Monday, March 3, 2008

Domestic Volcanoes

When I get a craving for a particular food it's like an itch. I can ignore it for a bit, then it's back stronger. I can try other foods that are like the craved item, but they don't quite hit the spot. The itch won't go away until I've made just what I've been craving.

The other day I thought about chocolate cake. I like chocolate cake. I always have. I have a philosophy about chocolate. It's good. And when you put more chocolate on it, it's better. So chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is a favorite. And after I'd thought of chocolate cake I thought about how much I'd like to have a piece of chocolate cake. After eating a handful of chocolate chips, a mini Snickers bar, and a piece of bread with Nutella on it, I decided to do my waist a favor and just make a chocolate cake.

I had my copy of Barefoot Contessa At Home on the counter and flipped it open to a picture of a double layer, deep, dark, chocolatey cake with delicious, chocolate frosting. Yummm. Yes, that would definitely hit the spot!

I set to work and in no time had the batter made. As I poured the batter into the cake pans, I thought that they seemed quite full, but maybe this was a cake that didn't rise much. I slid the cake layers into the oven and set the timer. Then I went downstairs to do a few things and when I came up again, why was I smelling smoke??? I looked in the oven and was horrified to see my cake layers had turned into twin volcanoes, spewing molten cake lava onto the bottom of the oven. I quickly stuck a cookie sheet onto the bottom rack of the oven to catch the rest and opened a window to let out the smoke.

What had happened to my cake? I reviewed the recipe step by step and I'd measured and done just as instructed. We made the best of the situation, eating the cake with whipped cream (I wasn't going to bother trying to frost such an ungainly cake) and it tasted just fine. But I was perplexed. Was it me? Was it the recipe?

So when I talked to my sister, who I knew had the same cookbook, I asked if she'd ever made the cake. I don't think so, she said. I described the cake making process to her and when I reached the part about the cake pans looking full, she said, Yes, Yes! She'd made that cake and had the same thing happen to her. And then she'd called a baking friend who'd recommended the cake and complained. That friend had had the same experience and forgot to warn her.

Aha! It was the recipe! So, as a public service to my readers, not at all because I still was wanting chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, I made the cake again. This time using 9-inch cake pans instead of the 8-inch called for in the recipe. Worked like a charm.

So if you've got Barefoot Contessa At Home, go get your copy right now, before you forget, open to page 165, cross out 8-inch and write in 9-inch for the cake pans. And then make the cake. You know you want it. Dark chocolate with just a hint of coffee. Nothing else will satisfy, so get baking!

Mocha Non-Volcano Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, then butter and flour them.

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the cofee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Loosen the edges by running a knife around the inside, if needed, turn the cake onto a plate, peel the parchment paper off the bottom, then turn the cake onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

When the layers are completely cooled, place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, roudned side up, and sspread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting

6 oz. good semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp instant coffee powder

Place a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and place the chopped chocolate inside. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 tsp of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.


Patricia Scarpin said...

I hate it when recipes come with this kind of mistake - cleaning the oven must have been bad!

The cake looks wonderful, though - I'm glad you figured the problem out and tried it again!

Dee Light said...

Well, I wasn't thinking chocolate cake before, but now I've got to have some.

So weird about the vocanic cake!! I never would have thought about that happening because of the pan being too small, but now that I think about it, it makes sence.

Chelsea said...

I hate cleaning the oven. At least you got a cake out of the deal.

Now I want cake.

Anonymous said...

I totally thought you were going to say you added Nutella to it. That would have been killer. But even chocolate volcano cake sounds yummy!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd laugh but I know how unfun that oven was.
Sometimes we really should listen to ourselves over the recipe even ones from authors we trust.
I'm going to mark the book right now. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Pretty lushious cake! I guess you really, really wanted chocolate cake to make it twice!
I think there should be a book errata
web site address in all new cookbooks now. I know Rose Levy Beranbaum has one on her site.

Peabody said...

Thanks for the heads up about the pan. It's a great looking cake.

Sarah said...

Yum! I definitely want chocolate cake now too! I do that with chocolate...whenever I want something chocolately & try to satisfy my craving with something sugar-y (but not chocolate) it always backfires & I end up eating more junkfood than I would have if I had given into my craving!

Mar said...

ñumiñumiñumi!!!, que delicia esa torta!!!

Melanie said...

I subscribe to the same theory as chocolate on chocolate is only a good thing! That chocolate cake looks divine.

