A Giant Fancy Chocolate Cake

stump de Noel

 

StrudelWe were invited to our friend’s house for New Year’s Eve, an event that called for a big, fat, fancy (and delicious) cake. This Stump de Noël – from the Baked Exploration cookbook – totally fit the bill. It wasn’t hard to make – time consuming, sure, but didn’t require an advanced bakery skill set or fancy equipment – and was showy enough for a festive night.

 

Here’s a true confession: I was a little nervous about this cake – I’ve never rolled a cake before and since I was serving it at a dinner party, I really didn’t want to mess it up. Generally speaking, I’m not known for my delicate touch… I once took a cake decorating class with a friend who’s not much of a baker, but is a pediatric surgeon. She made all of these fine delicate decorations, with impeccable lettering, and I had these massive designs that could best be described as “interpretive” (is that a flower? a leaf? the letter “i”?).

 

Even though a Bûche de Noël is traditional for New Year’s (and this Stump is a take on the Bûche), I’ll totally be making this anytime I want to show off. It would also be an awesome birthday cake, but only if you like the person enough spend a bunch of hours in the kitchen.

 

Key points: this is a chocolate cake with malt buttercream filling(!) and chocolate buttercream outsides. The meringue mushrooms aren’t required for the cake, but are necessary to achieve ultimate adorability. Per the recipe, I sugared rosemary and cranberries and I will now spend the rest of my dessert-decorating life sugaring various foods. It was easy and looked really pretty.

 

 

So, with a wee bit of cake-related anxiety, I made sure that I followed the directions exactly. I also found two other bloggers – Delicious Dishings and Bourbonnatrix Bakes – that had made the cake, and their directions and photos were both helpful and reassuring. Also, I made sure I had the right size sheet pan – I was concerned that if I used a different size, the cake would be too thick and therefore hard to roll. Since, I only own cheap sheet pans of varying sizes, so it seemed reasonable to invest in some new pans. I bought these, though at Target, they were cheaper – the set of two cost $25.

 

If you decide to forge ahead, here are some of my learnings:

 

1. Delicious Dishings mentioned that she couldn’t find malt powder, but I guess we crave it here in Seattle, because I was able to easily find it at a large grocery store. You could, of course, make the buttercream whatever flavor you like. I happen to love malt so was happy to find the powder.

 

2. Cranberries are obviously hard to find year-round but any brightly covered fruit would work will for the decorations. Whole cherries, blueberries, even strawberries would be great.

 

3. The authors of “Baked Explorations” aren’t afraid of a fussy recipe, and both the cake and the buttercream frostings require some double-boiler time. Nothing about this recipe is hard, just be prepared for multiple steps.

 

4. I had to keep repeating to myself the difference between egg whites and egg yolks. While this is obviously ridiculous, I re-read the recipe so many times that I managed to confuse myself more than once. Just sayin’.

 

5. The recipe calls for a billion eggs (more specifically, about 20)

 

6. Some components of the dessert – particularly buttercream – need to be made in advance, plus the cake itself should chill at least hours before serving. Here’s the schedule I followed:

2 days before: I made the buttercream frostings and merengue mushrooms tops and stems

1 day before: made and baked the cake, assembled the mushrooms (while the cake baked), then frosted and assembled the cake

day of: sugared the rosemary and cranberries

 

7. When rolling the cake together, as you join each new piece, you’ll want to line it up with with the piece you just finished rolling. So after you’ve rolled one piece, join the next piece up where you left off with the last one. The cake came out mostly, but not entirely, straight when I was done rolling. To keep the cake looking neat, I considered frosting the top didn’t want to lose the look of the layers. I instead used a knife to shave off a bit off the top to even the cake out.

 

lining up cake edges

 

8. It was helpful to use the parchment as a guide to role the cake, just peeling it off as I rolled the cake

IMG_2836

 

9. For decorating the cake, I used a cardboard round with pieces of wax paper slipped underneath the edges. Again, since my hand wields itself broadly (i.e. I’m messy), the wax paper pieces are invaluable in keeping the excess frosting off the cardboard, and you can then transfer the cardboard round easily onto the serving dish. You remove the wax paper once the cake is frosted, and the frosting is set

 

IMG_2837

 

 

9. I used a different recipe for the meringue mushrooms, I felt like the one from “Baked Explorations” was fussier than necessary. How you pipe the meringue will be exactly how they’ll turn out – some of my lids looked more like Hershey’s kisses rather than mushroom tops. This could’ve been solved by dipping a finger in water and smoothing out the tops prior to baking. What I ended up doing was cutting the pointier parts of the mushroom tops, and shaving off any edges with the back of a knife, so that they still looked round. It was an easy fix, and when the tops of the mushrooms were dusted with a little cocoa powder, and you couldn’t tell they’d been “edited”.

