Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TWD: Devil's Food White Out Cake

My hubs and I agree that great beach reads are essential to any good beach vacation. But we could not share a bookbag, because on our annual family beach trip last summer, David brought along this book:



and this one, also by Mr. Life of the Party himself, John M. Barry:



I, on the other hand, I brought along this classic, which I had been meaning to get to for a few years:



and the latest by our law school friend Emily,who had the good sense to quit practicing law and become a New York Times bestselling author instead:


And it goes without saying that you'll never see these toes of mine setting foot on sand without a copy of this:


Yes, I do sometimes feel frivolous sitting on the beach chair next to David, and he does kick my butt in Trivial Pursuit. But particularly since having kids, I really can't handle overly heavy subjects in books or on film, which eliminates most of the world's great literature and the vast majority of nonfiction, at least for the time being. I fell asleep on the sofa in self-defense fifteen minutes into "No Country for Old Men" -- Mr. Creepy Assassin was just too much for me. I just can't read about or watch suffering of any kind without thinking "UGH! That is somebody's CHILD!!!" Really, the worst kind of pain I could handle these days is the pain of somebody who just got reamed out by Anna Wintour for taking too long to come back with the lattes. Especially when I'm recreating. David obviously does not have these hangups (but just for the record, he really is a fun and wickedly funny guy, even though he reads about public health pandemics at the beach.)

Well, just as we agree on "books" but have wildly divergent opinions on "which books" to bring to the beach, my hubs and I agree that "cake" is an essential part of any birthday celebration, but we part ways when it comes to choosing "which cake." Because for my perfect birthday cake, I now need to look no further that the famous Cover Cake itself,


this week's TWD selection, Devil's Food White Out Cake, chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater. To me it is everything a birthday cake should be -- dramatic, decadent, delicious, and d'chocolate. But poor David will have to make do with some other, lesser cake, because he gave up chocolate of his own volition back when he was 16, just to see if he could do it. And boy, could he ever!! The man has not had a bite of chocolate in over twenty years, just 'cuz. I wish that this kind of willpower could be bottled and sold, that's for sure. I can't even seem to give up chocolate for a day. Well, we'll just have to find some other cake for David, but for the chocolate eaters among us, this is a veritable dream cake.

As I looked over our completely and pitifully empty jam-packed social calendar for February, it was really hard to figure out how to pull a triple chocolate layer cake occasion out of thin air decide which of the multitude of events was Cover Cake-worthy. David's birthday actually IS in February, but . . . okay, we won't beat that dead horse anymore. Then there is Valentine's Day, but my Valentine doesn't eat . . . nevermind. Of course, there's always President's Day, but as David pointed out, that is already well-celebrated with deep discounts on sofas and mattresses, just as Grover Cleveland would have wanted it. Cake hardly seems necessary. Finally, I remembered that Elizabeth's preschool BFF was coming over for a playdate -- we were out of town for this little girl's birthday party, so I had told Elizabeth that we'd have her over to celebrate. Perfect! Move over, Teddy Grahams and apple juice -- we won't need you at this playdate!

The cake itself came together easily.

Requisite batter shot:



And the cakes:



I was a lot afraid to slice these in half horizontally -- they weren't particularly thick, after all -- but I didn't have any trouble. I was relieved to know going in that one of the four half cakes was going to get crumbled up anyway. That somehow removed approximately 1/4th of the pressure of this undertaking.

Time to make the filling & frosting! This requires heating up some sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan, and then mixing it with some beaten egg whites once it reaches the magic temperature of 242 degrees. I dug into the depths of my spice rack and finally found cream of tartar:



August 2003: my first baby had just turned one, Lil' Kim and Matchbox Twenty were jockeying for the top spot in the Billboard Top 40 countdown, and my cream of tartar expired. Funny how you just don't burn through this stuff until you start baking every week. I sprung for new cream of tartar -- just didn't want to take any chances with the cover cake.