Brilynn said...

I'm the same way, once I decide I want one thing, substitutes just don't work. This cake looks gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I have all those ingredients and now I have a craving for chocolate cake. What to do? what to do?

eatme_delicious said...

Mmm that chocolate cake is just what I need right now! I made cake a couple of weeks ago and after it had started baking, and rising, I realized the cake pans were too small. Thankfully I didn't have a volcano situation though.

Anonymous said...

Patti says: Thanks for posting the cake. I'd forgotten to change the recipe, even though we'd talked. Now it's done.

RecipeGirl said...

Oh, I hate when things overflow into my clean oven and smoke up the whole darn kitchen!! I'm walking over to my BC at H cookbook right now and changing the indicated pan size. Your second try turned out delicioso looking!

Karen Baking Soda said...

Looking at that first pretty pic I was wondering where that volcano came in.. expecting caved oozing inners maybe? But you made it again! Great going and looking good!

Jerry said...

Whoops on the Barefoot Contessa's part! Glad you eventually made the cake, it looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

I went to Inas webpage and looked on her FAQ's page and she did comment about her Chocolate Ganache Cake from Barefoot Contessa Parties. She commented on the size of the pan for that recipe. I was surpised I didn't see the same thing for this recipe.

From her site:

I had a problem with the Chocolate Ganache Cake. What should I do?

The cake is not supposed to be liquid in the center. You want to bake it until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake just comes out clean. First check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer from the hardware store. If that's not the problem, bake the cake in a 9-inch rather than an 8-inch pan and it should work for you.

LyB said...

Now you've got ME craving chocolate cake! I totally agree with you, chocolate cake has got to have chocolate frosting, it's just better that way! Volcano cake with whipped cream sounds good too though! ;)

Ryley @ That's My Family! said...


I have been craving a rich chocolate layer cake for WEEKS now.

I was even my birthday last week. and all I wanted was a chocolate layer cake.. and no one would make me one.. :(

this is a super bad craving.. like worse than any other craving..

the problem is.. I can't make it for myself! I don't know why.. but I dont want to make it!

Oh.. this looks so good..

Can I please have a piece?? :(

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Count me in for coffee and a piece. Looks divine. I like her recipes. So flavorful.

Anonymous said...

what about the egg yolk in the frosting recipe? I don't see instructions for adding it in and it seems like a strange ingredient for frosting.

Anonymous said...

yowza, i do not envy you your oven-cleaning experience.

this looks almost like my favorite chocolate cake recipe from epicurious. of course, anything from the contessa is bound to be amazing.

i'd not been craving chocolate cake before, but i am now. drat!

Anne said...

This is pure chocolate bliss...absolutely tempting and indulgent :)

southern daze said...

Thank you...thank you! I've been itching to make this cake (I'm a sucker for a good chocolate cake!)and am thrilled to have read this before doing so. Seeing your pictures makes me want a piece...RIGHT NOW! Looks like I may be baking cake tomorrow.

This is my first visit to your blog and, from what I've seen so far, I'll definitely be back!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Well, the end result looks amazing. Your photos show clearly just how lovely and moist the cake is... Yum!

Gattina Cheung said...

thanks for this review. You cake looks so moist, so chocolate-y, and professtion! I got to try this wonderful recipe.

Kelly-Jane said...

Beautiful chocolate cake. Thanks for the pan size tip, I'll go and pencil 9" in!

Helene said...

I love your philosophy! There is nothing as satisfying as a good piece of chocolate cake. Looks decadent!

Sharona May said...

I agree with all the comments made already - the cake looks absolutely fantastic!! I would love a piece.

Sharona May

Gigi said...

...mmm chocolate cake! Looks absolutely fantastic. Thanks for the tip on the pan!

Cakespy said...

My heart is a volcano, erupting with pleasure at the sight of this cake! Wow!! It looks really rich and delicious. Probably tastes even better!

Robert Levy said...

This cake is on fire! It looks absolutely good, can't wait to make one of my own.

Robert Levy said...
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Robert Levy said...
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Robert Levy said...
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Anonymous said...

Oh man, I had a similar experience in a bakery a few summers ago...I feel for you and anyone that has to clean up a mess like that. In my case, I ruined 4 cakes, all destined for the display case- not a good show for the boss at all.. It does look delicious though, and I love that it includes buttermilk, which I have in my fridge right now! My bf's birthday is coming up, and this might be perfect for his celebration :)

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