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Saturday, December 11, 2010

LET THEM EAT 4-LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE!

4-Tiered Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting and Peach Jam


Firstly, a BIG thank you to my mom who has always been there for me with love, support, and baking advice.......and who inspired me to cook from a very young age. Her help in making this cake is incomparable and she made it such a fun experience.....an amazing day!

You heard that title correctly...... 4-Layer Chocolate Cake! Let me start out by justifying my actions with the bold statement that, in moderation, chocolate is healthy. That doesn't mean you'll live to be a hundred if you double up on your Snickers bar intake or that you'll lose weight, feel wonderful, and lose those wrinkles with a few extra bags of M&Ms.......but........it does mean that occasional high-quality dark chocolate indulgences can actually help increase the antioxidant power within your body, can help lower stress and blood pressure, elevate mood, relax muscles, and increase brain function. High-quality dark chocolate offers a host of benefits: omega-3s, magnesium, phenethylamine (PEA), and theobromine.

GET HAPPY! WITH CHOCOLATE!
Chocolate comes from a large tropical fruit called theobroma cacao that grows in South America. Cocoa is made from the beans of the fruit, which are roasted, pressed, and separated from the fat, resulting in a chocolate powder. The fat is called cocoa butter, which is the base of hard chocolates. Two of the naturally-occurring chemicals in chocolate are responsible for being the food of choice for post-break-up women all around the world. Why do women love their chocolate? Why do people feel so great gobbling down a thousand calories of Valentine's chocolates or Ben & Jerry's? Why do I mourn for days on end when the CVS down the street runs out of Dove dark chocolate? One answer may be that chocolate offers two chemicals mentioned earlier called phenethylamine (PEA) and theobromine. Both chemicals increase the levels of serotonin (the "happy" chemical) in the brain, making one feel similar feelings of being in love. Both chemicals increase mood, ease stress, lower tension, and help loosen arteries and increase blood flow, making one think clearer, have more energy, and feel happier. When confronted with the realization that an angry mob of starving people were storming he castle, Marie-Antoinette may have been onto something when she facetiously responded with, "Let them eat cake!" Especially if it was chocolate cake!!

LIMBER, LOOSE, and LENGTH
Winter makes you creaky. Brittle. Stiff. Cold. Don't you wish there was some magical thing that could make you feel good, help you warm up, get blood flowing, help your heart, and relax muscles? It's called a gym membership, lazy bones! Get running! But a more delicious option that requires absolutely no spandex, bench presses, or sweaty towels is chocolate! A good-quality dark chocolate helps increase circulation which brings blood flow to the colder parts of your body to warm them up. Increased blood flow also allows more calories and nutrients to reach cells, making your body energy stores more easily accessible. Increased blood flow also promotes healing, healthy-looking skin, and flexibility. Chocolate is also an amazing therapy for the heart (both emotionally and physically!) and it helps to lower blood pressure. A really amazing experience is to buy yourself a 70% organic cocoa chocolate bar, to eat about half of it veeerrrrryyyy slowly, having the chocolate melt in your mouth (this method releases the most "happy" chemicals in your brain), and then to hit the mat. The yoga mat that is. The chocolate helps provide the increased blood flow and relaxing feeling that both contribute to a successful jaunt in yoga. Or try some Tai Chi, dance, or just some simple stretches. Clean the kitchen, make the bed.......do something active, enjoy the moment, and feel the warmth flowing through your body and mind. And then thank your lucky stars for the conquistadors who brought the bitter ground cocoa to Europe where nations like Italy and France added sugar and made the confection we have today. Take a "me" day. Enjoy some music, buy yourself some good tea, read a book, do some yoga, write, or celebrate the holidays, friends, family, and all the riches in your life by baking a cake. Don't be afraid of it....it may seem a little intimidating but really, it is all just about following directions and being willing to learn and enjoy the process! Try something new, learn a few skills, eat some chocolate, enjoy the day before the craziness of the holidays really begins to set in! Gratitude and joy attract peace and plenty.


QUADRUPLE-TIERED CHOCOLATE CAKE with HOMEMADE PEACH JAM AND CHOCOLATE CREAM FROSTING

Makes one 4-tiered cake. OR one 3-layered cake. OR 3 individual cakes!

This cake freezes really really well, so no worries about extra!

