Wednesday, May 2, 2012 sin: a decadent ten-layer chocolate cake

What do you call ten (one was on the kitchen counter)
greased and wax-papered cake pans?
A good start

I'm on a diet. Let me re-phrase that. I'm changing my eating habits. Going Mediterrranean. I've had a really good time this year re-visiting old favorites that I hadn't made in a month of Sundays. But my zippers are tired. So, how better to go out with a bang (the sound of my waistband button hitting the wall at high speed) than with Glenda's ten-layer chocolate cake with old-fashioned fudge filling and chocolate icing? Glenda is my sister-in-love, baker par excellence. Let's make that "Chef de Non-Resistance". She cooks good stuff.

Before I continue, a short note: Dear Grumpy Person who wrote and asked if I plan to post a healthy recipe: yes. But frankly, my dear, this isn't a food blog, so it's not as if people around the world say, "Let's check Abiding before we go to the grocery store." I rather thought the Chicken Cacciatore not incredibly bad for one's health. I just bought the Williams-Sonoma Mediterranean cookbook (thank you, Joanie) and will share some of those experiences. I would have shared Saturday's Thai basil chicken but we ate it before I could take photos. Please, feel free to gloat over the fact that my jeans are snug. 

Bill and I have had a southern retrospective year but now we anticipate new dining adventures that employ the delicious produce and fresh seafood readily available here. Dessert will be minimal...two squares of dark chocolate (with sea salt or orange peel for me, plain for the purist), good fruit with yogurt and almonds, and the o-c-c-a-s-i-o-n-a-l dinner-out dessert (split two ways). Frankly, after about two weeks, I no longer crave sugar. But until then, step awaaaay from my desk. 

Now, however, with no further delay, I present My Sin...a decadent ten-layer cake. Go higher if you like.

Different from my usual 1-2-3-4 recipe but what Glenda says, goes

3 cups self-rising flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 T. REAL vanilla extract    NOTE: NEVER buy imitation vanilla extract. Ningun. Nada.
1/2 lb. butter
1 c. (8 oz.) milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar. (Forgot to take picture...mea culpa...but I went for a walk before I began and believe this helped tremendously. Those flowers are Pride of Madeira. Thought you might enjoy the view. You don't have to take any pictures of the cake unless, of course, you want to commemorate the event or torture someone at a distance.)

Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well on medium speed.
NOTE: I used organic, pasteurized eggs...reason revealed at bottom.

Add sifted flour and milk alternately and beat well after each addition. (For new bakers, start and finish with dry ingredient(s) and add liquid in between: 1/3 flour, stir so it doesn't splatter, then beat with mixer; 1/2 milk, stir, beat; more flour, milk, flour)

Add vanilla ( I repeat, REAL, not imitation) and mix thoroughly.

Bill bought the cake pans at Dollar Tree. Real pans. $1 each. They only had 8" but these worked perfectly and the price was right. I greased, floured and put wax paper in each. To cut wax paper circles, tear off a piece larger than the cake pan. Place bottom of pan on wax paper and run knife lightly around edge of pan on paper. This will make a circle on the paper. I stack ten squares with the "circled" piece on top and cut all at once. See big photo at top of post.

Spread a half-cup batter in each pan. Bake two layers at a time in the preheated 400 degree oven. Baking time varies with ovens, anywhere from five to seven minutes: just until done but not overcooked. 

Run a knife around the edges and remove from pan to cool. My cooling racks are still in storage and Dollar Tree, alas, had none. So I spread a large towel on the counter and covered it with baking parchment and let the layers cool here while Bill and I made the icing/frosting.

Before I go any farther...I took NO pictures of this process. After you've made it, you'll know why.

4 cups sugar (oh, go ahead and write, Ms. Grumpy)
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 T. butter
1 T. vanilla

Mix sugar and chocolate together in LARGE pot.  Our dutch oven is a bit wonky and doesn't sit flat so I used a 4 qt. pot...BARELY large enough. Go bigger.

Add milk a little at a time. Blend thoroughly and bring to a boil on high heat. 

Boil for ten minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Bill did this part, bless his heart. We invested in good spatulas that withstand high heat. They don't scratch a good pot and also make solid contact so that all sugar gets dissolved (all four cups, honey) and the icing won't be grainy. Test to make sure icing is at soft ball stage by dropping a bit into a cup of cold water. If it stays together and forms a ball, it's ready. (IMPORTANT NOTE: My good digital never-fail candy thermometer is somewhere in that storage warehouse, drat, probably next to the cooling racks. Our stove is a ceramic solid cooktop - we both miss a gas cooktop - and is a tad hot/fast. The icing reached the soft-ball stage at seven minutes. Don't go by the clock alone. Trust me.)

Add butter and vanilla and stir well. 

Spoon warm frosting over layer and repeat as each layer is added. It hardens a bit on cooling. Think "fudge with cake in between". A few tips: Our oven is amazingly not too unlevel but layers are never exactly even. Notice the "high" side and turn when you place each so the cake doesn't lean in one direction. Also, the layers are very tender. Spoon enough frosting on each layer and spread softly with a rubber spatula. You have to work quickly while the icing is hot or it will stick and shred the layers. When I got to the top layer,  I was glad I had cooked ten layers..not eleven (had extra batter - see bottom) but I ran short on icing. This is when cooking becomes an adventure. Read on.

Chocolate Frosting
I hadn't planned to cook this additional frosting but, if you've cooked very long, you know that "not enough" is the mother of invention. Oh, how I love an iPad. In no time, I had located this frosting recipe which I adapted a bit. (It helped considerably that Bill stayed extremely calm and positive.) We were pleasantly surprised at the outcome and will do this again. When we have a bigger, flat-bottomed pot. 

2-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar (get over it...I've cooked four cakes in a year and shared)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use less but I matched the depth of chocolate to Glenda's fabulous fudge icing)
6 T. butter
5 T. evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. 

Blend in vanilla. 

Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Spread icing on top (over fudge icing) and sides of cake.

...and enjoy!

Now for the reason I use pasteurized eggs


Still lickin'

The missing eleventh layer

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