Sunday, March 21, 2010

Midge & Milo's Birthday Dinner

This afternoon, Dan & I headed down to his folks place (the house he grew up in down in Kent) to celebrate the birthdays of his sister Midge and our nephew Milo.

Dan's Mom, Carolyn, did the lion's share of the cooking - making a delicious flank steak (with two marinades!), oven-fried chicken (Milo's favorite), salmon for Tim (Midge's pescatarian husband), plus a new ranch potatoes recipe (that was very rich and creamy... and tasty). Dan's sister Jennifer brought a salad, and I baked a cake.

Since the birthday celebrants get to pick dessert, I honored the wishes for a Devil's Food cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. I had Dan call Jennifer (Milo's Mom) to find out his favorite color - orange, as it turns out - and made the frosting that color. I didn't think about the fact that orange frosting with a chocolate cake would end up looking pretty Halloween-tastic, and I guess adding chocolate truffles for garnish didn't exactly steer away from the jack-o-lantern feel, but hopefully it tasted okay. I tried out a recipe from a new cookbook I picked up at work: The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook by Alyssa Torey and Jennifer Appel. The recipe called for baking the cake for 40-45 minutes, and when I checked at 40 minutes my toothpick didn't come out clean - but I think it might've been the right time to pull it out, as the cake ended up a little dry. I consulted a brutally honest expert on that (my nephew Blake) and he confirmed it was good, but a little dry around the edges. So next time I use this recipe, I need to add something to contribute more moisture, cook lower & slower (325 degrees, maybe?) or just pull it out sooner.

Devil's Food Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tspn baking powder
1 1/2 tspn baking soda
3/4 tspn salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature*
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
8 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tspn vanilla extract

Place chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat, for 5-10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from heat and let cool 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x2-inch round cake pans, then dust with unsweetened cocoa powder and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly beat the egg yolks by hand until thick and lemon colored - about 2 minutes. Add the yolks to the sugar mixture, beating until well combined. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, one third at a time, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract - beating each addition until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake 40-45 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.) Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks. When cooled, ice with frosting.

(*It's best to separate the eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature.)

Vanilla 'Buttercream'
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6-8 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tspn vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy - about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the iciing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. Depending on humidity and other factors, you may not need all the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

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