tom is now the big 3-0.
we kissed his twenties goodbye with a roaring twenties cocktail party, complete with flapper dresses & pearls, suits & hats, dim lighting, jazz music, simple hors d’oeuvres, martinis, negronis, manhattans….& cake.
tom always requests a chocolate cake for his birthday, but a special birthday deserves a special cake. plus also, i hadn’t baked anything in a while & was up for a challenge.
i deemed this cake a challenge because a) the filling is a salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream. my last SMBC turned into a soupy mess & wouldn’t come back. b) i excel at burning sugar that’s meant for caramel. c) i’ve never frosted a decent looking cake. i end up mad & frustrated & resigning myself to only piping frosting on cupcakes, so i was going to try my first ever crumb coat to see if that really makes a difference.
the night before the party, i baked up the cake layers, which really posed no problem whatsoever. it was all the other components i was nervous about.
so, on party day, first things first, i poured myself some wine.
next, i wiped everything that would come in contact with the filling (pots, bowls, mixer attachments, spatulas…) down with white vinegar. after extensive
googling research, i read that just the slightest hint of oil will send a swiss meringue buttercream to the point of no return. that may have been the demise of my last one. i was taking no chances this time.
then i got to work.
the caramel came together without incident. mostly. i may have been standing in the kitchen, watching tv , waiting for the sugar to heat up, while the burner under the pan wasn’t even turned on. but once things did come up to a boil, i watched that pan like a hawk, making sure the sugar didn’t go a scoach beyond a perfect deep amber color.
the vinegar must have worked, because the SMBC came together beautifully. the crumb coat wasn’t even as daunting as i expected. i even managed to decently ice the whole cake, so i think i will be crumb coating from now on. a sprinkling of fleur de sel on top & I DECLARE A SUCCESS!!
DARK CHOCOLATE SALTED CARAMEL CAKE
makes 1 huge, three layer, 9 inch cake
DARK CHOCOLATE CAKE
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups dark cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee
4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
SALTED CARAMEL SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM FILLING
1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
hefty pinch sea salt, like flour de del
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
DARK CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING
12oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 cup very hot water
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks & 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
to bake the cakes, preheat oven to 350°. grease 3 9 inch cake pans & dust with cocoa powder. tap out excess cocoa powder.
in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder & salt. attach the paddle mixer & add vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs & vanilla. turn mixer on to medium & mix for 2 minutes. pour evenly into the three prepared pans. tap a few times on the counter to get out excess air bubbles.
bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating periodically, until a toothpick comes out clean. let the cakes cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then carefully flip them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
for the filling, place 1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan. add the water. bring to a boil over medium heat. once bubbling, stop stirring & do. not. take. your. eyes. off. it. every now & then, swirl the liquid around the pan, until it turns a deep amber color. remove from heat & slowly whisk in the cream & salt. set aside & let cool.
in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, whisk together egg whites & remaining sugar. heat, continuing to whisk, until the mixture reaches 160° & the sugar is completely dissolved.
pour the egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. beat on medium high, while the mixture cools, until stiff peaks form, about 8-10 minutes. reduce the speed to medium & toss in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition is incorporated. if the frosting ever looks curdled, soupy & generally gross, bump the speed back up to medium high & beat until it comes back around. it may take awhile, but it will. with the mixer on medium, slowly drizzle in the salted caramel sauce & mix until completely combined.
for the frosting, set up another heatproof bowl over simmering water. add the chopped chocolate & stir until completely smooth. set aside & let cool to room temperature.
in a small, separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder & water until smooth.
in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, confectioner’s sugar, & salt. beat on medium high, until light & fluffy, around 5 minutes. turn the speed down to low & drizzle in the melted chocolate until combined. slowly pour in the the water & cocoa powder mixture & continue mixing until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.
to assemble the cake, level the layers, if needed. place one cake on a cake board or serving platter. add half of the salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream filling & smooth out into a nice, thick layer. place a second cake on top. add the remaining filling & smooth into an even layer. top with final cake.
using an offset spatula, smooth one very thin layer of dark chocolate fudge buttercream over the assembled cake. it will be full of crumbs & the cake should still be visible through the layer. let this layer dry until it’s no longer sticky to the touch. clean off the spatula & frost the cake with the remaining frosting. sprinkle sea salt over top & serve.