Friday, March 27, 2015

$100 Chocolate Cake With Swiss Almond Buttercream Frosting

Anyone who has been reading my ramblings here for the past few years might be familiar with my stories about Caterer Chris. Even though I only worked with her for a very brief time back in the 90s, the recipes that I learned under her direction are some of my favorites to this day.

Included in the short but important list of her great recipes, is one for $100 Chocolate Cake. This recipe claims to have had its beginnings in the dining room of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, but now in the days of the internet I have found that its origins just might not be so clear.

So the urban legend goes, this cake was so good that the Waldorf's resident chef, weary from so many recipe requests, would gladly pass on the recipe for this cake, and a bill for $100.00 right along with it. As you can well imagine, this must have certainly cut down on the constant recipe requests from their patrons.

Through much Googling and reading, I have discovered that the original recipe for the Waldorf's cake very well might have been for more of a red velvet recipe than this one. As with most urban legends, the true story has been lost long ago, but that in no way takes away from the taste of this particular delicious chocolate cake recipe.

Caterer Chris's recipe that she passed on to me calls for more of a mocha/coffee frosting, but my family didn't like it nearly as much as I do. Consequently, I have been in search of a worthy substitute for all these years. Finally, I can now emphatically state that I have found the perfect frosting for this delicious cake.

This Swiss Buttercream recipe, introduced to me by one of my pastry chef friends is easy to make, light and fluffy and stable at room temperature. It is also easy to work with, and I am happy to say that the family loves it.

So here you go, a recipe for a great chocolate cake with a buttery Swiss Almond Buttercream frosting and you didn't have to pay a penny for it. You can thank me later.

$100 Chocolate Cake with Swiss Almond Buttercream Frosting

4 squares unsweetened chocolate (I used a cocoa powder substitute which is 3 tablespoons cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon cooking oil per square)
1/2 cup (1 - 4 ounce stick) butter (I used Churn 84, but any high butter fat content butter will work)
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 - 1/2 cups milk

Line the bottom of 2 - 9 inch round cake pans with parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Heat chocolate and butter in a sauce pan over low heat until melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl; set aside.

With an electric mixer set to medium low speed, blend the sugar with the eggs. To this add the vanilla and the chocolate mixture, continue beating until well combined.

With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture and the milk, starting with 1/4 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/3 of the milk, repeating until all the ingredients are well combined.

Pour batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out ALMOST clean. Top center of the cakes will be soft so the perfectly done cake will not spring back in the middle if touched with a finger.

Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Frost with Swiss Almond Buttercream, recipe follows.

For high altitude, I decreased the baking powder to 1-1/2 teaspoons and increased the flour by two tablespoons.

Swiss Almond Buttercream

1 - 2 ounces sliced almonds
4 egg whites from 4 large to extra large eggs
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt if desired
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoons almond extract
1 pound high butter fat butter, softened to room temperature

Place almonds in a pan set over medium heat. Toast, stirring frequently until they are golden brown and they become aromatic. Transfer to a cool plate and set aside until ready to use.

Whisk egg whites and granulated sugar in the top of a double boiler or in the metal bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of gently simmering water.  If desired, you can add a pinch of salt at this time. Heat, while whisking constantly until all of the sugar is dissolved and no "grit" can be felt when rubbing a bit of the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer the hot mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk with an electric mixer set to medium high. Whisk until mixture is completely cooled and resembles marshmallow fluff, about 10 minutes.

Once cooled, add the butter a large pinch (about a tablespoon or two) at a time to the egg white mixture, blending well between additions. Add vanilla and almond extracts.

After all the butter is added, increase the mixer speed to high and whip until the mixture looks like over beaten whipped cream, approximately 2 minutes.

Use immediately or cover bowl and store in a cool place. Refrigeration is not recommended until after you frost your cake as the butter hardens making it difficult to use until it returns to room temperature. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

This recipe makes enough frosting to generously frost a two layer cake.

Butterball Farms, the makers of Epicurean Butter, recently sent me a sample box of their new European style butter, Churn 84. At 84% butterfat content, this butter surpasses the usual 80% found in most butters on the market today. Presently only available to food service companies, Churn 84 is available in butter sheets for making croissants and pastries, butter pats, rolls and blocks. 

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