Requisite shot of my candy thermometer sitting in boiling liquid and not budging:



I was worried about this part from the beginning, because boiling sugar is just never easy around here. Personal injury, property damage and/or emotional distress are just part and parcel of the sugar boiling process for me. Dorie does not provide an estimate of how long it should take the boiling liquid to reach 242 degrees, so while I didn't know what to expect, I started to feel like this was not working about 30 minutes into the process when my thermometer was still stuck on 180 degrees. My mind started drifting (close your eyes if you are easily offended) to the store-bought white frosting that I would have to use to put this cake together. But there wasn't really any harm being done in standing there watching the pan boil, so I waited a little longer. And I was shocked when all of a sudden the little thermometer started to creep up! I started beating the egg whites, and when the sugar mixture reached 242 degrees, I added it to them. It worked perfectly! The frosting was delicate, but sturdy enough to hold up to layering, and it tasted great. I can't believe I made it (and can't help but feel like it's a total crapshoot as to whether I'd be able to do it again).

Here is the cake, layered up, before getting doused with crumbles:



Here is the cake after getting doused with the crumbles:



Oops, missed a full quarter of the cake a spot! Funny, I didn't notice that giant bare swath until I uploaded the pictures. I will fess up to having eaten some crumbles, but c'mon. There is just no excuse for this kind of sloppy work.

Here is our little birthday friend checking out her cake.



See those cookies she's reaching for? I had taken some of Dorie's Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookie dough out of the freezer so the girls would have a cookie-decorating activity. Unfortunately, they were definitely more into the cookies than the cake. That's just how things tend to go around here.

Here is the cake cut in half. Not the cleanest cut in the world, sorry:



I sent half of the cake over to David's brother's house. My SIL called me later to tell me that the cake was delicious, and couldn't have come at a better time -- my 11 year old niece had broken her toe just weeks before a big dance event, and my 7 year old niece was feeling sad because the hamster that Santa Claus brought her for Christmas had just lost a brave battle with an upper respiratory infection. I am glad that my cake was able to spread some cheer. (UPDATE: toe is much better and replacement hamster has been acquired.)

This is a really fabulous chocolate cake. This would become my go-to chocolate cake recipe in a heartbeat, but I have to admit that the filling part was pretty stressful. I kind of feel like it was just dumb luck that it actually worked for me the first time around -- between getting the sugar/water to the right temperature, and trying to time the eggs so that they are whipped enough, but not too much, when the liquid reaches temperature, it seemed like this was just fraught with danger at every turn. I wouldn't want to be making this an hour before anyone's party, that's for sure. That said, I enjoyed this cake enough that I will most definitely attempt it again, but not without having an easier frosting in mind as Plan B in case this crazy marshmallow stuff doesn't work.

Stephanie, thank you for finally choosing the cover cake for us! It was so much fun to make, and completely lived up to its hype!

61 comments:

Natashya said...

Congrats on having the sugar work out!!!!
I was concerned..
Your cake looks great - very even layers and everything!

Lisa said...

Great looking cake! I am with you on books. I love the light beach reads.

Girl Japan said...

The Cake Looks Amazing, very chic esp with the dusting!

Pam said...

How funny, I am reading "love the one you're with" right now. I've read two others by Emily Giffin and I really like her writing.

The cake looks amazing. I would have been stressed out with the filling part too. You did a great job.

Debinhawaii said...

I always got flack from my male business partners for reading People (the real news) and Us (news lite) on the airplane whenever we traveled. But guess who read them them as soon as I finished?! I am with you; the beach, travel, etc. is for the fluffier stuff!

BTW--I am available for a play date if you are serving the cake. I won't even notice the bare spot you pointed out! ;-)

Marthe said...

Your cake looks amazing, I didn't make it though: no candy thermometer.... :( So I did a rewind!

I'm with you on the books: something light is best!!

Flourchild said...

Great looking cake. Wow Im amazed your husband could say NO to chocolate for so many years! Im glad the cake went over well and you were able to share.

The Blonde Duck said...

You did a fabulous job! I love how you were trying to find excuses to make the cake. I do the same thing around here. That's how pie week was invented. :)

Lady Baker said...