 

 

Stump de Noël

from  Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

 

for the dark chocolate and malted buttercreams

5 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla exract

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces dark-chocolate (60-72%), melted and cooled

1/4 cup malted milk powder

12 malted milk ball candies, crushed

 

for the chocolate cake roll

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

12 ounces dark-chocolate (60-72%), melted and cooled

12 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1 1/3 cups sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

NOTE: as I mentioned above, the buttercream should be made in advance, but needs to be chilled, and then brought to room temp, before using.

 

First up – Buttercreams

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a post of simmering water and which until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch (note: I don’t have a pot that will work as a double-boiler for my kitchen aid bowl, so I just used a glass bowl and then transferred the mixture into the bowl of o my Kitchen Aid). Return the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. I the bioutre beings to look curdled, continue to beat until it is smooth before adding more butter.

 

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the butter cream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cover the chocolate buttercream and refrigerate.

 

Dissolve the malt powder in 2 tablespoons hot water, then beat it into the buttercream remaining in the mixer. Beat in the crushed mil balls. Cover the malt buttercream and refrigerate.

 

Make the Chocolate Cake Roll

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 17 by 12 inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all the short sides. Butter the paper and dust it with flour (note: I measured the size of parchment I needed, then buttered and floured before I pressed them into the buttered baking sheets).

 

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. In another small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in 1/4 cup hot water, then stir in the chocolate.

 

In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the egg yolks and 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at high speed until the yolks are plane and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

 

Throroghly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk attachment. In the clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are gloss, about 2 minutes longer. Wish a quarter of the whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

 

In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. In two batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.

 

Bake the cakes for about 18 minutes, until they feel sprint and slightly; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway though the baking time. Transfer the pans to wire racks and cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover the cake surface with parchment paper and a baking sheet, and turn it out of the pan; peel off the parchment liner (I didn’t do this last part – after initially cooling the cake in the pans, I lifted the cake out by the parchment paper, and let the whole thing complete cooling on the wire rack).

 

Assemble the Cake

 

Spread the malt buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cute each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the parchment lining them; you should have 4 6×17-inch strips of cake (I cut the cake lengthwise first and then spread on the buttercream frostings). Roll one strip into a tight coil, removing the paper as you roll (the cake broke on my very first roll, but I just kept going, and it worked out fine). Roll the three remaining cake strips around the cold in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. She the cake on a large plate (or cardboard cake circle) spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the chocolate buttercream (a small offset spatula works great). Refrigerate the cake until set, at least 8 hours. If desired decorate it with meringue mushrooms, cranberries, and rosemary springs, and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

 

Meringue Mushrooms

from chow.com

 

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

 

Heat the oven to 200°F and arrange the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

 

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form.

 

Increase the speed to high, gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar about a tablespoon at a time, and whisk until stiff peaks form.

 

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip.

 

Pipe the stems and caps of the mushrooms: Using a 12- to 18-inch pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip (I used a large ziplock bag with a round piping tip – I bet it would also work just fine if you just snipped off the very end of the ziplock and didn’t use a piping tip). Pipe half of the meringue into pointed “kisses” about 1 inch high to make the stems on one of the prepared baking sheets. (Don’t worry if the tips bend over or sag.) Pipe the remaining meringue into domes to make mushroom caps on the second baking sheet (make sure you have an equal number of stems and caps).

 

Place the cocoa powder in a fine-mesh strainer and lightly dust it over the stems and caps. (I forgot to do this before I baked the meringue, so I did in instead after they were baked and glued together) Fan or blow on the cocoa powder vigorously to blur it and give the mushrooms a realistic look.

 

Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake until the meringues are crisp and completely dry, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, about 2 hours. Remove the baking sheets to wire racks and let them cool completely. If you’re not assembling the mushrooms immediately, store the cooled caps and stems in an airtight container to prevent them from becoming moist and sticky.

 

To assemble the mushrooms: Place the chocolate in a small bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Immediately turn off the heat and stir the chocolate until it’s melted and smooth.

 

Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch from the tip of each stem to create a flat surface. Using a knife, generously coat the flat side of several mushroom caps with melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set partially, about 2 minutes. Attach the flat cut surface of the stems to the chocolate and repeat with the remaining stems and caps. Set the assembled mushrooms aside until the chocolate has hardened, the caps and stems are firmly attached, and the mushrooms have completely cooled. Store the mushrooms at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

 

Sugared Rosemary and Cranberries

 

2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup water

10 rosemary sprigs

3/4 cup fresh cranberries (or other brightly colored fruit of you choice)

 

Line a plate or small sheet pan with parchment per, and place 1 cup of sugar on a plate or wide bowl.

In a small saucepan, stir together 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let the liquid cool for a few minutes, and transfer to a wide bowl.

 

Drop the cranberries, a few at time, into the the simple syrup, and remove with a slotted spoon. Tap a few times to remove extra liquid, then drop them in the sugar. Toss to coat completely, and place on the parchment paper to dry. Repeat with rosemary.

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