Monday, October 8, 2012

Shahla's Birthday Cake

When I make cakes for my friends at work, I put a lot of thought into what will be the perfect cake. For this cake, I knew that I wanted something with caramel and nuts. Shahla had raved about the Caramel Almond Pretzel Bars that I had made a while back, so that was my point of inspiration. I looked and looked and couldn’t quite find the right recipe. I did find one, but it was in Romanian and I didn’t have time to take it to my Romanian friend to translate it. So I decided to piece together my own cake, using a couple of different recipes.

The caramel comes from a cheesecake recipe, and I just used salted almonds instead of peanuts. It was worth two tries as the caramel is fantastic. I made a basic chocolate cake and chocolate frosting and then added some chocolate ganache to finish the cake. For some reason, whenever I want to make a chocolate cake I make this particular recipe and I forget that it makes a fairly thin cake. I figured with the topping and the frosting and ganache, I could get away with a thinner cake.

It took me two tries to get the caramel right; I totally burned the first batch! It takes about 30 seconds to go from beautiful amber to burnt sugar, so make sure you don’t step away. I was trying to multitask and that didn’t work. Also, really make sure that the caramel is firm before using it to fill the cake. Mine was a little soft after 3 hours in the refrigerator and it oozed out the sides a little bit. I refrigerated the cake some more and was able to clean up the plate. It was fine once I added the frosting.  Oh my, this cake was incredible. I think I will make the salted almond caramel and, well, put it on everything. It’s fabulous. Happy Birthday, Shahla!

Chocolate Cake with Salted Almond Caramel Filling

1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup salted roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups flour
¾ cup dark cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2-2/3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9” round cake pans.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium for two minutes. Stir in the boiling water; batter will be thin. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes and then remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Make the salted almond caramel: in a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, brushing down the side of the pan occasionally with a wet pastry brush, until deep golden. Remove from heat. Stir in the cream. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool. Stir in peanuts. Spoon over the biscuit base. Smooth the surface. Place in the fridge for 3 hours or until firm.

Make the ganache: place the chocolate in a medium boil. Bring the cream just to the boil and then pour on top of the chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then whisk to combine. Allow to cool until ganache is the desired consistency.

Make the frosting: beat the butter in a large mixture bowl. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder alternately with the milk. Blend in the vanilla and stir until completely combined.

Assemble the cake: place one cake layer on a cake plate. Top with the cooled salted almond caramel and then top with the other cake layer. Spread the ganache just on the top of the cake. Frost the sides of the cake with the frosting. Decorate as desired.

Inspiration for this cake from
Cake recipe from Hersheys

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