ruffled blueberry chocolate cake


Last weekend we drove to Virginia to visit the Fall Harvest festival at Mount Rogers. Fall is is one of the most beautiful seasons to visit the Virginia outdoors and enjoy the beautiful colorful foliage. I was very lucky on this trip, for many, many reasons. I got to see sugarcane being harvested and squeezed for its sweet juice. I watched molasses being prepared from the sugarcane juice over a hot stove. The molasses are sold in pint jars to raise money for the local fireman's station. A worthy cause indeed! I tasted my first hobo pie, picked up some homemade apple butter, ate ripe and juicy red apples off a tree. There was just so much to do and too much to squeeze in a short two day trip. 


Unlike D.C. where it is currently still relatively green, the Virginia fall is in full swing. It was also pretty chilly in the evenings but nevertheless breathtaking. I couldn't wait to share these photographs with you and I do hope you enjoy them!


I got to bite and chew on fresh sugarcane and sampled their sticky sweetness. The sugarcane juice brought back sweet memories of India. As kids growing up, we would always run out to the vendors on the street in the Bombay and wait eagerly while they ground the juices out of sugarcane and fresh ginger into glasses heaped with ice. It was so refreshing and simple but yet delicious.


Last weekend was also the birthday of one of my friends, Walt. Birthdays and special events are probably the only few times that I will actually venture out in making a cake that is rich and decadent. It turns out that Walt loves blueberries and any cake that incorporated blueberries would be perfect for him. In my personal opinion however, birthday cakes should have some amount of chocolate. After all, it is that a special moment where things should be a little over the top. In preparation for Walt's cake, I made the blueberry and chocolate jam. I designed his birthday cake completely around these two ingredients. Genoise chocolate cakes are layered and sandwiched with the jam and lightly drenched with a blueberry-white wine syrup. I then used a vanilla flavored buttercream icing that was spiked with a little creme fraiche to keep things simple yet rich. On how to decorate the cake with the ruffles, I used this icing idea from Martha Stewart.


ruffled blueberry chocolate cake

ingredients

for the chocolate cake  follow this chocolate genoise sponge cake recipe. I made two 9 inch cakes, sliced each in half, and then layered them. If you want more cake layers you can either increase the number of cakes or cut thinner layers of the cakes. If you do this, then you should increase the amount of jam, syrup, and icing accordingly.

for the blueberry chocolate jam follow this recipe. You will need 1 and 1/2 cups of the jam. You can use less if you prefer the cake to be a little less sweet.

blueberry wine syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup white wine like Reisling or Chardonnay (I used the Pearmund Reisling 2011)
1 cup sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook on a medium flame till the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a boil and then cool to room temperature before use. You can also refrigerate this and prepare it at least 3 days in advance.

buttercream icing

2 cups unsalted sweetcream butter at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
10 drops of blue food coloring ( you may need more depending on how blue you want the icing to look)
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
No. 104 icing tip

Chop the butter into small cubes and place it in the bowl of an electric blender. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and creme fraiche at a medium speed for about 6 minutes till it is completely smooth. Sift the sugar once onto a sheet of parchment paper. Sift the sugar into the butter in 1/2 cup installments till completely mixed in with the butter. The butter will keep getting lighter as more air is incorporated into it. Add the vanilla, salt, and food coloring at the end and beat for another two minutes. Transfer the icing into a bowl (preferably metal as it will chill faster) and cover with cling film until ready to use. You can make the icing at least two to three days in advance. 

Assembling the cake
Slice each cooled cake in half with a serrated knife and keep aside. Cut out a 10" circle of cardboard and cover with a clean sheet of aluminum foil and two 12 inch X 2 inch strips of parchment paper. Place the two strips about 2 or 3 inches apart from each other on the smooth side of the aluminum covered cardboard circle. Add a tablespoon of the frosting in the center of the aluminum covered cardboard sheet. This will help to glue the cake down to the surface and prevent it from moving. Place one cake layer in the center of the circle and brush the cake with the blueberry wine syrup. You will use about 1/4 cup of the liquid. Smear the surface it with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the blueberry and chocolate jam. Cover with a second layer of cake and repeat. Continue and repeat the addition of the syrup and jam till the entire cake is complete. For the top most layer of the cake, only brush the cake with the syrup but do not add the jam. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to cool. 