Wow, it looks awesome, Cathy! What a fun mommy to make such a festive cake for the playdate! And at least if cookies were going to show this up, they were home-made! :)

Matt's Kitchen said...

To be honest, I would rather read The Devil Wears Prada than a book about influenza as fascinating as that sounds. I'd also rather watch the Devil Wears Prada than No Country For Old Men. Let's see do I want to watch a brutal murderer or a brutal tongued fashion director?

I loved this cake, too. Although my layers didn't rise enough for me to divide them.

Steph said...

I don't think I could give up chocoalte for a day either. Cathy, if you ever switched into writing, you would definitely make it on the NY best selling list too.. you're just too funny!

If you think cream of tartar from 2003 is bad, I once found a bag of marshmallows in my grandmother's cupboard from 1985.. even older tahn me!!

The cake looks really good!

Jamie said...

Your cake looks great! I loved the Devil Wears Prada...great beach read for sure!

Andrea said...

You have to be to hit of the preschool crowd with cookie activities and private make-up birthday parties with chocolate cake! How fun :) I'm so glad this worked out for you and there were no troubles in the kitchen, and I love your requisite shots, so true, so true, I wonder how many candy thermometers I will see today?

Andrea said...

You have to be to hit of the preschool crowd with cookie activities and private make-up birthday parties with chocolate cake! How fun :) I'm so glad this worked out for you and there were no troubles in the kitchen, and I love your requisite shots, so true, so true, I wonder how many candy thermometers I will see today?

Katherine Aucoin said...

Your cake turned out great. I'm with you on the books, I need something light and entertaining.

natalia said...

Your cake looks great ! And I'd love some bottled willpower thanks !!

dharmagirl said...

i love your story, cathy! i'm bringing my cake to the english majors/minors club. i'm fairly certain my students question my sanity, and wonder what kind of life i lead when i'm always toting around baked goods...the glamorous life of an english major, of course!

btw, i love *the devil wears prada*--and i actually teach it sometimes. we have to watch the movie as well. i agree with your reading aesthetic, particularly on beach reads:)

Di said...

Nice job on the cake--it's too bad it wasn't a bigger hit with the small ones. I actually like the sound of both reading lists. I can't go anywhere without lots of stuff to read. I'm going to have to check out the Emily Giffin books. I've been looking for new authors to read.

Katrina said...

Yep, the biggest issue with the cake is the sugar coming to temp and not overbeating the egg whites in the meantime! But GOOD!
Great job.
Check out the giveaway on my blog--been blogging for one year now!
A good 25 years ago my mom quit eating chocolate cold turkey because she felt like she was seriously addicted to it. She has never tasted a single drop/bite/whatever since. These strong people, don't know how they do it!

Maria said...

Nice job on the cake! I am glad you were able to share it!! I just finished Love the One You're With, a great read! I love her books!

AmyRuth said...

Whew....at least now I know where to turn for beach reading girl style. he he Your cake slice looks great. I haven't figured out how Dorie's cake look so good for her photo shoot. Maybe its frozen. My crumbs were all mixed up too. Crazy. Ya know? I think Dorie's stove in general is way hotter than ours. All her temperatures seem to be conservative. Try firing up that baby and your sugar should reach temp sooner. Also, if you have one of those really cute little 1 qt. pots. They work pretty well with the candy therms too. I'm glad your SIL loved her sweet treat. You're very thoughtful. I liked the frosting too. Thank you Cathy for stopping by and sharing comments with me.
AmyRuth

Elyse said...

Your cake looks delicious! Yummmmmmy!

As for reading, I hear you. Ever since I started law school, I can't handle anything too heavy if I'm reading in my spare time (What spare time?). My eyes can't take it, and neither can my mind. I thought this might improve with 2L year, but apparently not...

Jessica said...

Your cake looks fantastic! I agree that it's a wonderful birthday cake, possibly the gold standard of birthday cakes.

