Thursday, July 12, 2012

My 34th Birthday, Part 2: Mile-High Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue & Strawberries

The search for the perfect grain-free birthday dessert was well worth it! After trying a bunch of different recipes, I eventually just developed my own chocolate cake recipe and it was AMAZING! It was so fun to mess around in the kitchen, experimenting with different flavors, all in the name of a delightful birthday dessert.

The chocolate cake recipe started as the bottom layer of the Neapolitan Cake, which was delicious to start but only improved with time and trial. For the ice cream sandwich version, I added extra cacao powder and sweetened it with extra honey. For this final recipe revision, I added even more cacao powder, more honey, and an additional, special ingredient: coffee!! The trick is adding just enough to enrich and bolster the chocolate flavor of the cake without overpowering it. I'd say that this recipe knocks the others out of the park!

Once I had decided on the cake flavor, I decided to return to the light and fluffy Swiss Meringue Buttercream from the Neapolitan Cake. This time I diced strawberries to pile on top of each frosting layer as well as adding chocolate curls to the top.

As far as cake aesthetics go, I'm never happy with a plain old sheet cake or even a two-layer cake anymore. Once I started on three-layer cakes, I just couldn't go back. (Then my hubby stole my Sur la Table 9-inch cake pans for his coffee roaster, but that's another story for another time). The trick to this tall cake? Cutting the two cake layers in half, making for four thin sections of cake to pile with buttercream and strawberries. This is definitely a cake worth making, but only with the sweetest, in-season berries.

Mile-High Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream & Strawberries
serves 12-16

3 1/2 C. blanched superfine almond flour (I use Honeyville, purchased through Amazon)
1 C. cacao powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 C. honey
6 eggs
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
1 TBS instant coffee (or up to 1/4 C. very strong coffee, brewed and cooled)
8 TBS butter, softened

Swiss Meringue (adapted from Roost)
4 room temperature egg whites
squeeze of lemon juice
1 C. honey
2 C. strawberries, diced
2 TBS dark unsweetened chocolate

For the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with oil and line with a circle of parchment paper cut to size.

Combine almond flour, cacao powder, salt and baking soda in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle. Combine on medium speed until well mixed.

Add to mixing bowl: honey, eggs, and vanilla extract. Combine well on medium speed.

Finally, stir in coffee and softened butter. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, and no streaks of butter remain (about 3 minutes).

Divide mixture between two prepared cake pans. Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Allow cakes to cool in pans on wire rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully invert onto wire rack and allow cakes to cool completely to room temperature.

For the swiss meringue:
When cakes are completely cool, make buttercream. Put egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Squeeze in a little lemon juice and whisk at medium-high to high speed until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring honey to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.

After stiff peaks have formed and when honey is boiling, with mixer running, slowly and carefully drizzle honey into egg whites. Once honey is completely added, run mixer for a minute more.

To assemble cake:
Cut cake layers in half horizontally, carefully, using a serrated knife. Place first layer, cut side up, on a cake stand. Cut three rectangles measuring about 3 inches wide from parchment paper. Place them just under edges of cake, overlapping, to keep meringue from messing up the cake stand. Pile about 1/4 of the meringue on top of the first layer. Top with about 1/2 C. of the diced strawberries.

Repeat with second layer of cake, 1/4 of the meringue, 1/2 C. of strawberries. Repeat again with 3rd layer. 

For top layer, place cake cut side down. Top with remaining meringue and strawberries. Using a grater, grate chocolate curls onto top of strawberries. Carefully remove parchment paper rectangles from under cake.

Serve immediately, or place in fridge until serving time, carefully wrapped in saran wrap (or under cake dome).

Hooray! You have a beautiful, delicious, rich cake that is completely grain- and sugar-free! Enjoy!

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