November 19, 2013

Black Forest Cake

I never expected the amount of excitement that would come around getting a new camera. Before its arrival, I spent countless hours watching videos and reading tutorials to prepare myself to step into the wonderful world of DSLR photography. Additionally, I signed up for a food photography e-course by Minimalist Baker and can say that it has been an extremely helpful asset towards exploring the new possibilities brought up by the camera. Prior to that, I used a point-and-shoot camera, which served me well for a few years as a beginner, until I began to recognise its limitations in both image quality and shooting speed. After finally completing school, I gathered the money I saved up for the past few years to invest in a good camera, forming an admiration for the Canon 100D as the smallest and lightest DLSR camera on the market; perfect for my small hands. The camera exceeded my expectations and hopes for beautiful photography, so much so, that I baked my own version of a Black Forest Cake to welcome it as the first of many posts to feature pictures taken with my camera.

The cake itself is adapted from Sweetapolita's one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, wherein it beholds a moist, dark chocolate crumb that is easy to bake as it is to eat. Although the intensity of the chocolate depends on the cocoa powder, it is a great cake to whip up for those sudden chocolate cravings. It is also one of those cakes that stays moist in the fridge for days (if it even lasts that long!), so it is perfectly fine to bake and freeze the cake layers ahead before frosting and decorating. And the frosting, is non other than swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with dark chocolate. Luckily I had planned ahead, using the egg yolks for salted caramel ice cream, which was unfortunately out of the running to be photographed. While the buttercream turned out with a lighter chocolate colour and intensity, it was heavenly silky, smooth and melted in the mouth as if it was made out of chocolate clouds. It's amazing how swiss meringue buttercream can be so delicious without being all gritty and unpleasant like the sugary powdered-sugar frosting.  

Inside the cake is layers of vanilla whipped cream filling with fresh cherries, adding a juicy burst of cherry goodness in every bite. Light, airy, whipped cream accentuating subtle sweetness is a traditional component, yet the combination of it with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream adds a modern take on the classic Black Forest cake. The chocolate trees I had piped for the collar is somewhat borderline between messy and elegant. I mean, it's pretty inconsistent regarding the design and size of each tree. But it does kind of cover up my impatience on getting a perfectly smooth and even surface. Plus I was running out of time to take advantage of the beautiful sunlight streaming through the window. In the end, the piping was messy as the buttercream had become soft by the time I had frosted the cake, but the cake overall tasted pretty good. Also, I noticed that the frosting on the outside of the cake was too thin and needed more frosting to cover up. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it, and hopefully you may want to give this cake a try; its worth the extra time and effort!

One-bowl chocolate cake
Makes one 6-inch, 3 layer cake 
Adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of plain (all-purpose) flour (180 g)
  • 1 cup of sugar (225 g)
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (60 g)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder (6 g)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda (6 g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (2.5 g)
  • 140 ml of milk
  • 130 ml of strong, hot brewed coffee OR boiled water
  • 75 ml of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature 
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (15 ml)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Grease three 6-inch round cake tins with melted butter, placing baking paper rounds on the base of each tin.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  3. Briefly whisk together all the remaining wet ingredients in a jug for easy pouring.
  4. Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, mix the dry ingredients on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly pour the liquid from the jug prepared earlier into the mixture and mix until combined. If there are any lumps, continue mixing until the batter is smooth. 
  6. Evenly divide the mixture between the three pans using an electronic scale, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. 
  7. Rotate the pans in the oven, and continue baking for about another ten minutes. The cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs.
  8. Cool the cake layers on a wired rack for 15 minutes, turning them out to completely cool. If the cakes are domed, you may try to use a clean tea towel to gently push down on the dome to flatten it immediately after they have come out of the oven.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1 cup of sugar (225 g) with two teaspoons taken out
  • 200 g of unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (5 ml)
  • 200 g of chopped dark chocolate (300 g if you want a more intense chocolate flavour)
  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, or in a microwave, stirring at 20 second intervals until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the temperature reaches 65.5 degrees C (150 degrees F) or until the sugar has dissolved completely and the egg whites are hot to touch.
  3. Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment of the mixer, whisk the mixture at high speed to firm peaks until the meringue is thick, glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral (not warm).
  4. At medium speed, add the butter cubes one at a time, until incorporated. Mix until it reaches a silky smooth texture. If the mixture has curdled, continue mixing until it becomes smooth again. If the mixture is runny, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes and continue mixing until it comes back together.
  5. Add vanilla, and then add the melted and cooled chocolate at medium speed until combined.

For the vanilla whipped cream filling, whisk 420 ml of cold thickened cream, 1/4 cup of powdered (icing) sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with an electric mixer to firm peaks (it should hold its shape) until combined. 

For the chocolate trees, melt 200 g of dark/milk chocolate and fill it into a piping bag with a small, round tip. Pipe trees of about 3 inches tall on a baking tray lined with baking (parchment) paper. Extra chocolate may be melted again and reused for other purposes.

Assembly of Black Forest Cake

  1. Using a cake turntable, place a cake layer on a circular cake board. With an ice cream scoop, add one scoop of whipped cream filling onto the cake and evenly spread it out with an offset palette knife. Spread a few pitted fresh cherries on top and add another scoop of cream on top of the cherries, smoothing it out. 
  2. Repeat the step for another layer, placing a cake layer on top of the cream and adding the cherries.
  3. Fill the spaces in between the cake layers with more whipped cream.
  4. Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add a scoop of chocolate swiss meringue buttercream on top of the cake, smoothing out and applying to the sides of the cake until thinly covered to seal in the crumbs. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Add more buttercream to the sides of the cake to form a somewhat thick layer, using an offset palette knife and bench scraper to achieve a smooth surface.
  7. Pipe a buttercream border using a 1M star tip.
  8. Chill the cake to set for at least 2 hours.
  9. When ready to serve, carefully peel the chocolate trees from the baking paper and place them on the sides of the cake.
  10. Serve the cake at room temperature, carefully slicing the cake in between each chocolate tree.

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