Monday, January 3, 2011

(Un)Birthday Cake

We celebrate a lot of birthdays in December. A lot as in every week it seems there is a birthday (or two) requiring some attention. And by attention of course I mean cake, because I can't let a birthday go by without their being cake. I love making birthday cake. But in December, especially at the end of December, birthday cake can be complicated. Because December birthday cake isn't like regular month birthday cake; in December birthday cake takes a back seat to Gingerbread. Hot chocolate. Fudge. Fruit Cake. (Which I didn't personally make but I ate a lot of, thanks to my Aunt who makes a mean fruit cake.) So when I offered to bring a birthday cake to my FILs birthday dinner on New Year's Day, I had a cake in mind: Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake. I think of this cake as a kind of 'un'-birthday cake. Suitable for a birthday, but not all in your face yelling "Hey! I'm a birthday cake!".

This is a pretty simple cake, but it packs a lot of punch. One-layer with a dark chocolate ganache finished by a dusting of sea salt. It was a bit fussy in that it involved folding whipped egg whites into the batter but I found the final product so light (which I suspect is owing to the inclusion of the egg whites) I'm willing to overlook the fact I had to dirty an extra bowl. (Who am I kidding - D. washed the dishes anyway. He always does.) We had this cake after a roast beef dinner and I found it to be just the right kind of cake to finish a big meal. There were no leftovers, so I guess everyone else agreed!

Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake

Cooking spray
2 teaspoons cake flour
5.3 ounces sifted cake flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Coat 1 (9-inch) round cake pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons flour.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon 5.3 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Place 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.

4. Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of egg white mixture into flour mixture; fold in remaining egg white mixture. Grate 1/2 ounce chocolate; fold grated chocolate into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Chop the remaining 2 ounces chocolate. Combine chopped chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM 1 minute or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds. Spread chocolate mixture over top of cake; sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cut into 8 wedges.

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