Devil's Food Cake

Some people love cake.*  Growing up, we were not cake and ice cream eaters.  Sure, Mom would trot out the Betty Crocker box of chocolate cake mix on birthdays and graduations, but we ate only our obligatory slice.  There were games of Squirrel! (a game my kindergarten-teaching mother made up) to be played and presents to unwrap.  But cake was always present at such occasions.  While I am not a huge cake eater, I do believe that cake should make an appearance when there is something to celebrate.
*I think this blog is one of the funniest things out there.

It's not everyday that I make a cake.  In fact, it wasn't even recently that I made a cake.

But I did make a cake this spring.  I teach high school, and one of my students had something to celebrate, and I have always wanted to make a layer cake, so I took it upon myself to spend a Monday night baking and a Tuesday morning frosting the cake in my office.  And then we all huddled around the cake, ready to dig in.

Verdict from teenagers:  frosting is so seriously good it might cause you harm.  Cake was a little dry, but still quite yummy.  Serve with a glass of milk or some vanilla ice cream, and you would be set.

So while I am still not a huge cake fan, this is one worth pulling out when you have something worth celebrating.  Or maybe you could just make the frosting and eat it with a spoon.  While watching TV.  That's worth a celebration, right?

It's that good.

Excuse the background.  That would be my office.

Devil's Food Cake
Adapted from  Baking in America

1 9-inch, 2-layer cake (12-16 servings)

Chocolate Custard
1/2 cup milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
 4 cups confectioners' sugar  [I actually used less than a cup.  Just add sugar until you get to your desired sweetness]

1.  For the chocolate custard, heat the milk in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming hot.  Add the chocolate and stir occasionally with a whisk as the chocolate and stir occasionally with a whisk as the chocolate melts, then whisk until smooth.  Add the brown sugar and whisk it in until partly dissolved.  Stir in the egg yolk with a heatproof rubber spatula.  Increase the heat to medium and stir constantly until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat and sit occasionally until the custard reaches room temperature; it will thicken as it cools.

2.  For the cake, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of waxed paper or cooking parchment.  Butter the papers and dust the bottoms of the pans with all-purpose flour.  Knock out the excess and set aside.

3.  Resift the flour with the baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating for 20 to 30 seconds after each addition.  Scrape the bowl and beaters and beat for 5 minutes.  Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 minute.

5.  On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and beating only until each addition in thoroughly incorporated.  Stop to scrape the bowl and beaters as necessary.  Add the cooled chocolate custard and beat it in only until incorporated.  Set aside.

6.  In a medium bowl, with clean beaters, beat the 3 egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks that droop at their tips when the beaters are raised.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks that curl slightly at their tips when the beaters are raised.  Fold the whites into the chocolate batter in 2 additions, folding only until no white show.  Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  To level the batter, briskly rotate the pans on your counter top.

7.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the layers barely spring back when gently pressed in the center.   (They should not have started to shrink away from the side of the pans.)  Cool i the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Loosen the cakes from the pans by running the tip of a small sharp knife all around them.  Cover with wire racks and carefully lift off the pans and papers.  Cover the lawyers with other racks, invert, and cool completely right side up.

8.  For the frosting, melt the chocolate with the butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking occasionally until smooth.  Remove from the heat and set aside until completely cool.  Whisk the sour cream, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the confectioners' sugar about one fourth at a time, whisking until very smooth [See above note about sugar].  Whisk in the cooled chocolate until very smooth.  If necessary, let stand until spreadable.

9.  To frost the cake, trim away any crusty edges with a small sharp knife.  Place one layer upside down on a cake plate and spread with abut 3/4 cup of the frosting.  Place the second layer right side up on the first layer and frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting.  Use the back of a teaspoon to make peaks and swirls in the frosting on top of the cake, if you wish.  Let stand about 1 hour until the frosting is set.  To serve, rinse a sharp knife in hot water and shake off the excess water before making each cut.


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