The Chocolate Experiment
My better half requested a chocolate cake for his birthday so I delved into my one and only favorite baking book - the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book - for a special chocolate cake recipe (preferably one that I haven’t tried before.) I found two recipes that sounded interesting. One is the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte (1) on page 144, and the other one is the Raspberry Truffle Cake (2) on page 146. Hmmm…., decision, decision! Both seemed simple enough to make, and with a little decoration here and there, either one of them had the potential to become a sumptuous birthday cake for that special someone.
I decided to go with the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte (Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book – page 144) since it’s a layered cake that has orange marmalade filling in the middle and bittersweet chocolate icing on the outside, elements that make for a perfect birthday cake.
The recipe calls for an 8x8x2-inch baking pan and suggests a simple decoration of bittersweet chocolate frosting with chocolate curls pressed into icing on all four sides of the cake. Simple enough. But silly me, I decided to get creative and had an entirely different idea in my mind for the cake decoration. I have this pretty book called The Essential Guide to Cake Decorating by Whitecap books that I bought a few years ago that I like to browse through once in a while just to look at all the pretty pictures but never really follow through on any of the decorating ideas inside the book. This time, out of all the time in the world, I decided that I might just try one or two of the simpler ideas presented in the book: striped chocolate curls made of white and dark chocolate, on page 130, to be put on top of the cake and spotted collar (white chocolate dots on dark chocolate collar), on page 136, for around the cake. I also decided that instead of having a square cake, I wanted to experiment with having two-level round cakes, one bigger and the other smaller, with the chocolate spotted collars around the two-level cake and the striped chocolate curls prominently planted on the top level of the cake, wouldn’t that be pretty?
Things started well enough at the beginning. I followed the recipe exactly but instead of using an 8x8x2-inch baking pan, I switched to a 4-inch springform pan and a 6-inch baking pan for the two-level cake. While waiting for the cakes to bake, I did the preparation for the striped chocolate curls. I was in a good mood and was all excited to start decorating the cake, having a vivid picture of the pretty two-level Double Chocolate-Orange Torte - with the spotted collars and striped chocolate curls - in my mind’s eye.
And then this happened. Oops! Forgot to put a cookie sheet underneath that 4-inch springform and as a result, the dough spilled all over to the bottom of the oven and made this mess! There goes my two-level cake!
Not to be outdone, the chocolate that I was tempering to make the striped chocolate curls would not set properly, so no chocolate curls for now! This one was entirely my fault though, because I used a non-baking white chocolate, with a “smooth centre”, no less. So the chocolate didn’t set well. Lesson learned. Somehow this chocolate tempering session (3) still managed to produce some chocolate shavings that proved to be useful in the end.
Being the obsessive compulsive that I am, I just couldn’t make do with the one good cake that I had. I wanted to see my pretty two-level cake vision come to fruition, so I came up with plan B: bake another cake. But instead of baking the same cake twice, why not go with the runner-up this time: Raspberry Truffle Cake – page 146? (I was planning to try out that recipe right after the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte anyways and I already had all the ingredients, including the fresh raspberries and the seedless raspberry jam called for by the recipe!) Perfecto!! So I followed the recipe for the Raspberry Truffle Cake word for word, well, except for the 8-inch springform pan – I used a 7-inch one. I wouldn’t say that this process went smoothly either. I think I somehow overbeat the egg whites. Oh well!!
Because I didn’t have the right white chocolate and I was stuck with packages of baker’s dark chocolates, I failed to fulfill my vision of that perfect spotted collar made of white chocolate dots on dark chocolate collar. Instead, I finally got to utilize the never-before-used chocolate transfer sheets that I had hidden since I first bought them a year ago. And these chocolate transfer sheets turned out to be fun to use and pretty to look at! All was well in the end!
The Double Chocolate-Orange Torte was simply divine and the Raspberry Truffle Cake with a mix of raspberry and dark raspberry sauce was simply a chocolate lover’s dream.
(1) Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 144
For cake: 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate; ¾ cup all-purpose flour; 11/2 tsp baking powder; ½ tsp baking soda; ½ tsp. salt; ½ cup butter; 1 cup sugar; 4 eggs; 2-3 tbsp. orange liqueur; ½ cup water; 1 tbsp. shredded orange peel.
For filling: Cut cake in half horizontally and drizzle each half with liqueur mixture of 1 tbsp. orange liqueur and 1 tbsp orange juice; spread ½ cup orange marmalade on top and top with remaining cake layer.
For Bittersweet chocolate icing: 1/3 cup whipping cream; 1 tbsp. light-colored corn syrup; 6 ounces semisweet chocolate.
(2) Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 146
Raspberry Truffle Cake
For cake: 16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut up; ½ cup butter; 1 tbsp. sugar; 11/2 tsp. all-purpose flour; 1 tsp. raspberry liqueur (optional); 4 eggs, separated.
For sauce and extra topping: 1 12-ounce jar seedless raspberry jam (I cup); sweetened whipped cream (optional); fresh raspberries (optional).
(3) Chocolate tempering tips from Chocolate Obsession – Confections and treats to Create and Savor by Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage, page 28 - 29