Sunday, December 26, 2010

Back in the Kitchen!

I checked out this cookbook from my county library a few weeks ago, and was intrigued by more than one recipe in it. There was one, however, that I kept turning back to, reading over, pondering... The Sweet and Salty Cake. An "indulgent but sophisticated adult sweet," the cookbook said. And Christmas was coming... bingo!

December 23, after filling up a grocery cart with things we don't normally keep (like a full pound of chocolate, another full pound of butter, plus heavy cream and dark brown sugar), I propped open the cookbook and tied my apron. It felt good to be making magic in the kitchen again. Dark cocoa powder, dark brown sugar, sour cream, shortening, butter, eggs... and a gloriously dark batter emerged. Baked in three 8-inch pans, the cakes came out almost black.

The cakes cooled overnight, Andrew arrived from medical school, and we listened eagerly to news predictions of a white Christmas in the southeast. Could it be?

Christmas Eve we breakfasted at Cracker Barrell with my Dad's family, finished up our shopping, and came home. I had a cake to finish. Step one: Make caramel. On the stove.  Armed with a new candy thermometer, I tentatively assembled the water, sugar, corn syrup, sea salt, and cream. Cautious stirring, careful temperature watching, fascinated observing, and science came through. Voila! Caramel!

Another batch for the ganache frosting, and then pour it over a pound of chopped chocolate, the best we could find. The caramel and the chocolate combined to form a rich, sweet, decadent flavor. To this, I added an inordinate amount of butter...

... and whipped the whole kit'n'caboodle into glorious, fluffy submission. Caramel chocolate ganache!

Each cake layer was poured over with the salted caramel, which took too long to soak (I had to poke some holes in the cake), and then covered with a layer of ganache, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel (sea salt).

Whew! Safely in the Tupperware cake holder to await Christmas afternoon. I was so worried; would it be as good as I think? I'd been talking about this cake for a while, and it took up so much time that I wondered if it would be worth it. We planned a simpler Christmas lunch (roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad), so that we could enjoy the cake more. Would it be worth it? Oh, gee.

Yup. It was. I'm not a professional food photographer, so I can't show you how lovely this cake is... here's a better picture from the Baked bakery in New York.

It's so moist; it's very hard to cut that prettily. But it's absolutely delicious. Want a bite? Come on over!