At the moment my fingers are sporting the most over the top neon pink nails. And, gasp, they are press-ons. While they are a new, hipper version of Sally H’s classic talons: shorter and funkier, they are still press on nails which just really is not my style. But I was inspired to try them (more about this later). Since they are neon, they are tough to miss (and a little difficult to type with) so, I was reflecting on the pink, and that made me think of the cake we baked in Vancouver last weekend which I had yet to blog about, which is why I am here at 6:30 in the morning. How a nail-thought brought me to a cake-thought is going to require a little trip down the rabbit hole of duffie’s brain and how it puts things together.
I like to call it connective thinking: I am a connective thinker.
Connective thinking works like this: you are having a perfectly put together thought about something, let’s say neon pink press on nails; and that thought makes your mind think of London Drugs (which is where you purchased said ornaments), leading you to think about the reason you were at London Drugs (Nicole, the girl sporting an orange set, who upon your exclamation of love for them recommended you go there to purchase said nails), tossing your mind back to Vancouver (where you met Nicole), to Gourmet Warehouse (where you love to go to drool over bakeware when in Vancouver), to Valrhona chocolate (found at the warehouse), to how this chocolate looks like liquid satin when it melts (because chocolate is not meant to sit all by itself in the cupboard), to stirring a whole pound of it into an over the top chocolate frosting (if you can’t follow that connection, I probably lost you in Cosmetics at London Drugs) to the confection we created with this frosting, some caramel, a cake and some churros. Thus pink nails make me think of this particular cake.
An easier connection may be that they both add a bit of spice.
Chocolate Caramel Cake with Spiced Frosting and Churros
Inspired by and baked with my friend Sara who wished for a Cinco de Mayo cake that, quite simply, “has some frosting piped on to it”
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup hot water (next time I would use hot coffee here)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 eggs plus 2 yolks, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in 12 and softened
Preheat oven to 350F and set rack to middle spot. Grease two 9″ cake pans and line with parchment, grease flour this. (We used 8″ which made for two very full pans, even after Sara and I licked the beaters, spatula and not-so-scraped-down-bowl clean, but it still worked out). Combine chocolate, cocoa and water over a water bath in a medium heat-proof bowl. Stir with a spatula until melted and smooth. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the mixture and stir until thick and glossy, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside to cool.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk (which our gorgeous kitchen in Vancouver did not have so we used a hand-held and with our team work it was just fine) whip eggs and yolks on medium-low until combined 10-20 seconds. Add remaining cup of sugar and increase speed to high and whip until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle. Add cooled chocolate to egg and mix on medium until combined, about 45 seconds, scraping down the bowl as required. Add the butter, one piece at a time (this is where the handheld plus the team work was an important part of the cake production) mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with two additions of the buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each (about 15 seconds), scraping the bowl as needed). Mix on medium-low until the batter is completely combined. Remove from stand and give batter the final stir by hand.
Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and smooth top with spatula. Bake until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. If using 8″, bake for longer: 32-35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then remove from pans, peel away parchment and allow to cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate (we used mostly dark with a little semi-sweet tossed in)
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a water bath. Once smooth remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Increase heat to medium and add sugar, syrup, vanilla and salt, stir with a heat-proof spatula until sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or again a little teamwork combined with a hand-held works just as well) combine chocolate, butter mixture and cream and stir until thoroughly combined. Set mixture in the fridge for 5 minutes, remove and stir with spatula, repeat one more time – frosting should be thick but not hard. Using the paddle attachment beat on medium-high until frosting is light and fluffy. Divide batter into two bowls, one with about 2/3 of the mixture for frosting and filling the cake, one with about 1/3 for decorating the cake and attaching the churros.
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 – 1/2 tsp arbol
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
To taste: add above spices to the smaller amount (the bowl containing 1/3) of frosting, add slowly until you like the level of spice. Place in a piping bag.
4 white flour tortillas
sugar and cinnamon
Use a 1 1/2″ cookie cutter to cut out a desired shape from the tortillas. Heat the oil over medium heat on the stove top. Set up a paper towel station to place the churros once fried. When the oil is hot, set 4-5 cut outs into the oil, turning after about 10-15 seconds, and after another 10 seconds or so remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all your tortillas are light brown on both sides. You have to be quick because they are so tiny. Once they are cool, toss in the sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat. These are like gold, they taste so good we had to focus on keeping enough to decorate the cake with or we would have devoured them.
To Assemble: Line edges of your serving plate or cake platter with 4 pieces of parchment to keep clean. Set one cake on the plate. Cover with the plain chocolate frosting. Set in the fridge to harden slightly. Cover with caramel. Top with the second cake. Spread a thin crumb coat with the chocolate frosting, place in the fridge to harden slightly. And then use the rest of the frosting to slather the cake. Using the spiced frosting, decorate the cake and pipe dots to hold the churros. And then go nuts with the rest… just like Sara did.