As far as giving up chocolate just because you can, I don't know, my mind is still in shock and will be for some time. I mean, for Lent, sure, because then you have chocolate Easter bunnies, eggs, and all sorts of chocolate goodness to re-initiate yourself with. But years upon years without chocolate "just because"? Must be a y-chromosome thing?

Thanks for the suggesting about the homemade tortilla place in Arlington. I will definitely look it up. Margaritas are always necessary, homemade tortillas or not.

Oh, I agree about the beach reads. In my family we call it "Beach Trash" and we always make a special trip to purchase said "trash" before the yearly vacation.

Karen said...

My hubs would probably bring along the same kinds of books as your hubs. :) I love me some People!

I am so glad your cake turned out so well! It is beautiful! I am sure the girls adored it. :)

MacDuff said...

Ok, I have to admit, I am so with David's reading list here. My beach reading included a biography of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, and a book on the dangers of mining for early Scottish immigrants. Snooze.

I'm glad you liked the cake. I think you're the first person to really say it was good...everyone else seems to be all up in arms over texture!

Teanna said...

I think Grover Clevland would have loved some of this d'choclate cake to eat on his 40% off mattress!! Great post and great cake! I love your blog!

chocolatechic said...

So glad you didn't have to use the dreaded store bought frosting.

That would have been disaster.

Melissa said...

I can't get over how your husband doesn't eat chocolate. Are you sure he's human?

Your cake looks really great, and I'll bet your daughter's BFF loved it! How sweet!

Jess said...

Your cake looks great - what lucky little girls! I just can't believe your husband gave up chocolate...just because. No life-threatening allergy? Men are strange...

Megan said...

I have to agree with you - I can't handle any "in depth" reading since I had kids. And forget movies where someone gets killed, hurt, etc.

Remember the days when you could get totally absorbed into a book? Yeah, me neither.

Great cake - but you already knew that!

Amanda said...

Delish!!

Funny, I found a can of baking powder from 2003 yesterday! LOL

Sara said...

Nicely done, your layering looks great! I can't believe your husband does not eat chocolate just because!

farah said...

Your cake looks great! Glad your sister-in-law liked it too :)

n.o.e said...

Is it bad that I laughed at the hamster part? I think it might be. But what is definitely good is this cake. And the cookies as well. Way to be the overachieving mom and have two homebaked treats available for a playdate.

Now that you point it out, I'm pretty sure I used expired cream of tartar (but there's no visible date on it) - that must be why I had such trouble with that icing. Yes, that has to be it!

Great job!
Nancy

Peggy said...

Your cake looks amazing as I knew it would. You can't use expired spices Cathy. You have to get some fresh stuff!!

Sabrina said...

Yum Yum! You are awesome! You really know Emily Griffin? How cool!
I always use expired stuff... prolly shouldnt but im cheap! :)

Robin said...

That's a lotta love spread with one single cake, Cathy! Love the playdate cake - so sweet. It looks great, and any mom that can whip out a triple layer cake AND homemade cookies in one afternoon can recreate meringue frosting twice in a row. Think positive!

Heather said...

looks so good! i have some "expired" spices, too. oh well ;)

bakingwiththeboys said...

I think my reading preferences might be somewhere between you and David but I think my spouse has read the pandemic book and is probably eyeing the other one. He is still giving me grief because I never finished "Master of the Senate" because it was literally too heavy to hold in bed. I am tired, man!
I felt like my frosting success was a fluke as well but I'll take it. No chocolate huh? I gave up chocolate for lent once. Let's just say Easter morning was ugly, very ugly.

Jennifer said...

"People" magazine is the ultimate guilty pleasure. I reserve buying an issue for trips to the dentist or vacation, just kinda makes it special...

Your cake looks delicious and I had the same problem with the lack of crumbles.. somehow it wasn't at all noticeable til I started taking pictures, then every picture had a big white spot!

Anne said...

Gosh Cathy that looks amazing! Wow! It love your reading lists and feel the same way. I used to pride myself on never tearing up but now anything can do it, when I think, "What if that was Will?" haha. Crazy women. Great job on your cake. I'm proud you conquered the frosting and hope to try it when I'm feeling a little more daring. While Ben wouldn't eat the chocolate, either, I think he'd eat that icing straight from the bowl.

