I don’t get up to New York that often, but if I did Baked, the bakery and coffee shop in Brooklyn, would be high on my list. Founded by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, two former advertising men turned bakers, the bakery turns out cakes, cupcakes, and classic American desserts that are high on deliciousness and low on fuss.
I got a copy of their new cookbook, Baked Explorations, courtesy of Abrams Publishing. The new book has a lot of southern-influenced recipes, including red velvet whoopie pies, two versions of Mississippi mud pie, and a whole bunch of cakes. But I really fell in love with a photo of their chocolate coffee cake – a chocolate cake, covered in coffee buttercream and topped with a chocolate glaze that dripped down the sides attractively. I had to make it.
However, a couple things about the recipe – and the book in general – gave me pause. First of all, these boys aren’t afraid of putting shortening in their cakes, along with the butter. I am very anti -shortening (except for a little in pie crust, which is a necessary evil) – I don’t like the greasy mouth-feel and artificial flavor. And their buttercream recipes are bizarre – you cook milk with sugar and flour until it forms a thick paste, beat it until it’s cool, and then beat in softened butter and flavorings. I think this is an old-fashioned Southern style frosting, but one I had never encountered before.
I’m going to reprint the recipe as it appears in the book, so you guys can judge for yourself. But my inaugural Baked Explorations experience was less than perfect. I wasn’t able to get the icing recipe to work for me. I cooked my sugar/flour/milk until thickened for a full 15 minutes, as the book directed, but the mixture wasn’t thick enough to support the butter. Instead, I made coffee flavored soup, and had to make another icing entirely for the cake (I did a coffee and vanilla flavored Swiss meringue buttercream). I also couldn’t get behind a cake with shortening, so I substituted equal amounts of butter and cut the water by 1/4 of a cup. The cake was a little difficult to work with – it was very soft, but the full butter flavor was well worth it.
If anyone has any suggestions for what went wrong with my icing, I’d love to hear them. As for the publishers, I think their icing recipes need more descriptive language about just how “thick” the base mixture needs to be.
Will I be trying more recipes from Baked: Explorations? Definitely. After all, a bunch of them look delicious. But unless I can figure out the secret of the boiled icing, I’ll be skipping their buttercreams.
Chocolate Coffee Cake
Recipe from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
For the classic chocolate cake
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbs vanilla extract
For the coffee buttercream
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (three sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbs coffee extract
For the chocolate glaze
8 oz good quality (60-72%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbs light corn syrup
10-12 chocolate covered espresso beans
Perheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment, Dust the parchment with flour and knock out excess flour.
In medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder and sour cream with 1 1/4 cups hot water and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Using a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes – the mixture will appear to string or ribbon throughout the bowl. Add the sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing about 10 to 15 seconds after each addittion until the egg is incorporated into the mixture. Then turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.
Beginning with the dry ingredients, add the dry mixture and the cocoa mixture to the mixer bowl in three alternating parts, ending with the dry. Divide the batter amond the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to level the batter. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, rorating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the coffee buttercream
In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes about 7-9 minutes; however, you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn around the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 1-2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
To assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as the crumb coating and will help you keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate it for 15 minutes to firm it up.
Make the chocolate glaze
Place the butter, chocolate, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat. Drizzle glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake about 15 minutes to set the glaze before serving.
Glaze the cake
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour about 3/4 of a cup of the glaze over the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. It should run down the sides in thick streams. You should be able to control the size and length of the streams by the pour. Feel free to experiment, and have no fear n plaing around. This is the fun part, and there is no right or wrong way. Garnish with chocolate covered espresso beans. Chill the entire cake for approximately 20 minutes, or until glaze is set, then transfer to a cake plate. Serve at room temperature.
The cake can be stored, covered in a cake dome or cake saver, at room temperature for up to 3 days.