Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Blackout Cake

I saw the recipe for this Chocolate Blackout Cake come across the facebook feed for America's Test Kitchen a couple weeks back and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.




I've been having insane chocolate cravings nearly every waking moment since. Even while sleeping my mind is on chocolate—I dreamt of an episode from high school days when my bestie miraculously encountered the limits of her seemingly infinite tolerance for chocolate with a hot fudge sundae, extra fudge.

So, since Scoob's only Valentine's request was a turkey dinner, I decided to try the Blackout recipe, in part to mark the day as special, but also to satisfy my own obsession. And once I'd made the decision to try it, all I could think was "Try not. Do or do not! There is no try!"

And boy, oh, boy. Do I did!

I didn't alter a thing in the recipe. Though I did hit a snag with the pudding instructions, which delayed the Valentine's treat until the day after, so I have changed those for clarity.


Chocolate Blackout Cake

INGREDIENTS
Pudding
    1¼ cups granulated sugar
    ¼ cup cornstarch
    ½ tsp salt
    2 cups half-and-half
    1 cup whole milk
    6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    2 tsps vanilla extract

Cake
    8 Tbsps unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pans
    1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pans
    2 tsps baking powder
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ½ tsp salt
    ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    1 cup brewed coffee
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
For the pudding:
  1. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

I read this and assumed the bubbles they spoke of referred to heat bubbles, but after whisking for 10 minutes without getting heat bubbles I figured they must have been talking about the bubbles from the whisking action, so I went ahead and put it in the fridge. WRONG. When I came back 6 hours later I had some very nicely chilled, delicious chocolate soup.

I put the soup back on the stove and heated it just to boiling, which worked beautifully. I'm happy I rescued it, but was bummed it wouldn't be ready for Valentine's dessert. So, as someone who had never made home-made pudding before, I would change these instructions.

REVISED pudding instructions:
  1. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to thicken. Continue whisking until the you feel drag on the whisk and mixture begins to bubble, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and blah, blah, blah.

But that's just me.

For the cake layers:
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.

  2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.

  3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

If you're one of those people convinced that chocolate makes you break out, just making this cake is going to have you feeling like your skin is back in high school.

To assemble the cake:
  1. Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. (There's a nice picture tutorial on the website.) Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

I tell ya' though, assembly is messy. I had cake crumbs every where. And trying to wipe them up from the counter just doubled my work since I ended up getting more on the floor than in my dish towel. I should have just vacuumed the counters.

And then there's the dish clean up. Since we don't have kids and Scoob's such a hard worker and couldn't take a break, I was forced to lick spatulas and bowls myself.


Oh, the sacrifices I make!


It's really not a pretty cake. In fact, it's kinda scary. Looks more like a doorstop. Feels like one, too; it's heavy!


If it didn't already have a name, I'd call it Chocolate Intimidation.


It's much prettier after you slice into it (though not much), which is probably why they chose to use the photo at the top! (And how did they get that photo without all the crumbs that flew everywhere? Some definite staging.)




I'd cut a slice this size for Scoob and one for myself. We couldn't finish it and had the leftovers with lunch today. Also, be ready for some serious chocolate overload. I knew the chocolate kick would be strong, but wholly cow!

I knew that chocolate contains caffeine and triggers the brain to release endorphins, giving us a happy feeling. But the jolt I got after eating half a slice prompted me to look up how else chocolate effects the brain. Turns out that in addition to the caffeine and opioid endorphin reaction, among the 350+ natural chemicals in chocolate three chemicals trigger cannabinoid receptors (the same receptors triggered by tetrahydrocannabinol, or marijuana) and several stimulants, one of which, phenylethylamine, is related to amphetamines.

So, probably not a good apr├Ęs dinner evening treat. Unless, of course, you're planning to stay up into the wee hours and work off some of your energy with your sweetie, in which case it's an excellent choice!

This is a dense, rich, and extra chocolatey cake. The recipe says the cake will serve 10–12, I say, cut smaller slices! And my god, do not serve it to children!

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