Thursday, March 11, 2010

Southern Chocolate Layer Cake

It's true. My layer cake looked nothing like the gem that appeared in the New York Times. But, in my defense, that lady has been making them for something ridiculous like 70 years. And even if it wasn't a looker, it sure was delicious.

Since I'm nothing if not ambitious, I knew as soon as I read the NY Times piece on southern layer cakes that I had to try my hand at it. So when my mom asked what we should have for dessert with Christmas dinner, I naturally insisted it should be a 15-layer cake. Naturally.

Sadly, because of operator error (see above) and inexact measurements, I only ended up with a nine-layer cake. But after all, it was just my first attempt.

Eat Rating: Delicious. The thing I liked about this cake is there is plenty of icing the soaks into the layers, but its not overwhelmed by the icing like some cakes are.
Difficulty: Medium to hard. It certainly is a production. Requires three cake pans, sifter, hand mixer (or Kitchenaid) and parchment rounds.

Adapted from The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2009

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup of shortening (LN: I, stupidly, assumed my mom would have shortening on hand and didn't pick it up at the store. We subbed another 1/3 cup of butter)
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups cake flour (LN: I used all-purpose)
2 tsp baking soda
5 tsp baking powder
2 cups milk

5 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
1 15 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk (LN: The recipe calls for whole. I subbed 2 percent)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Liberally grease three 9-inch round cake pans, layer with a round of parchment and grease again. (LN: Don't skip the parchment! It really helps because you're going to need to re-use the cake pans and it's much easier than washing them between layers)

Place the butter, shortening and sugar in a bowl and cream with electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture in batches to the cake base, adding 1/2 cup of milk in between each round of flour until fully incorporated.

Beat the cake batter for approximately 5 minutes until it is smooth. Add 3/4 cup of batter to each cake pan and bake for 6-8 minutes until cooked through (LN: in my oven, it was more like 10-12 when I baked all three layers at once).

While the cake is still warm, flip it out onto a paper towel or rack. Re-butter and line your cake pan and stick another set of layers in the oven. You should ultimately do four rounds of layers, end up with 12 total. (LN: Unless you have mess ups like I did, in which case you may only have nine layers).

While the layers are baking, start the icing. Place butter, sugar, cocoa, milk and evaporate milk into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer, add vanilla and then cook for an additional 10 minutes. You want the icing to be the consistency of hot fudge sauce. Don't overcook. The icing will firm up some as it cools.

Once the icing is finished, place one layer of the cake on a serving plate. Top with 4-5 tablespoons of icing. Add another layer. Repeat until all the layers have been added. Pour the remaining icing over the top of the cake, allowing to drip down the sides. Serve with vanilla ice cream.