Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chocolate-Caramel Cake with Fleur de Sel

I forgot to highlight my 1200th post, but 1212th is a good number, too! I’d been eyeing this cake on Bon Appétit for a while, and waiting for lactose-free cream to make it really paid off. The cake wasn’t entirely lactose-free, because I did use butter for the frosting. (If you cut this rich cake in 12 pieces, it’s about 2 Tbsp. of butter per serving, so I used Lactaid. I did recently get my hands on a good vegan frosting recipe with shortening and butter extract instead of butter, but haven’t gotten around to using it as a base to adapt yet.) The frosting was like the center of a Lindt truffle – it was absolutely delicious! The crumb was light and moist (thanks to the mayonnaise), the caramel in the frosting was subtle, and the fleur de sel was the perfect addition. The Engineer called this cake “stellar”, and I’m inclined to agree. The recipe recommends chilling the cake if it won’t be served right away; while I found that chilling it a few hours was fine, beyond that, the frosting hardened too much for my taste, so I like to let it come to room temperature a bit before slicing.

For the cake
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
1¼ cups mayonnaise (not low-fat)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1⅓ cups lukewarm water

For the frosting and assembly
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 cup lactose-free cream
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ tsp. flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling; optional, and I didn’t use it)

For the cake
Preheat oven to 325 °F. Lightly coat cake pans with nonstick spray and line bottoms with parchment paper; spray again. (The original recipe called for 8” round cake pans, but I used 9” round pans.)

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs and sugar until pale and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes. Add mayonnaise and vanilla and beat until just combined. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into pans, dividing evenly.

Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cool 20 minutes before turning out onto racks. Let cool completely.

For the frosting and assembly
Put chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 10–12 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth; let cool, stirring occasionally.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat chocolate mixture, gradually adding butter, until frosting is thickened and smooth, about 1 minute. Chill, stirring occasionally, until stiff enough to spread easily, 20–25 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over to come just beyond edges. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and place second cake layer on top, pressing down gently. Repeat process with 1 cup frosting and ¼ tsp. salt. Place third layer on top, and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. (Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Just before serving, sprinkle remaining ¼ tsp. salt over top of cake; drizzle slices with oil, if desired.

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