Chocolate Peppermint Cake


 I made this cake for a holiday work party because who better to test new recipes on than coworkers right? Don't worry, none of my guinea pigs coworkers were harmed during the experiment!
If you want an impressive chocolate cake for the holidays or just for your self this one got rave reviews and requests for the recipe. Decorating this 3 layer beauty couldn't be easier. Just cover with a chocolate ganache and sprinkle chopped peppermint candy for a festive presentation.  I highly recommend it and will definitely make it again.

I found the recipe as the cover model for Ladies Home Journal December 2006. Here is a link to the recipe with a stunning photo of the cake. See why I could not get this cake out of my mind 3 years later! As is my style I did not stick to the recipe. I used my favorite one bowl chocolate cake recipe from Sky High (a book I HIGHLY recommend!) and made small changes (added more mint flavor) to the filling and frosting.



For the cake
Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake from
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes


Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs



1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

Peppermint cream cheese filling
adapted from LHG 

2  ounces (12 to 13) whole round hard peppermint candies, plus 1/2 cup chopped for garnish 
1  cup confectioners' sugar 
1  container (12 oz.) whipped cream cheese (2 cups), at room temperature - I used regular cream cheese
4  tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 
1  teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

To make the filling: place whole peppermint candies and confectioners' sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese, butter, and extract. 

Mint Chocolate Ganache
adapted from LHG 
1-1/4  cups heavy cream 
3  bars (4 oz. each) or 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
2  tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Another option you can use with great results is to use a dark mint chocolate bar of good quality.

To make the glaze:  bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from heat; add chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth, about 5 minutes, and transfer to a bowl. Let cool 15 minutes.

 Cake assembly
  To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the mint cream cheese filling evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top

 To decorate with the Chocolate Ganache Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped starlight mints or candy canes - peppermint flavor.

If you do decide to make this I would love to hear from you. I chose the cake recipe from sky high for it's simplicity and super moist crumb.

Cake Slice Bakers- Mississippi Mud Cake



Here we are in February and it is time for the monthly reveal of another Cake Slice Bakers challenge. This month the bakers top pick was a Mississippi mud Cake. I was really excited to try this cake since it is not something I would ever choose on my own. The cake is basically a brownie bottom covered in marshmallows and a fudge frosting.

I halved the recipe and I'm glad I did because this recipe is cloyingly sweet. A few bites and I felt ill. The flavor is lacking in both the brownie and frosting, barely a hint of chocolate and no depth of flavor.

So I tweaked the recipe to give it a 2010 flavor profile. 


 I  used the brownie recipe from Baked and left out the nuts,  roasted the marshmallows until golden, then drizzled a semi-sweet chocolate ganache over the top. 
OMG! 
The result? See for your self!

MUDSLIDE!!!

 Best of luck to the rest of you can't wait to see how every one else liked this recipe.
In defense of Southern Cakes I would like to add that I have baked some really good cakes from it. The Pear cake is awesome, the oatmeal cake is like eating a spicy sweet bowl of your favorite oatmeal  in cake form, the pound cakes are impressive. Even our first pick as a group - the pecan coffee cake was decent. I think there are other great recipes waiting to be discovered if they could win the monthly vote. There is a whole chapter on coconut cakes so one of them must be good!
See you all next month for another cake from The Cake Slice Bakers.

Makes one 13 x 9 inch sheet cake

February’s Cake: Mississippi Mud Cake
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
For the Cake
1 cup (2sticks) butter, cut into big chunks
½ cup cocoa powder
4 eggs, beaten well
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

For the Mississippi Mud Frosting
One 16 ounce box (3¼ cups) confectioners sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
½ cup milk or evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups mini marshmallows or 3 cups large marshmallows quartered 


Method – Cake
Heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13x9 inch pan. In a medium saucepan combine the butter and cocoa powder and cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the butter is melted and the mixture is well blended, about 3 – 4 minutes. Stir in the beaten eggs, vanilla, sugar, flour, salt and pecans and beat until the batter is well combined and the flour has disappeared.

Quickly pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cake springs back when touched gently in the center and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

While the cake bakes, prepare the frosting so it is ready to pour over the hot cake.

Method – Mud Frosting
In a medium bowl combine the confectioners sugar and the cocoa powder and stir to mix well. Add the melted butter, milk and vanilla and beat everything together well. Set aside until the cake is done.

To Serve
Remove the cake from the oven, scatter the marshmallows over the top and then return the cake to the hot oven for about 3 minutes to soften the marshmallows.
Place the cake, still in the pan, on a wire rack. Pour the frosting all over the marshmallow dotted cake and eat straight away or allow to cool to room temperature. Cut the cake into squares and serve.

