Friday, December 12, 2014

Bruce Bogtrotter Chocolate Cake

In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Craig, read us two really amazing books that I'll never forget: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and Matilda by Roald Dahl. The former is a historical fiction novel about the Nazis invading Denmark and doesn't have much to do with today's post; I just wanted to mention it because it's such a good book and it's the first book to have ever made me cry. The latter is a purely fictional novel about a young girl with awful parents who has to beg to be sent to school. Her teacher turns out to be wonderful but the school itself is run by a mean lady, the Trunchbull. It turns out Matilda has magical powers and she saves the day. Yada yada, but that's not why I bring it up.

The reason I mention this at all is because there's a scene in the book where the Trunchbull calls an impromptu assembly for the whole school. She yells for a chubby little boy, Bruce Bogtrotter, to come up to the stage because she knows that he stole a piece of cake from her. She sits him down and then forces him to eat a massive chocolate cake in front of the whole auditorium. He doesn't realize that it's a punishment until he announces that he's full and then the Trunchbull tells him he must eat the entire thing. In the end, he accomplishes the task (cheering from his classmates helps boost his morale).

Even though eating an entire chocolate cake on one's own sounds rather disgusting, I used to dream about this chocolate cake all the time. It just sounded so delicious and amazing. And because my mom was never keen on giving us much sugar, it was just one of those rebellious fantasies I had. Even though there is a Roald Dahl cookbook that I could have used, I decided to work from my own imagination. After all, this cake's been in my dreams since the third grade.
Ingredients:
cake
4 oz. 60% cacao chocolate chips (Ghiradelli brand; or semi-sweet/bittersweet chocolate)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
½ cup butter, room temperature
1½ cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1 cup hot water

ganache
6 oz. 60% cacao chocolate chips
¾ cup heavy cream

Start by grabbing some chocolate chips (4 oz. is about 1 cup) and pour them into a bowl. Pop the bowl onto a double boiler and drizzle in a little cream and heat gently until the chocolate melts. Then, set it aside to cool.
In a little bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Set that aside.
In yet another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. The ratio of butter to sugar is on the smaller side, so it won't cream up that nicely but the goal is to get it pretty well blended. Pour in some vanilla extract, crack in two eggs, and then give it a good beating until it's fluffy. Then, add in the cooled chocolate (mine had cooled so much it was almost making its way to being a solid again) and whizz it up until smooth.
To the batter, alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat to fully incorporate each addition before adding the next installment.
The batter should be lovely and rich and gorgeous at this point but super thick.
Pour in the hot water (carefully) and then slowly beat that in. I just used the same water I used to create the double boiler. It was just simmering water, not at a rolling boil.
Now, the batter should be thick, but pourable, and super velvety.
Grab two 8-inch cake tins and grease them up with some butter and dust with cocoa powder.
Pour the batter in, dividing it evenly between the two tins, and smooth out the tops and then give the pans a good slam on the counter to coax out the air bubbles.
Bake at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If there's any wet batter still on the toothpick, leave it in the oven a bit longer.
Cool the cakes long enough that you can touch the tins without burning yourself, and then pop them out onto a rack, upside down and leave to cool completely. Letting the cakes cool upside down will allow them to flatten the mounded dome shape that forms when the cake bakes.
To "frost" the cake, make a chocolatey ganache. Grab some chocolate chips and add them to a bowl. Heat some heavy cream, until scalding, and then pour over the chocolate chips. Leave them alone for 2 minutes and then start whisking until the chocolate melts and the ganache is lovely and smooth.
Though cooling the cakes upside down did help level them off, I still needed some extra leveling. I sliced the top off of one of the cakes.
I put my bottom layer onto my serving platter and tucked a few pieces of parchment around the sides. The parchment will help keep the platter clean and pretty. Then, I added some ganache to the middle, spread it around, slapped on the second layer of cake, and frosted the entire outside. I didn't level off the second layer because it didn't really matter as much. If I'd had extra layers on top, I totally would have, but I didn't, so I didn't.
I find that the easiest way to frost a cake is to scoop a lot of frosting onto the top of the cake and then guide it to the sides, let it drip down, and then spread the drippings onto the sides.
By the way, whenever I'm spending time in the kitchen, my dog will come down and hang out in his little bed. I'm sure he's constantly wishing and hoping that I'll throw him a little scrap. Sorry, bud, you can't eat this; it's chocolate!
Before serving, I pulled out the pieces of parchment.

One thing I didn't mention yet: I made this for myself for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if that's weird, but I love baking, so it was a nice gift to myself to spend the morning making a cake.
This cake is seriously super moist, indulgently chocolatey, and everything I imagined when Mrs. Craig was reading Matilda to us. The cake has a delicate crumb and it's airy and fluffy. The ganache is rich and gooey; it'll leave you with chocolate smeared lips.
It makes a perfect "special occasion" cake, specifically: birthday, but it's also a great everyday dessert for anyone with a sweet tooth. And even if your sweet tooth is on the smaller side, that's fine because I used dark chocolate, which adds plenty of richness but not too much sugar.
Here's the recipe page:

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