, hash browns, mm-mm! During this time I gave him a tick key! That might sound gross to serve with breakfast but he had made several comments about wanting one, so I thought it would be a nice little surprise to add on without breaking the bank, so I could still feel like I gave him a present on his birthday. Perfect timing for our upcoming off-roading adventure in Colorado.

Later that night, I also presented a previously purchased cigar after dinner with his mother at Deluxe Burger and we went to Open Door Cigars' Sweet Seven Lounge. Afterwards, we finally got to taste this delicious chocolate cake I made! The point is that this was part of his present, and I'm not just saying the ingredients were pricey - he gifted me an empty recipe book a while back and has been hounding me to use it. 

I didn't feel right about writing in recipes I didn't have any influence on... and I haven't been cooking for very long, and am not entirely confident in my ability to play with ingredients, other than adding a little extra spice to a mildly bland recipe (for instance, added a lot more salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder, shallots, and caramelized onions to this recipe and it was deceptively scrumptious - but I was not at all paying attention to how much of anything I added). Whenever I do alter a recipe I don't pay attention to what I've done. 

But for his birthday I baked him a cake that I could add to the book! I didn't change much, because baking is a science that I'm no graduate scholar of, but I can at least say I adapted this recipe by telling you exactly what I did! My changes to the batter were very mild but very important - the introduction of Turkish Coffee and Cinnamon. And certainly by calling the raspberry liquor non-optional

INGREDIENTS

CAKE
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon (you can add more if you actually want a prominent cinnamon flavor)
  • 1.5 teaspoons Turkish coffee (or espresso or other finely ground coffee)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (temp. is very important!)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (I used raw/turbinado because it's what I keep at hand)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature (temp. is very important!)
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur (I used di Amore because it's what I had on hand)
  • 1 scant cup milk, room temperature (temp. is very important!)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 percent cacao), melted and cooled

FILLING
  • 24 oz fresh raspberries
  • scant cup of sugar
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (I bought one lemon that had just enough juice for entire recipe)
  • Note: Alternatively, you could simply use a seedy, high-quality raspberry jam and it would more or less give you the same effect without paying for all those pricey raspberries, and it will save you a step. There would be a reduction in freshness but it was very similar to the jam I used in this cake recipe (a favorite, but even pricier cake). If you did that, you still might buy one small package of raspberries, adding some to the filling and the rest for decorating and adding freshness.  
FROSTING
  • 2.25 cups powdered sugar (or confectioners', you might properly say)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 percent cacao), melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sour cream


If you made it past the ingredients list, congratulations! This cake (and the pistachio-marscarpone mentioned in the raspberry jam section above) is no box mix. The more I cook, the more I learn what making something with love is really all about - I always assumed this cliche is just what people say to make homemade objects seem more special (which they are), but I never understood the severity behind it. When you choose to spend a few hours slaving away on a mildly complicated recipe -opposed to picking up a cute cake with creative icing at the supermarket or adding oil and eggs to a box mix with a can of frosting - you put a piece of your soul into it. You choose the hardest path instead of the shortcut. You make the giftee a priority because you love them, and they're worth more than shortcuts and conveniency. 

Also, while this cake is by no means healthy, it's not overly rich. People always act like the sweetest cakes are the greatest achievement and I disagree - if I can't finish a slice because it's too decadent, it's not actually that good (in my opinion), and certainly not a cake you want to eat for leftovers after the party. All things considered, this cake is sweet and enjoyable, and not horrifically rich. The perfect amount for me. My use of turbinado sugar probably helped with this. 

On that note, please don't feel the need to buy exactly what I used should you wish to copy this recipe. Just as I altered the recipe because I didn't have buttermilk or Chambord-branded liquor or creme fraiche, please don't buy things you don't need that you won't use. Don't buy a whole carton of Turkish coffee if you do not have any other plans for it (although I highly suggest you buy it and drink all of it because it's delicious), some other coffee or espresso might give the cake an even better flavor. If I didn't already have the liquor on hand, I probably wouldn't have added it because it's generally expensive and rarely goes to use (after all, you only need a drop of it here and there and I made a big mistake by buying the big bottle at New Years).

I obviously used ground cinnamon and am not sure why I grabbed the stick for this picture other than it's prettier (?).
When I first started cooking, I often felt the need to buy the exact ingredients called for - not only was this expensive, it was often wasteful as I had nothing else to use the leftover special ingredients in that week (or by the expiration date). There is obviously still a time and a place for purchasing the exact ingredients (if it's a ground spice you'll use again, if it's a main ingredient, if it needs a touch of something fresh, etc.), but I beg of you, when you come to a recipe that calls for buying a bottle of liquor or fancy coffee, take heed. 

Anyways, I'm rambling as per usual! You're wanting to know what do with those ingredients!

