24 June 2015

Eats: chocolate chip wedding cake with strawberries and chocolate ganache, part two

When I left off Monday, we had cake... and nothing else. Deliciously rich and dense chocolate chip cake, but just cake, nonetheless.

To recreate our wedding cake, I needed a few more things: buttercream icing, chocolate ganache, and fresh strawberries. Let’s start with the buttercream! I tried a new recipe, from the same website as the cake recipe. That said, buttercream recipes use the same ingredients in different proportions... you need butter, cream (obvious much?), sugar, and vanilla. The good stuff.

Start with two sticks of softened butter. Just the butter! Use the paddle attachment to whip it until it becomes fluffy but smooth. It’ll take three minutes, at least. I think I went closer to five.

Oh, and PS, the photography quality on this post is going to be... uh, lacking. Because I am a mom who works full time and my weekday baking occurs only before 7am and after 8pm. Sorry about that!

Once the butter is light and fluffy, start sifting in the confectioner’s sugar, half a cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The original recipe called for 3-4 cups, but I prefer a less sweet frosting, so I stuck with three cups. Spoiler alert: I still found this frosting a bit too sweet, and I didn’t have enough to cover my cake (with only one frosting filling layer!). So the ratios for this recipe weren’t quite right for me – you might want to bump up the amount of butter!

Finally, add two teaspoons of vanilla (clear extract will keep your frosting extra-white!), a pinch of salt, and two or three tablespoons of cream. Mix until fluffy!

However, even though I erred on the side of less sugar and more cream (three tablespoons), I still found this frosting rather firm rather than creamy – and super duper sweet. So, not my favorite recipe, even discounting the fact that it didn’t make quite enough! But that’s just personal preference... if you prefer sweet frosting, this is the recipe for you!

Onward! We also needed fresh strawberries.

I think I used 8-10 of those big strawberries... maybe a dozen? I needed enough to fill two inner layers of this cake, so I just cut them up until it looked like I had enough.

And finally... the ganache. I found this from The Kitchn, which is more article than recipe and really helped me understand the sort of ganache I needed. It simplifies making ganache into two parameters: cream:chocolate proportion and temperature. And because it points out you only need to warm the cream (not boil it).... I totally made my ganache in a measuring cup in the microwave.

What? It works for my dark chocolate truffle pie. Might as well!

The proportion part was a bit trickier, and I came very very very close to totally screwing this up. I had about two ounces of semisweet chips leftover in our freezer (we keep them there to throw into pancakes, cookies, whatever) and six ounces left of those Ghiradelli mini-chips I used for the chocolate chips in the cake. But... those Ghiradelli chips are milk chocolate, and I learned the hard way earlier this year that you absolutely cannot use milk chocolate if you want ganache to set (while trying to make truffle pie, incidentally). But... I only had two ounces of semisweet chips. So, I thought maybe I could get away with using two parts milk chocolate (4 ounces) to one part dark (2 ounces) and use 6 ounces of cream – the 3/4 cup you see there. Make sense?

So I microwaved the cream until quite warm (about a minute in my microwave) and stirred the chocolate in.

And stirred. And stirred. And waited for it to thicken. And waited and waited and waited.

It was not thickening. It was not coming together. I called it a night, threw it in the fridge, and went to bed.

But behold! By morning, my ganache was slightly less of a soupy mess!

(Blurry action shot to demonstrate viscosity, or something.)

But even though I barely managed to salvage it this time, please don’t ever try to make ganache with milk chocolate. I knew better and forgot. Get the semisweet chocolate!

All right, with frosting whipped and berries sliced and ganache thickened, it’s time to assemble! It’s as simple as adding half the berries and chocolate to one layer...

Then a layer of frosting (not too thick or you’ll run out, if you follow the recipe as I did!):

Repeat with another layer of chocolate and berries, and then it’s time to frost the outside! I took the advice of several commenters on the frosting post and did a “crumb coat”.

That means you just put a thin layer of frosting around the edges and refrigerate it, which holds the whole thing together better and avoids getting crumbs in the outer frosting layer. Basically... you’re spackling your cake when you do a crumb coat. Baking meets DIY!

After refrigerating all day, I finished up the cake with the remainder of the frosting:

Which, as I mentioned before, wasn’t quite enough. It was super thin, with corners and the bottom layer showing through. Fortunately it didn’t have to be pretty for us, but worth noting if you actually were making a wedding cake!

As for us, we just wanted it to taste good – and though it was a bit sweet, it definitely lived up to the effort I put into it!

Similar enough to the original, amirite?

While I’d never think myself a good enough baker to actually make a wedding cake for a wedding, I’d say this recipe is definitely special-occasion-suitable. It won’t be in regular rotation in our house – so much effort, so much butter – but it was definitely worth making once! And maybe twice.... for our ten year anniversary. Hope you enjoy it, too!