You will need:
-electric mixer, either a stand-up Kitchenaid mixer or a hand-mixer
-big, big bowls!
-either three 8" or 9" cake pans OR 4 cake pans of varying sizes, none larger than 9"

**For baking tips and hints, read THIS

Ingredients for the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER:
  • 1 1/2 cups of local or at least organic unsalted butter, softened. This equals 3 sticks. 
  • 2 cups organic unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 cups sifted, organic pastry flour or all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c organic sugar
  • 2 cups organic whole milk, coconut milk, or soy milk
  • 3 large eggs, beaten, plus 3 yolks
  • 1 tsp stevia or to taste, OR use 3 cups organic sugar
Method for the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER: 
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
-Grease all pans generously with butter
-Sift salt, cocoa powder, flour, sugar, and baking soda together in a bowl and mix thoroughly
-Mix softened butter, vanilla, eggs, milk, and stevia together in another bowl and beat with a mixer or by hand until a smooth consistency is reached and all ingredients are combined.
-In a mixer, slowly add about 1/2 cup at a time of the dry ingredients to the wet on medium speed, mixing well in between adding the dry mixture.
-When all ingredients are incorporated, beat on high speed about 3 minutes.
-Pour batter into cake pans 1/2 inch away from the top rim.
-Bake about 25-50 minutes, remembering that if you are making a tiered cake, the smaller cakes will be done much quicker than the larger ones, so keep a diligent eye.
-Cake is ready when top cracks open a bit and when a knife is inserted fully into the cake, it comes out clean.
-Let cakes cool in their pans rested atop wire racks to allow the bottom of the pans to cool.
-After 15 minutes, gently and quickly flip cakes over onto wire racks or plates to rest

Ingredients for CHOCOLATE CREAM FROSTING:
  • 24 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels 
  • 4 cups organic heavy cream OR 4 cups coconut milk heavy cream
  • 1 tsp organic light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
Method for CHOCOLATE CREAM FROSTING:
**Warning: This Frosting seems to be a pain but it is WORTH IT!!! It may be one of the best frostings you have ever had......

-Put a pot of water on the boil 
-Place a large metal bowl over the top of the pot and place chocolate int he bowl, stirring it constantly as it melts. This process is tempering chocolate....to temper, read Baking 101 HERE
-Once melted, add cream and mix well, keeping over heat.
-On medium-high heat, stir chocolate-cream mixture for 30-35 minutes. It may be very runny or thick.......as long as you followed the directions, no worries, it will thicken.
-After 30-35 minutes of stirring, take bowl off heat and stir in the vanilla and corn syrup.
-Place bowl in fridge and let set a minimum of two hours, until thick.

ASSEMBLY OF CAKE: 
-You will need the thickened frosting, the cooled cakes, an offset spatula, a piping bag and tips if you want to pipe decorations on the cake. These are cheap, fun, and you can use them for cake decorating, cookies, and even savory hors d'oeuvres. HERE is a great beginning set!
-AND you'll need 2 1/2 - 3 cups of a good-quality jam that goes well with chocolate. Raspberry would be amazing, as would apricot, strawberry, or marmalade. I used a homemade peach and star anise jam made from NY peaches I dried in my dehydrator when I lived up in the Hudson Valley.........it was a great-tasting combo!
-Ok, so spread a thick layer of about 1/3-1/2 inch of jam on the bottom of each tier except the bottom tier and then stack them evenly straight up. If you are making a layered cake instead of tiers, spread a thick layer of jam on top of each layer and stack the layers.
-Make sure cake is steady, not leaning, etc, and that the jam is thick enough to hold the cake layers/tiers up.
-Cover cake with a very thick layer of frosting......it doesn't have to look good at all. Just throw it on! You'll see my pictures below. Cover every part of the cake.
-Using the offset spatula and a pitcher of very hot water and a towel, get the spatula hot int he water, wipe off the water, and use the heat to evenly spread and smooth the frosting on the cake. The best way the do this is to hold the spatula so it looks like an "l" and slowly go around the edges of each tier and then carefully around the top of the tiers, making neat meeting points where the top and sides meet. A great beginning book to help you build a repertoire of basic cake and decorating skills is THIS BOOK. I have this book and love, love, love it. The Swiss Buttercream Frosting recipe in that book is to die for!
-You are DONE! Well, unless you'd like to fancy your cake up a bit.....which, of course you do! Why go through all that trouble to have a boring cake? For a classically beautiful and easy look, go to your local store or florist and buy some flowers like daisies, violets, or pansies and stick flowers to the cake and around it.....lovely!
-If you'd like to decorate, get some extra frosting and fill your pastry bag. Put on the many-pronged circular sunburst tip, tie end of bag with a rubberband and make little sunbursts/flowers around each layer/tier and covering the top of the top layer/tier and covering the entire sides of the first tier.....you'll see what I am talking about in the pictures.

--Enjoy your work! Have a party! Show this beauty off and relax with chocolate and these pictures!!

Stewing my peaches to make jam....

My peach & star anise jam in jars



Varying sizes of cake pans I used......some springform, some not.



The butter, cut up to make mixing easier

The wet mix!

The dry mix!

This bottom tin is lined with parchment to make clean-up easier and to help prevent the cake from sticking

Me mixing away!

The batter!

Baking the cakes!

Making the frosting in the stove

Cake cooling on a wire rack

The cake assembled but naked

Putting on the frosting to cover before shaping

The finished cake!

And it tasted even better than it looks!

For my aunt Candy's birthday!!!

Cross-section to show jam and layers!

My aunt Candy so happy to have a delicious cake made with love for her birthday!!!

1 comment:

Roxann said...

Samara - this cake looks and sounds outrageously delish! Lucky Candy!
Roxie