- - -

CAKE

1. Stop everything you're doing and put your butter, eggs, and milk out so they will reach room temperature by the time you've reviewed the recipe and are ready to add them to the batter. I've always ignored this step because I figured: an egg is an egg, right? But this is particularly important with baking - if they're room temperature, it means they combine more smoothly (as opposed to mostly combined slippery egg-bits and globs of butter). Properly combined ingredients give cakes and other baked goods a beautiful texture and rise. Stop ignoring room temperature requests. (I'm mostly reiterating for myself if you can't tell.) About 5-10 minutes before using the milk, add in your tablespoon of lemon juice, give it a stir, and let it sit to thicken. 

I didn't take many pictures because, as you know, my camera's out of commission for a little bit,
so please forgive my few Instagram-esque iPhone photographs. 

2. This may also be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees, depending on your oven (mine takes a while). Most importantly, if you're not starting with cooled, melted chocolate, you'll want to melt it now so it has time to cool down. 

2. Whisk your flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and coffee grounds in a large bowl, but save your largest bowl for beating your butter and sugar on high for about 3 minutes until fluffy. Add eggs one by one, followed by the liqueur. 

3. Reducing the speed down to a low setting, you're going to alternate adding your dry ingredients with your thickened milk (or buttermilk) as such: 1/3 dry, 1/2 milk, 1/3 dry, 1/2 milk, 1/3 dry. Beat in your cool, melted chocolate. 

4. Divide evenly between three greased, round cake pans and cook for about 25 minutes. The cakes are done when either: 1. toothpick comes out clean in the center or 2. it springs back when you gently press on the center. Two of mine were done before the other because of the way I had them placed in the oven, even though I rotated them once. 

5. The next part is up to you. I let the cakes/the oven cool off for several minutes before dumping them upside down on my foil-lined, retracted oven rack to continue cooling. I don't bake very often and therefore I've never acquired a cooling rack so I make due this way. I also don't cut off the uneven tops, though that's what ole Martha would have you do. I personally think it's wasteful and takes away from that homemade look if it's too perfect ;)

FILLING

1. If you do choose to make your own filling (as I said before, a good jam would suffice), I made mine while my cakes were in the oven. Take three cups of your raspberries, the sugar, salt, and lemon juice to a medium saucepan and stir them up, bringing them to a boil and continuing to cook them for several minutes more. All the while you should be stirring and mashing the berries with the back of your spoon against the pan’s sides. Now, the original recipe says this takes about 9-10 minutes total but it took mine at least 15. You’ll know it’s good when it begins to thick and clinging to your spoon – and if you’re asking yourself: is it clinging to my spoon? It’s probably not. You’ll know the difference when you see it. 

2. Let this cool down for a half hour or so and then stir in two more cups of whole raspberries (reserve the rest for decoration).

3. Once your cake and filling are fairly cool, stack your cakes up with filling in-between the middle layers! Wrap that baby up and let it finish cooling for at least an hour in the fridge while you take a little Netflix break and make the fresh frosting (or you can make the frosting up to five days before if you don't want to have to do all of this at once - just bring to room temp. and re-beat). 

4. Note: I melted and cooled my chocolate separately because I didn't have a great way of measuring ounces. While the cake was cooling I repeated my process of melting and cooling chocolate and bringing frosting ingredients to room temperature. 

FROSTING

1. I straight up copied the frosting recipe, so I'd like to remind everyone this is an adapted recipe so I can take very little ownership over it. I kind of wish I'd added another little dose of the Turkish coffee to bring out the chocolate in this part, too - let me know if you try it! With that disclaimer restated, I'd like to again admit I'm not an avid baker and do not own a sifter. Sifting your dry ingredients is great. I just do my best to eliminate chunks and one day I might get around to buying one. Whether sifted or not, whisk your sugar, cocoa, and salt. 

2. In your larger bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese and butter on medium-high before reducing to medium-low and slowly adding your dry mixture. 

3. Slowly add in your cooled chocolate, adding the sour cream last and beating until all combined.

4. Frost and decorate that baby! Don't worry if your frosting isn't perfectly smooth (though I will say I found this frosting to be a bit thicker and easier to smooth) - it just gives it that made with love look! I added raspberries around the edge and HB (for happy birthday) with extra chocolate chips to the center (because you don't even want to see me try to write with frosting, though I'm technically equipped for it now). But you do you and get crazy with it, decorate as you like! Enjoy!


This cake also happened to make a decadent leftover for Peter to "bring" to a little potluck/board game night I held at my place Saturday. Great minds think alike because we all brought pasta and nothing can be wrong with that. If you enjoy group games and are immersed in friends with smartphones, try adding Jackbox to your list! I was hesitant because I love the good ole fashioned "board" part of board game night, but we had a blast. 

So, to wrap things up, this was my first "recipe" to share to this blog and I'd like to do more of that in the future (especially when my camera is feeling better - some amateur food-photography could be a fun endeavor). Let me know if you try the cake!

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