In the midst of my recent flurry of Thanksgiving preparations came my son’s birthday. As a rising four-year old he had some very clear requests about his birthday menu. Unfortunately it ran in direction of a four-year old’s palate — bacon, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese, the orange kind out of the box and not mom’s homemade version. And of course there is cake. I love to bake but am not a cake decorator so I braced myself for what his might request. Many people may opt to buy an ornately decorated cake but I believe in making something homemade with lots of love. This year Sidney specifically requested a small chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Cupcakes I can do!
This recipe is courtesy of Boston’s Flour Bakery. Two types of chocolate plus brown sugar instead of the usual white makes this cake moist and decadent with a level of complexity not normally found in a chocolate cake. The milk chocolate butter cream is an added bonus which makes this cake both satisfying for the birthday boy and his parents.
The recipe makes one 8-inch 3 layer cake or 12 good-sized cupcakes. I made the cupcake version by filling cupcake liners placed inside of a muffin tin and reducing the baking time to 30 minutes. I made a half batch of the butter cream which was more than enough for generously frosting a dozen cupcakes with plenty left over for the birthday boy to eat right from the spoon.
FLOUR’S MIDNIGHT CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE (or cupcakes)
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup creme fraiche
2 egg yolks
For the milk chocolate butter cream
12 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 egg whites
3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
To make the cake:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan (Or line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers) and set aside.
- In a small heat proof bowl, combine the cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. Pour the boiling water over the chocolates and whisk until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar on low-speed for 10 seconds or until mixed.
- On low-speed, add the butter and continue to beat for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the butter is thoroughly combined and the mixture resembles dough.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and creme fraiche.
- With the mixer on low-speed pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Reduce the speed to low and add in the chocolate mixture. Mix to combine.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl then beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes (for the cake) or 30 minutes for the cupcakes.
To make the butter cream:
- Place the milk chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl.
- In a small saucepan, scald the cream over medium-high heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. The cream should be hot but not boiling.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 1 minute before slowly whisking the chocolate and cream together. Continue to whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
- In a small heat-proof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites to make a thick slurry.
- Place the bowl over simmering water in a saucepan and heat, whisking occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is hot to the touch.
- Remove from the heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip at medium speed for 6-8 minutes or until the mixture is a light, white meringue and is cool to the touch.
- Turn down the speed to low and add the butter, a few chunks at a time. The mixture will look chunky and curdled at first. Increase the speed to medium and whip until the mixture becomes silky and smooth, about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Change to the paddle attachment and add the cooled chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute or until the entire mixture comes together in a smooth butter cream.
- Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for 1 day.
Yields: 5 cups
To frost the cake:
- When the cake is cool, remove it from the pan and use a serrated knife to trim the top of the cake to smooth it. Split the cake into three even layers and place the bottom layer in the center of a cake plate.
- Using an offset spatula spread 1 1/2 cups of butter cream evenly over the top of the layer.
- Repeat this process three times until you have three layers of cake with frosting spread between each layer.
- Evenly distribute butter cream over the top and sides of the cake. You can use a pastry bag and a fine tip to pipe a decorative design over the top of the cake.
- If you are making cupcakes, evenly spread the butter cream over the top of each cupcake using a pasty bag and fine tip to decorate if desired.
- The frosted cake can keep for up to two days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yields: 8-12 slices of cake or 12 cupcakes