Monday, October 7, 2013

Chocolate Velvet Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

        It has gotten cold...the air is brisk, there is frost on my car when I go out  in the mornings for work, and I have to wear layers on top of my layers. I have mixed feelings about this time of year. On the one hand, I do love the holidays, the beautiful fall colors, and sweaters. On the other hand, I really dislike the cold, the wind, and feeling like my bones have caught a chill. You guys can probably tell my grief with this time of year comes from really only one aspect.
        There is only one thing that can truly trump the dreaded freeze that overtakes us though. Food is the true preserver of happiness and memories of warmth during these cold times of the year. The harvest that arrives is spectacular. The flavors we can capitalize on are tantalizing. The prospect of a big, warm, melty casserole is oh so spectacular. My tummy gurgles with anticipation. Fall and winter flavors make all the bundling worth it, because when you sit down to a bowl of butternut squash soup or a thick veggie lasagna, you feel all warm inside.
        Of course, you need dessert to match such delicious meals at this time too. I know pumpkin everything is all the craze right now, and yes I will make pumpkin something when the time is deserving this fall, but look guys, pumpkin is not the whole season. Let me very straight with you: for me, pumpkin does not hold kingship over the cool whether coming in. I will go the season without a single Pumpkin Spice Latte, and be all the more happy I did.
        What I do want though, is cinnamon. It makes you feel cozy and a well-balanced combination of sugar and cinnamon is hard to be reckoned with folks. We had our first frost in Colorado this last Friday and you bet your tooting horses I was ready for cold weather baking. For me, that meant finding something with yummy cinnamon, that would fill not only my body, but mind with feelings of warmth.
        I am a fan of the delicate flavor, and gentle chocolate notes of Red Velvet cake, but I have no real interest in a brightly questionable colored slices of food. So today, we have a Chocolate Velvet Cake; very lightly flavored with cocoa, but just enough to still develop the rich, bittersweet notes that we crave in a chocolate cake. The frosting is the star though, and the comfort of the warmth I wanted. I will always be a fan of the traditional cream cheese that normally is with Red Velvet; however, sometimes you need to go outside the box. As it is light chocolate and creamy cinnamon were born to be together. The cocoa flavor paired with the strong, deep cinnamon, was warmth all the way from my mouth to my stomach. Beautiful for the holiday season, festive in color, and very flavor appropriate, this cake is a delectable way to warm yourself back up when the evening chill takes over!

Very barely adapted from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Oven Temp: 350 F (325 F at sea level)
Equipment: Stand Mixer/Hand Mixer
                            Two 9" round cake pans 

1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/4 C boiling water
6 TBSP unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small chunks
2 TBSP shortening, room temp
1 2/3 C sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 C sour cream (or buttermilk)
1 TSP vanilla extract
2 1/2 C cake flour (or a soft winter wheat all purpose-like White Lily)
1 TSP fine salt
1 TBSP cider vinegar
3/4 TSP baking soda (1 TSP at sea level)

Cinnamon Frosting:
1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C milk
1/4 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, in small pieces
1 TSP vanilla extract 
1 TBSP cinnamon

Decorative Sprinkles (optional)

Spectrum is a brand of all-natural, organic, and non-hydrogenated shortening available at most grocery stories.
1. Preheat the oven and grease, then line cake pans with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water in a bowl.

3. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening until they are smooth. Scape down the sides, add sugar and continue to cream until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. 
5. Stir together vanilla, sour cream, and cooled cocoa mixture in a separate bowl.

6. Sift together flour and salt in another bowl. 
7. Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture to the egg mixture, alternating the two in a series of three additions. Begin and end with the flour mixture, scrape down the sides between additions, and beat until fully incorporated.
8. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and baking soda. It will fizz up.
9. Remove the bowl with batter from the stand mixer, and with a spatula, mix in the baking soda mixture until just combined.
10. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, smooth the tops with the back of a greased spatula, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the sides just begin to pull away from the sides and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (this will take 25-30, at sea level in 325 F oven).
11. Let cakes cool for 5-10 minutes, then run a knife along the edges, invert the cakes, and let them finish cooling on a rack.

The Frosting:

1. Combine sugar and flour in a heavy bottom sauce pot over medium heat and whisk together. Then, add the heavy cream and milk. Whisk occasionally to make sure no clumps form in the sugar/flour mixture.  Let the mixture come to a gentle boil until it has thickened (almost to a sweetened condensed milk consistency).

     -You want the mixture to thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon, so when you drag your finger  across, the liquid does not automatically fill the line back in. 
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool completely.
3. Cream the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth.
4. Reduce to a low speed, and slowly drizzle in the thickened milk mixture until well combined. Then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
5. Add in the vanilla and cinnamon and beat until they are well incorporated. 

Place down the first cake round, top it with frosting, and then spread evenly over the top with an offset spatula. Add the second round and repeat. Dolloping on frosting to the sides, guide the frosting around the edges to cover completely. The stiff nature of the buttercream will allow this to be easily manipulated with your spatula. 
Once the cake is fully covered, make a thick line of sprinkles around the edges, the spread the sprinkles with your fingers to create a ring around the edge of the cake. Repeat in a similar action in the middle of the cake with a different color sprinkle until the center is covered.
Enjoy and stay warm!

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