Cake and other stories.
I made two desserts for the April birthday lunch, rum-raisin croissant bread pudding, for M., who always loves it, and a chocolate cake for C., who does not like bread pudding. It is her birthday, too, after all, so for her I pull out all the stops. When I say chocolate cake, I mean a layered creation that has a brownie base layer, a chocolate mousse middle, a cake top layer, and a generous coating of chocolate ganache. I have been dying to try this cake since I first saw it on someone's blog, and now was my chance. The recipe read like a novel, or at least a short story, and I spent days trying to figure out how I could manage this and the bread pudding on a Monday night before a party.
Emails flew back and forth between the author of the recipe (she was thoughtful enough to give me an estimated time frame and other advice) and myself, before I finally figured out that the brownie and cake layers could be baked the night before, greatly reducing the amount of work the night before our lunch. Two things I learned this time: Non-stick sprays are not for me (next time I will use my old standby, softened butter smeared on with either a paper towel or my bare hands), and if I am going to bake two layers in two different pans, I should use pans that are the same size. Also, I should invest in precut parchment circles, because tracing and cutting is beyond me now that I am no longer in kindergarten. Still, by the time I went to bed on Sunday night I had two cooled cake layers wrapped in plastic on my dining room table, one a fudgy-chewy thin layer of brownie, one of rich chocolate cake.
Monday night my kitchen was a battlefield of chocolate smears and rum-soaked raisins. The cake layers were trimmed - more or less - and set aside as I put together the chocolate mousse filling, basically whipped cream and melted chocolate. The mousse was spread over the brownie layer, and then the cake layer was placed on top, and the whole thing chilled. I had not done a thorough job of trimming, and somehow the cake was significantly higher on one side. There was some quick fudging with leftover bits of brownie that had escaped being eaten, and soon the entire thing was reasonably level. I would cover it with ganache, as I had with my cataclysmically cracked cheesecake at the previous birthday party, and no one would know the difference.
An hour and a pint or so of ganache later it was done, my beautiful, dark chocolate cake. At lunch the ganache would prove to be impenetrable by birthday candles, and we stuck the candles in the bread pudding instead. Oh well. Next time.