Sweet & Salty: Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

Yield: One 6-inch, 3-layer cake

Cake: Chocolate Fudge Cake

Yield: Three 6-inch round layers

Serves: 8+

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (180 g/6 oz) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (300 g/10 oz) sugar

3/4 cup (90 g/3 oz) dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder - Extra Dark)

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL/6 g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 mL/4 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 mL/5 g) salt

1/4 cup (60 mL/2 liquid oz) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) buttermilk

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) hot brewed coffee

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds, and cocoa powder. Tap out excess.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients and add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use digital kitchen scale and weigh divided batter in pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.

3. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean--approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake.

4. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

Filling: Salted Caramel Swiss Buttercream

Yield: ~4 cups

Ingredients

1 cup (200 g/7 oz) sugar

1/4 cup (60 mL) water

1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream

generous pinch of sea salt (and additional sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling), for example: Fleur de Sel De Guerande- French Sea Salt ; 6oz

1 1/2 cup (340 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large egg whites (120 g/4 oz)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Method

The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven't tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.

1. Place 130 grams (5 ounces or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Whisk in sea salt. Let cool.

2. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

3. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering water (not boiling--you don't want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160° on a candy thermometer.

4. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5-6 minutes). Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel, and beat until smooth (about 3-5 minutes).

6. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.

*Adapted from Martha Stewart's Caramel Buttercream

Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (45 g/1.5 oz) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder - Extra Dark)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL/3 oz) boiling water

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/341 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (63 g/2 oz) confectioners' (icing/powdered) sugar

pinch of salt

1 pound (454 g/16 oz) good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Method

1. Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until it cocoa has dissolved.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater), beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy--about 5 minutes.

3. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated.

Notes:

1. Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 1 month in an airtight container.

2. Before using, bring to room temperature (usually overnight on counter does the trick), and beat on low speed until smooth.

*Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

*Alternatively, for a lighter, less dense and fluffier chocolate frosting option for this cake, you can use Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream to mask and frost the outside of this cake. The colour will be a lighter chocolate colour and much more subtle chocolate flavour (less fudgy), and it goes very well with the caramel buttercream filling. If you are opting for this buttercream in place of the Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake, then you can make it easier by making a double batch of the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and simply divide, then add your caramel sauce to the first half, and your melted chocolate to the second half.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

300 grams (10 oz) chopped semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted, and cooled

5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g/5 oz)

1 1/4 cups (250 g/9 oz) sugar

3/4 lb (3 sticks/340 g/12 oz) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

pinch of salt

Method

1. Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over pot of simmering water, or in a microwave-safe bowl in 25 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth. Set aside to cool (you can scrape it out into a new container to speed up cooling).

2. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.

3. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 150°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

4. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.

5. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together.

6. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

7. Add melted chocolate and mix on medium-low speed until combined.

Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Cake

1. Trim any doming from the tops of your cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife and place first layer, face up, on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.

2. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 3/4 cup of the caramel buttercream evenly on the top.

3. Repeat this 1-2 until you come to the final layer, which you will place face down on the top of the cake.

4. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of chocolate frosting (or chocolate buttercream, if using) to mask (seal in crumbs). Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top "coat" of buttercream.

5. Repeat step 4, and, for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady--let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.

6. Chill cake to set. *Bring to room temperature before serving--about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature, as cold buttercream is, well, kind of yucky!

7. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

8. Place any remaining buttercream/frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months, bringing back to room temperature before rewhipping to smooth consistency.

9. Serve at room temperature, and slice with a long, thin-bladed, sharp knife. Rinse knife with hot water and dry before each new slice, for best results.

 
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