Icing the cake

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream icing to create a "crumb coat". This helps the rest of the icing to stick easily to the surface of the cake. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, scoop the icing into an icing bag or icing syringe with the No. 104 tip attached. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the icing bag. When the cake is cooled, apply the icing by keeping your hand in the vertical position and moving in a zig-zag fashion from left -to-right on the side of the cake. The ruffles should be 1 inch apart from each other. Repeat the same procedure for the top surface of the cake, moving from the outer end to the inner center of the cake. Additionally, you might want to dollop a little bit of jam in the center of the cake or perhaps sprinkle a little bit of chocolate shavings on the top. 


chocolate mint cake


I am in that final phase of thesis writing where I edit and re-edit, create tables and figures and transfer information from one program to another. Then I suddenly notice formatting errors due to that occasional software glitch where tabs and margins turn out to be more complicated than the actual research question or regressions that concern the paper. Software can definitely take a mind of their own and then there are those moments where I want to give it a piece of my mind. I really wish there was a command where I could type back "Whack Program Please"!


You might have noticed that I've been busy. I've been working on designing a new logo and also this special birthday cake. My friend John turned 30 this week and since this is a big one, I thought I would bake him his birthday cake as a special gift. I checked to see if he had anything special in mind for a cake and he said chocolate but it does not have to be as elaborate as the chocolate raspberry cake that I made for the chili cook-off. Still I wanted the cake to be fun, after all it was his big 3-0! Chocolate cakes are great but why not make it something even more decadent. A little bit of inspiration came my way, when I heard that he had stuffed his gym bag with some boxes of girl scout cookies. It was then that I said to myself, why not make a cake inspired by a thin mint cookie. I did not add too much creme de menthe in the buttercream, for one I needed to keep the ratios of liquid to fat constant so I did not end up with a very green buttercream but if you do want to add a little food color to it you could achieve the desired shade/color of green.


I went back to the basic recipe for the genoise cake and baked two separate genoise cakes. The cake is then layered with a layer of mint flavored creme fraiche icing and two separate layers of dark chocolate creme fraiche icing. The entire cake is then coated and sealed with a simple buttercream icing infused with creme de menthe and then drizzled with a dark chocolate glaze which is again infused with creme de menthe. The edible silver pearls are just for a little decoration and can be found anywhere.


This cake was also featured at the Huffington Post on June, 26th 2012
chocolate mint cake


ingredients 


for the cake: 


Chocolate Genoise Sponge Cake Recipe


mint creme fraiche filling
4 tablespoon creme de menthe
1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


chocolate creme fraiche filling
1/4 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoon sugar


mint buttercream frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoon creme fraiche
5 tablespoon powdered sugar
3 tablespoon creme de menthe


dark chocolate glaze
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)
2 tablespoon creme de menthe 


mint syrup
1 cup creme de menthe 
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water


edible silver pearls for decorating the cake


After the two genoise cakes are prepared, cool and wrap them up (they can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator or frozen for a month before use).

Heat the creme de menthe, 4 tablespoons of sugar  and 1/4 cup water in a pot and bring to a simmer. Allow to cool to room temperature before use. 
To prepare the mint creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Add the sugar and the creme de menthe and whisk till combined and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the chocolate creme fraiche filling, beat the creme fraiche with a whisk at high speed till it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and combine. In the mean time, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream on a simmering water bath and then pour it into the creme fraiche and whisk on high speed till smooth and stiff. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
To prepare the buttercream frosting, beat the butter and the sugar till it becomes light and fluffy. This will take about 7-10 minutes at high speed. Add the creme fraiche and creme de menthe and continue beating till  completely combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before use.
Slice each genoise cake through the center to get two separate discs of equal thickness using a serrated knife and a turn table. Place one cake on a foil covered cardboard disc of equal size. Place the cake with the foil covered cardboard disc on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a turn table/cake stand or plate (This will help you to decorate the cake and reduce any clean up). Brush the surface of the cake with the prepared mint syrup, you will use about 2 tablespoons of syrup per cake slice. Then spread the mint creme fraiche filling with an offset spatula. Add the second cake layer on top of the mint creme fraiche and brush about two tablespoons of the mint syrup. Spread 1/2 of the chocolate creme fraiche filling. Similarly, place the third cake layer and brush with the mint syrup and then spread the remaining chocolate creme fraiche filling. Add the final fourth layer of cake on top and brush gently with the mint syrup. Cover the cake with cling film. At this point the cake can be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before coating with the buttercream or kept overnight. Layer the buttercream frosting with an offset spatula by coating the sides gently and slowly. You can wet the spatula by running it under warm tap water to get a smooth finish on the frosting. Allow for about 2cm of buttercream frosting on each side of the cake. Start with the center and then move to the sides. Cool the cake in the refrigerator for another 1 to 2 hours before pour the chocolate glaze. The cake should be cool enough to allow the glaze to drizzle and spread. 
To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and creme de menthe and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the cake at the center and then with an offset spatula push the glaze to the ends to allow it to drizzle and drip from the sides. It helps to use a wet offset spatula to move the chocolate glaze. Sprinkle a few of the edible pearls and allow the cake to set in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. Remove the sheets of parchment paper from the bottom of the cake before serving.