June 23, 2004
[Aerial Chocolate Cake, Ganache Glaze]
This cake recipe comes from Trish Deseine's book Je Veux du Chocolat! -- much-liked and oft-mentioned around here, as I'm sure you've noticed. I am not spontaneously drawn to that kind of light-textured chocolate cake, having chosen instead to walk the path of dense, fudgy, melt-in-your-mouth cakes, but sometimes the occasion calls for a cake just like this.
A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a girl named Camille, a senior student at the Camondo school of design and architecture in Paris. She was working on her graduation project, for which she had designed a new kind of lunch box for three, to be bought and shared, picnic-style, with your friends or coworkers. She had the box all designed, with nifty ideas and a clever stacking of containers, but the point was, after all, to serve food. And this is where she requested my help : could I create six chromatic menus to fill the containers -- green, yellow, pink, orange, white and black, in pure Pink Buffet style?
I was charmed by the idea, and felt an instant connection to the delightfully sweet and friendly Camille (not completely irrelevant I think, is the fact that I have a thing with names and Camille happens to be my middle name). I eagerly agreed to help, and got to work. The challenge was to create a set of menus that made culinary sense, while following the color rule (I added a "no artificial coloring" rule) and also factoring in the box's structure : it contained a fixed number of containers of different shapes, all linked together, that were to be unfolded and unstacked, from top to bottom, as the meal progressed.
Over the course of the last two months, in preparation for the grand jury, Camille and I worked on making these menus real, so she could take pictures for her project presentation : some dishes she made on her own from recipes I provided, some items were store-bought to save time, some dishes we made together. And among the latter (are you getting the where-in-the-world-is-she-going-with-this syndrome yet? come on, be honest) was this chocolate cake you see here, to be included as the dessert in the black menu.
I wanted a chocolate cake that would rise high enough to fill the cubic dessert containers prettily, and I wanted to glaze the servings with a dark chocolate ganache, to make them black and shiny. This recipe fit the bill perfectly, and was absolutely scrumptious : the cake part is fluffy and moist, and the ganache glaze -- well, what can you expect of a ganache glaze but sheer sublimity?
Incidently, this is what Camille chose to serve the jury members, to illustrate her point. Point well illustrated apparently, as the results just came out, and I am most proud and happy to annouce that she graduated, and with honors, no less. Toutes mes félicitations Camille!
Gâteau au Chocolat Aérien, Glacé Ganache
- 225 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
- 225 grams (1 cup) butter, softened
- 4 eggs
- 225 grams (8 ounces, about 1 3/4 cups) flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, diluted in 4 Tbsp hot water
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) dark chocolate
- 100 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour a 25-cm (10'') cake pan.
In a large mixing bowl or in a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Mix until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix again.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder (sieve the flour if you're mixing by hand). Add the flour mixture into the batter, and mix until just combined. Avoid overmixing, for a lighter cake texture.
Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake feels springy to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Don't bake it to death, otherwise it won't be as moist inside. Let rest on the counter for a few minutes, then turn out on a rack to cool completely.
Prepare the ganache. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler (or in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring with a spoon from time to time to help it melt and just because you can't keep your eyes off it.
When completely melted, remove from heat and add in the whipping cream, stirring as you pour, and until completely incorporated. You will get a luscious, velvety mixture. Use all your strength and will power to refrain from dipping your face in, for it is still hot and you may burn yourself. Besides, what would you glaze the cake with then?
Let the ganache rest a little, until thickened to the desired consistency, say 15 to 30 minutes : if you want to spread it thin, don't wait too long. If you want a thick layer of ganache, give it a little more time.
Glaze the cake. The simplest way is to just pour the ganache on top of the cake, and spread it on with the back of a spoon, letting it ripple onto the sides of the cake in a spontaneous fashion. But you can also glaze the sides completely. Alternately, slice the cake in two when completely cooled, and spread ganache (or raspberry jam) between the two halves, before you glaze the whole thing (or not).
You could also, like Trish does in the book, bake the batter in two 20-cm (8'') pans (reduce baking time to 20 minutes), then sandwich them together, with whipped cream (or anything you fancy) in the middle.
Note : in the book, the cake is called "Gâteau au chocolat très léger" (very light chocolate cake). It refers of course to the texture, not the calories, but I have taken the liberty to rename it, as I find it a tad misleading.
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Chocolate Starter Bread