Last year for Annie's birthday, because I am such a good friend, I thought it would be nice to bake her a birthday cake. I found a recipe in an issue of Martha Stewart Living for a 6 layer chocolate cake with a dark chocolate frosting make with butter, cream cheese and creme fraiche. I thought I would be clever so I baked the layers and made the frosting a day before the party. I then wrapped the layers them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them. The plan was to them assemble and frost the cake the day of the party. The next day when I opened my refrigerator the frosting had solidified into a large chocolate block and the cake layers dried up and had the consistency of styrofoam. This is why I don't bake.
So this year I got a phonecall from Annie's husband Pierson, who was putting together a little gathering. He explained that he might try making cupcakes and flashing back to last year's birthday fiasco, I thought "You go right ahead." Suddenly I remembered a recipe I saw in my new favorite cookbook that seemed interesting. I called Pierson back and told him that instead of making cupcakes, he ought to make this recipe I found. I emailed him the ingredient list and the instructions and he went out to sock up.
But then I got to thinking. For my birthday Annie made me a beautiful and extravagant coconut, ginger and macadamia nut cake with 3 layers. Her cake I should point out, did not taste like styrofoam. Perhaps this was my chance to redeem myself. So that evening I went over a little early and volunteered for cake baking duties. I mean, the recipe insisted it was easy. What could go wrong?
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting the pan
8 ounces good quality chocolate (such as Sharffenberger, El Rey, or Valrhona), finely chopped
2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust lightly with sugar.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the Kahlua, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together on high speed until pale yellow and thick enough to hold a ribbon, about 2 or 3 minutes. Gently fold a quarter of the beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture. Pour the chocolate mixture with the added eggs into the bowl with the remaining eggs and fold gently to combine. Next in the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining ehh whites until incorporated. Do not over-mix the batter. It's fine if you see little traces of the egg whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula to make it even. Bake on a center rack for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still soft. It will set completely as it cools. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about five minutes.
Just out of the oven, this is what the cake will look like. It's sort of puffed up above the top of the pan, however, it will settle and deflate a little.
Run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Open the springform pan to release the sides and transfer the cake onto a serving plate. Slice and serve immediately.
Okay, so this might be the BEST cake I've EVER baked - sort of elegantly rustic looking. It's just fantastic - I mean obviously the chocolate is great, but what I especially love is the texture. The chocolate makes it taste rich, but because of the way the egg whites were folded in, the texture is very light and airy. It does not at all taste heavy the way many chocolate desserts can taste. You won't have to share a piece of this cake, nor will you want to. In fact you might want a second piece (which is what Annie and I did) and then you might want to lick the plate clean (which is what Annie and Mark did).
For Annie's birthday I served the cake warm, its center still goey, with a scoop of banana ice cream and drizzled with peanut butter sauce. Since she and Pierson were going out of town the next morning, I took the remaining cake home with me and the next day, Mark and I had another piece, this time cold from the refrigerator and drizzled with a raspberry sauce (I just warmed raspberry preserves and a squeeze of lemon over low heat until syrupy) and dusted with confectioner's sugar. The texture when cold resembles a light cheese cake. I might like it better cold.
With Valentine's Day coming up, this would be good to make for your honey.