You know the phrase “let them eat cake”? Well here’s a new book from Elinor Klivens that believes it may as well be chocolate cakes!
I know. I know. Chocolate. Perhaps the most over discussed topic in the pantry. But this cookbook is more than just another book with chocolate in the title (Amazon lists 11,381 results to the title query ‘chocolate’). Yikes that’s a lot of calories!
Because the truth is this book is not really a book about chocolate. It’s about chocolate as a final product, a very specific and delicious final product– Chocolate Cakes: 50 Great Cakes for Every Occasion (Chronicle Books). It’s a book I think you’ll enjoy.
The author has had success with this one subject concept before. Her previous books include The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookie Book, and the even more specific– Big Fat Cookies. She’s probably working on the book Crunchy Little Yellow Cookies as we speak.
So there probably is a hungry market ready to eat this book up. But it better be very hungry because 50 chocolate cakes is a lot of cakes– especially because, as the title suggests, they are all chocolate cakes.
Fortunately for the sake of my attention span these chocolate cakes sport an amazing amount of variety. Author Klivans includes classic chocolate layer cakes to satisfy that dark craving, ice-cream cakes your kids will squeal over, and even a Chocolate Pavlova. These cakes run the gamut. There is a Chocolate-Apricot Pudding Cake, a Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Chiffon Cake and even a decadent sounding Chocolate Marzipan Crunch Cake. I can just hear that one going in my mouth!
If you are a very skilled baker much of this book will seem familiar to you. Perhaps even a touch redundant. She has a section she calls “Quick-Start Recipes” which includes her Simple Chocolate Buttercream, a sensibly simple Ganache and even a Whipped Ganache, as well as the chocolatey staples such as Devil’s Food Cake and White Chocolate Cake.
But for someone like me, who is hoping to become a better baker, it is the attention to these building blocks that attracted me to this book in the first place. Because these are the practices I’d like to master. Learn good ganache technique and you will elevate your cake baking to a new level. This book presents these skills in a very straightforward way.
I also like the fact that, as I grow as a baker, there are more difficult preparations in this book. I won’t soon out grow these cakes. In fact I think this book will become a great resource for me to consult for special occasions and my more pedestrian everyday chocolate binges– because there is more than enough inspiration to keep me party planning for years.
I have chosen to make Elinor Klivans’ Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse Cake. To qoute the author: “We are talking serious cake here. The baked cake layer, a combination of devils food and pieces of peanut butter cups, is spooned out of the center and the cavity is filled with peanut butter mousse and pieces of the scooped-out cake. Ganache and more peanut butter pieces cover the cake. As I told you this is a serious cake.”
- 8 oz peanut butter cups half as wedges & half roughly chopped
- freshly mixed devils food cake batter (enough to halfway fill a 10-inch cake pan
- 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3⁄4 c creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
- 3⁄4 c powdered sugar
- 1 c cold heavy cream
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 c chocolate ganache, cooled until thickened but pourable
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper.
Use a rubber spatula to stir the 4 oz. cup of peanut butter pieces into the cake batter. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top feels firm when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Use a small, sharp knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan, and invert the cake onto the wire rack. Carefully remove the paper, then loosely place it on the cake. Let the cake cool thoroughly, then discard the paper.
To make the peanut butter mousse, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until smoothly blended. On low speed, mix in the powdered sugar until it is in incorporated. The texture will not look completely smooth. Set aside.
In a clean large bowl, using clean beaters, beat the cream and vanilla on medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Whisk about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining whipped cream. The mousse will be smooth. Invert the cake onto a serving plate so that it is now top up. Leaving a 1 inch plain edge along the top of the cake, use a small, sharp knife to cut out the center in one piece to create a cavity about 1 inch deep. Break the removed cake into pieces about 1 inch. Use a metal spatula to spread about 1/3 of the mousse in the hollowed out center of the cake. Put the cake pieces over the mousse, mounding them toward the center. Spread the remaining mousse over the cake pieces and cover the cake with it. Refrigerate the cake until the mousse is firm, about 30 minutes.
Use a spatula to spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Scatter the remaining 4 oz. peanut butter cup wedges over the ganache. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the cake, carefully wiping it clean after cutting each slice. Serve cold.
The cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD