*Photo by Tannis
So! I've been super busy lately and I keep forgetting to take pictures of what I've made since I last posted. Too bad, because there's been a lot of good stuff. I made a shaved asparagus pizza and then a regular one, pasta puttanesca and roasted-red-pepper-and-mixed-pea pasta salad, Korean vegetable pancakes and some of the regular breakfast kind. I bought a new cookbook and from it I made a chopped avocado salad (meh), chicken fajitas (mmmmm) and a pot-roast meatloaf (me! And it was fabulous). Some of which I may even type up and share when I have a chance.
But this I can't keep to myself. It is possibly the most decadent thing I have ever made. I believe if I hadn't had people over to eat it with me I would be dead of cake overload right now. It's so rich that we had to have a water break halfway through our half-inch slices. It is amazing in every way.
It's also pretty labour-intensive, but I would just start a few days in advance next time. The cake layers can be baked then frozen for a few days/weeks, which will also make them easier to work with, and the caramel and frosting can be made in advance then refrigerated. I found that everything spread more nicely while cold anyway.
Baked's Sweet and Salty Cake
For the cake layers:
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
For the salted caramel:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup sour cream
For the whipped ganache frosting:
1 pound dark chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate chips)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft fut cool, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Fleur de sel, for garnish
Make the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Butter and flour each pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes. In another medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and ribbonlike, about 5 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely and remove from pans.
Make the salted caramel:
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de sel. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until salt is dissolved.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Cook over high heat until the mixture thickens and is amber in colour or an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F [Cook until it is a few shades lighter than desired - it will continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it off the heat]. Remove from heat and let cool 1 minute.
Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let cool to room temperature and transfer to an airtight container an refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.
Make the whipped ganache frosting:
Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl [if you have an electric mixer use that bowl because of later instructions] and set aside. In a small saucepan bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Cook over high heat until mixture thickens and is light amber in colour. Remove from heat and let cool 1 minute.
Add cream to caramel and stir to combine. Stir slowly for 2 minutes, then pour caramel over the chocolate. Let caramel and chocolate sit for a minute, then slowly stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase speed to medium high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high until mixture is fluffy. [Not having a mixer I used hand beaters, and my ganache didn't get as "whipped" as it should have - still delicious but if you have a mixer I'd use it]
Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate. Place the first layer on the cake plate.
Spread 1/4 cup caramel on the cake, allowing it to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 3/4 cup of the ganache icing. [At this point I'd refrigerate for 5-10 mins to firm everything up] Sprinkle 1 tsp fleur de sel over the icing, then place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing and salt. [Chill again] Place the remaining layer on top, spread with caramel and cover entire cake with a thin 'crumb-coat' of icing. [Chill about 15 mins to firm up] Top with remaining ganache icing. Garnish with fleur de sel.