Orange Chiffon Cake



Chiffon is one of my favorite cakes to bake and any sort of citrus flavor is sure to be a hit at my house. I have made  Raspberry Chiffon and Lemon Chiffon and decided it was time for orange to make an appearance here at Symphonious Sweets. I have made this cake many times but, never able to just leave a good recipe alone, I decided to try something a little different. The Raspberry Chiffon recipe actually calls for a box of sugar free raspberry gelatin so I thought why not pump up the orange flavor and color with some orange jello.
In my first attempt I forgot the oil... this is bad. A chiffon cake needs the oil to tenderize the crumb. I tasted a couple of slices and even though the flavor was pretty good the texture was like eating a sea sponge. At least that is how I remember sea sponges!  So remember the oil is very important!
Recipe Orange Chiffon when you have no Oranges!
Ingredients
2 cups All-purpose Flour or 2 cups and 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 1/2 cups White Sugar- I use bakers sugar
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 small pkg. Sugar-Free orange Gelatin (Jell-O)
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
8 Large Eggs, separated
1 cup Cold Water
1 tablespoon orange Extract
1 vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Preparation
Adjust rack to lower middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325°.
Wash a 10” angel food tube pan in hot soapy water to ensure it is grease free. A dash of vinegar wiped in the pan with a paper towel  works well for removing grease. I usually use this trick when whipping egg whites.

Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and gelatin into a deep mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Make a well and add oil, egg yolks, water and orange extract in order given. Don’t beat yet.( I did not do this in order and it came out fine)
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Now beat egg yolk batter until smooth and light, then pour over egg whites. Fold in with a rubber spatula (try not to stir, using only a folding technique until well combined).
Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until done (it will feel solid when tapped and a pick should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs). Cover loosely with foil should the top darken.
Remove from oven and hang upside down on a bottle until cool-about 1 ½ hrs. .

 Slice shots

 oh the drips! 

Eclairs


 Eclairs! What could be better for an elegant weekend treat with coffee. You don't have to go to a bakery for these anymore! They are surprisingly simple. The baked unfilled shells can be made in advance and frozen for several weeks or stored a few days at room temperature.
Eclair paste (Pate a choux) is unique among pastry doughs because it is cooked before baking. The dough is more batter-like in appearance and can easily be piped onto a silpat liner. As the dough bakes in the oven it puffs up and large air pockets form- perfect for filling! I used  vanilla pudding  left over from another baking challenge. Other options I want to try are coffee pastry cream, coconut pastry cream, and a variation on the vanilla pudding using a whole Tahitian vanilla bean. Chocolate lovers could try their favorite chocolate pudding or pastry cream.
I have had eclairs bookmarked in an old culinary cookbook for quit some time. I never tried them because they seemed too complicated. Then I happened to be visiting Frieda's lovely cooking blog Lovin' from the oven when she posted some cream puffs and eclairs. Her step by step photos convinced me that these might be easier to make than I had ever guessed.

 
The recipe from Better Homes and Gardens is similar to the one in my cookbook except it gives the option of using milk. My book notes that using all water will yield a crisper shell. 

 Eclair Paste ( Pate A Choux)
1 c. water
½ c. butter
1/8 t. salt
1 c. all purpose flour
4 eggs

 INSTRUCTIONS
 Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C) 
In medium saucepan combine water, butter and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir till mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.

Spoon dough into a decorating bag with ½” round tip. Pipe onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet 12 strips of dough, 4” long, 3” apart. ( I made mini eclairs about 2 inches long and they came out great) Immediately bake in preheated oven beginning at 425 F  for 10 minutes then lover the heat to 400 F for another 20 minutes. Keep the oven door closed as much as possible during baking. The shells should be brown and dry inside.
Cool completely then fill as desired.

Vanilla Pudding recipe is over at Lovin Oven. It is quick and very tasty! It uses the whole egg unlike pastry cream which will leave you with an excess of egg whites to use up.

To fill cut a small hole into the end of each baked, cooled eclair shell. Pipe the filling into each shell using a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Be sure the cream fills the full length of each shell (I had problems getting the entire shell filled the pastry still tasted great but not every bite had enough filling.)  If you are not serving these right away they can be refrigerated but serve them within 8-12 hours or they will get soggy. 


  

Chocolate Glaze
 Unsweetened Chocolate 60 grams
Semisweet chocolate 60 grams
Unsalted butter 60 grams
agave syrup 2 teaspoons

Melt all ingredients together over a bain marie. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
In a single, smooth stoke, drag the top of each filled eclair through the glaze. Only the top of each pastry should be coated.
Finished eclairs should be refrigerated and served within 8 to 12 hours.
  

Thanks to lovin oven for the motivation to finally try this delicious pastry! YUM!