Gabe's Girl said...

Your posts are always so entertaining. First, I may have to look into your friend's book. Secondly, I think the cream of tartar thing was absolutely hilarious. Third, now I wish I had tried the frosting. Fourth, no chocolate in 20 years?!?

Audrey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Audrey said...

Sigh of relief. I was so afraid that you were going to tell us that you whipped up this little number while you were on the beach, with your toes in the sand...I'm glad you decided to face danger head on and make this. It looks so good!

Kayte said...

Your cake looks fantastic! I loved the story about David giving up chocolate...LOL. Also, just so you know...David, Mark and I could so easily share the book bag at the beach! We have read both those books... Your cake is great!

Mary Ann said...

I have to admit I had too much stress when I made the frosting too and didn't have the time for it this time.
I am so glad you found the perfect party cake!
It looks absolutely gorgeous!
p.s. I cannot believe your hubby hasn't eaten chocolate for 20 years. I don't think I could do it and I don't even want to try!

karen said...

i would be so proud of myself if i could finish reading one book. i have a million started but i can't read without falling asleep within two minutes. sometimes i get them on audio from the library but even that takes forever and i have huge late fees. anyway... about the cake... it looks awesome. :)

Pamela said...

I do want to try the frosting again, just to know that I can do it. And I actually don't mind the tooth-aching sweetness of store bought white frosting. But once it's opened, I have a terrible need to lick that container clean, so I try to keep it out of the pantry. :o) Great job, Cathy! And nice job with the cookies, too.

The Food Librarian said...

I so love this post. I'm soooo with you on reading (and shhhh...don't tell anyone I'm a librarian). I listen to NPR for hard news, and read chick lit and People magazine. Rock on. Your cake looks fantastic! You rock.

vibi said...

Nicely done, Cathy!

Happy B-day to the blond beauty! How lucky she is to get such nice cake for her dig day!

doughmesstic said...

wasn't the frosting scary?? I was thrilled when it turned out - and i am glad to see someone else was as nervous as I was! Great job!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Cathy, Your husbands reads for the beach are hilarious! I'd be flipping through People and cooking mags, very serious stuff, huh? Lucky birthday girl to have such a yummy cake!

leanne said...

I was scared of this frosting too but it turned out wonderful! We loved it. I covered my whole cake too.

pinkstripes said...

I love reading Emily Griffin. How cool is it that she's a law school friend. Perfect beach reading.

Your cake looks great and the layers look perfect. YUM!

(No chocolate by choice. Hmmmm...)

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Score for creative conjuring of a chocolate cake-suitable occasion! As an aside, why would someone give up chocolate voluntarily, unless they were from some alien planet where Lent lasts for 17,897 days(or 49 years if you're counting). What's Fat Tuesday like, I wonder?

spike. said...

Ugh, I missed this one. Yours looks great...and after reading your post I want to make it soon despite the tricky filling!

Jennifer said...

I ALWAYS crack up when I read your blog...often, I read them aloud to my hubby, who, laughs even harder than I do!

The book by Emily Giffin is AWESOME! Looks like we like some of the same authors???? 'Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah is really good.

And finally, BEAUTIFUL JOB on the cake. I work for a florist and was NOT able to physically or mentally make anything after last week, so, I had to sit this one out.

Jennifer said...

OH! I forgot to give you the recipe for an EASY substitute for the frosting. My Mom makes this frosting for her Swiss Chocolate cakes...it is GUUD!

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
12 oz. cool whip, thawed
3 hershey bars, grated to small pieces in food processor

Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add cool whip, blend until combined. Stir in chocolate. VOILA!

(This tastes really good with a spoon...doesn't even really need cake....:)

TeaLady said...

Forget the juice and cookies - just give me the cake. Looks lovely. Great job.

Lillian said...

He gave up chocolate? What kind of a freak is he? I cannot imagine giving up chocolate. But that leaves more for you!

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