Dandelion Chocolate Cake
I have been planning this cake for like two years.
No joke, my initial design notes on this cake are dated December 13th, 2015. It is a testament to the benefits of keeping a careful journal of your ideas, recipes, and any design inspiration that you come across, because eventually you might actually scrape together the energy to execute! My Evernote journal is stuffed with ideas I've been collecting over the years, and I don't think I could ever possibly run out at this point!
Well, this design has taken a while but it finally happened! The decoration is 98% Italian Meringue Buttercream colored with Americolor gel food coloring, and 2% flashy, shiny sprinkles individually placed with tweezers because OCD. I also tried out a new technique for a flush bi-colored top that I'm going to be playing with more moving forward. For the past few years I've been curious about playing with the particular properties of meringue-based buttercreams and I'm excited to start pushing clean, colorful flush designs further. Very pleased with that aspect of this cake design.
But man, piping with meringue buttercreams is hard!! My lines didn't want to stay straight and as the buttercream sat in my piping bag, it started to develop pesky bubbles. The trick is obviously to move faster (or be less lazy and re-beat the icing a few times during the process, but who am I kidding), so I've got to work on my speed. Regardless, I was able to accomplish the overall effect I was going for: lively, designy, floaty, and ethereal like the dandelions I can't wait to see sprouting up as we head towards spring.
This cake was a tall one—14 layers! I won't lie, getting a smooth finish on that height posed a challenge, and my finish wasn't quite as clean as I wanted. I eventually got to a point where I was worried that if I fussed with my final coat of buttercream anymore I would make a mistake I couldn't undo, so I took a deep breath and walked away. It's one of the most important things I finally learned to do with cake, having taken many a design one step too far!
The base I made for this cake is fudgy and delicious, and the cake flour causes it to melt in your mouth in the most amazing way. I based it on a Rose Levy Beranbaum cake; I seriously cannot recommend any and all of her books enough. Her testing for each recipe is famously thorough, so if you follow her recipes to a T, your chances of success are super high. I like to live dangerously, so I tweaked the recipe a bit. You can find it below!
Chocolate Velvet Cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake in Rose's Heavenly Cakes
126g (1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp) cocoa powder, sifted
236g/ml (1 cup) boiling water
6 large eggs at room temp
236g/ml (1 cup) water
5 tsp vanilla
470g (4 3/4 cups) cake flour, sifted
600g (3 cups) sugar
44g (1/3 cup) whole milk powder
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
454g (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Prepare three 6" pans by coating with shortening, placing baking paper circles at the bottom, coating with shortening again, and flouring. I know it's a lot of work, but your cakes will never stick, ever!
Mix the boiling water into the cocoa powder and whisk until the lumps are gone. Place it in the fridge with some plastic wrap on top to cool down to room temp while you move on to next steps.
Whisk the eggs, 118g/ml (1/2 cup) water, and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, and salt until totally combined. Set your bowl on the mixer and, using the paddle attachment at medium speed, beat in the egg mixture in two additions, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides and beat for another few seconds to incorporate. Divide between the prepared pans and smooth out the surface of the batter.
Bake the cakes for 45-60 minutes, until the cake springs back when you give it a light poke. Remove from the oven and set on racks, allowing to come to room temp in the pans. If you remove the cakes while they're still warm, you risk having the sides of the cake buckle inward; this happened to me and I had to shave extra off the sides of my stacked cake to even it out. Do better.
Remove the cakes from the pans and wrap well before storing in the fridge until you're ready to torte. Done and done!
I've got some sweet cookies coming up early next week; stay tuned!