Monday, April 28, 2008

Mexican Chocolate Cake

While scraping off the smoldering remains of cake drippings stuck to the bottom of my oven, I wondered what exactly had possessed me. Graduation celebrations require champagne for toasting and some sort of decadent treat to be shared. The treat can be purchased from a shop. It does not have to be made from scratch on a Sunday night before the event.

Yet, here I was in my kitchen at 8pm on a Sunday night, scraping charred cake remains off the bottom of my oven. I had initially hoped to keep the smoke contained for as long as it took to bake the cake. Things did not go to plan.

The problem with trying a new recipe is that you never know what might happen. A normal looking cake batter might expand 2-3 fold the volume you expect, overflowing the pan and spilling into your oven, where it then blackens and burns, thereby producing a tremendous amount of smoke.

Despite this (and other frosting-related) setbacks, the cake was baked, iced and neatly decorated with crushed almonds in time for the morning commute.

...and yes, it was delish!

Mexican style chocolate cake with chocolate orange icing

For cake
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened dark chocolate
3/4 cup milk
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt

For icing
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, milk and yogurt.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and spices into a bowl, add in chocolate mixture and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into cake pan (**HALF-FILL**) and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45 to 55 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.

Make icing:
Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat. Cool glaze until slightly thickened.

Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife to cover completely. Coat sides of cake with crushed almonds.

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