MacGyver’s Microwaved Indian Cake
Kaitlin provided me with this chocolate cake recipe, and we both worked out a frosting recipe together. Well, that’s not entirely true. What really happened is that she gave me a frosting recipe, I argued with her about the amount of butter, she told me to shut up and listen to her, I did, she was right, and I was wrong. But at least I came up with the chocolate custard recipe on my own. Everything is in imperial measurements for your convenience, but I had to use liter-size measuring cups and serving spoons, which aren’t exactly calibrated to precise measurements. No, I didn’t get exact measurements, but trust me, you’ll be fine if you’re short a few grams. If I can make this cake in India, you can make it too.
3/4 c (65 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c (215 g) flour
1 1/2 c (300 g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c (180 ml) warm water
3/4 c (180 ml) buttermilk (or milk + 1tsp vinegar, which is what I used,
3 Tbls canola oil (just fill up three big spoons with oil, it’ll be close enough)
1 tsp vanilla (your choice, and since all you can get it India is cheap, bad-tasting vanilla essence, I just skipped it)
Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. You may have to grind up the sugar a bit if you have unrefined white sugar crystals that don’t dissolve well on their own. Mix eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a separate contain. Or, put them in an empty jar, seal the lid and shake it like a Polaroid picture. That mixes it really well. Add the liquid ingredients on top of the dry and mix it gently until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.
Find some straight-sided, microwave-safe containers, something like Tupperware. Plastic works better than glass. Size and shape is your choice. It would be good if you could use something that has a perfectly flat bottom, because you won’t have to trim it. You can grease the container with a little bit of butter (or ghee, another Indian substitute) if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. You’ll be surprised.
Pour the batter into the container as thick as you want, because again, size is your choice. Keep in mind that the batter will double in size as it cooks. You can cook individual layers if you use a small amount of batter, or you can make thick layers and split them when they cool, that’s up to you.
Microwave the container on high 4-6 minutes. Start with 4, and add more time later if it’s not done. It should be very firm and solid and spring back quickly when you press down on it with a finger. The toothpick test works too. It will act somewhat “spongier” than a cake that has baked in an oven, but that’s just because when you pull a cake out of the oven, most of it is still unbaked and liquid, and it solidifies after it’s removed from the heat. With a microwave, that’s not the case. It should cook 98% of the way in the microwave.
Remove the container from the microwave when the cake is finished. Remove the cake from the container immediately afterwards and put it on a cooling rack. It should pop right out. Then just pour the same amount of batter back into the container and repeat the process.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream, by hand
1 c (200 g) sugar (ground up a bit before using, if you have Indian-style sugar)
5 egg whites; don’t you dare throw away the yolks!
18 Tbls (about 250 g, or a little over a cup, or about half a pound, or about two sticks, or about half a brick… why are butter measurements so freaking complicated?) butter, softened slightly and sliced
1 c dulce de leche, to taste, or other frosting fodder of your choice
About 1/4 c confectioner's sugar, if you want
Place the egg whites and sugar in a big, wide bowl that is much bigger than you think you need, has a nice smooth bottom that you can completely reach with a whisk, and is heavy enough for you to beat it for almost an hour without it jumping all over the place. Place that bowl over a pot of simmering water (double-boiler style), and whisk the egg whites and sugar constantly while they cook, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). It will take about 10 minutes, and the egg whites will look nice and smooth.
Remove the big bowl from the heat and get ready to whisk a lot. This part of the recipe is going to suck a lot if you do it by hand. You have to whip the egg whites into a relatively stable foam. If you use a Kitchen Aid, you’re done when the bowl is cool to the touch and the mixture has tripled in size, about 15 minutes. That’s not going to happen if you do it by hand. The bowl will cool long before the mixture triples, so you have a choice here. Either take steroids and beat the crap out of it for a solid 15 minutes until it triples in the right time, or put the bowl back on the heat for a few minutes now and then to keep the egg whites warm and able to be whipped more. If you get it to about 2.5 times the original volume, that’s probably as good as it gets by hand.
Next, add the room-temperature butter piece by piece, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. You don’t have to beat it as hard as you did when it was just egg whites, but don’t go easy on it either. It will take some time, and it may turn into a soupy, curdled mess. Just keep adding the butter until it is gone. After all the butter is added, you can (if you want) add the powdered sugar to stiffen it up. Or you can put it in the fridge for 15 minutes, come back and beat it more until it stiffens. Or you can do both, which is what I did, and I got a perfectly delicious, light and fluffy frosting.
Finally, you can beat in the dulce de leche or any other flavoring until fully incorporated. Then go ice your arm.
Chocolate Custard – recipe completely made up on the spot so as not to waste anything
Note from Whisk Kid - I, in my fancy schmancy American kitchen, took the liberty of adding about 1/4 cornstarch to the mixture after it was thoroughly heated and stirred until thickened. Sorry, P - My custard was just not setting up!
5 egg yolks – hm, where did those come from?
1 c (200 g) sugar
1 c (240 ml) milk, divided
2 spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder
Place the egg yolks, sugar and about two tablespoons of the milk into a big bowl set over simmering water and whisk constantly. In about 10-15 minutes, you should reach a ribbon stage, and the mixture will have thickened considerably.
Add the milk and the cocoa powder, then take the bowl off the simmering water and put it on low heat, because that’s quicker. Whisking constantly, cook and reduce it for about 15 minutes until it becomes very thick. Pour it into a container and cool it in the fridge for some time before using.
Split the cake into as many layers as you want; I used 4, but it depends on what size container you use. Set the first cake round down on a piece of (clean, new) cardboard cut from a box. Place that on an upside-down metal plate and keep it there with a couple pieces of tape, and place that on an upside down bowl. That will serve as your turntable for decorating.
Spread a thin layer of the chocolate custard on the first layer, then a thicker layer of the frosting on top of that. Cover with the next cake round and repeat. When you put on the fourth cake round, don’t add any custard (save it for later), but instead add a thicker-than-normal crumb coat. That way, you won’t have to trim the sides. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, remove, and then apply the final coat. Decorate as desired.