Wednesday, 26 October 2016

American Style: Devil's Food Cake (Wheat Free)

Every year, for his birthday, my brother Paddy asks for the same kind of chocolate cake: chocolate sponge sandwich with chocolatey icing. Every single year for at least 10 years; in fact, the first photograph I ever took of one of my own cakes, back in 2006, was one of Paddy's super duper chocolate heart attack cakes.

Each year, I try to find a way of making a nice moist cake that's still airy and not too dense. Of course, it's quite tricky when the cake is so richly chocolatey. So, how does one maintain moisture and airiness at the same time?

1. Sugar
I'm all for trying to make cakes with the least sugar possible, but sometimes inordinate amounts of the stuff are necessary. Sugar retains moisture, and also adds structure to capture the little air bubbles, meaning you get that delicious moist crumb and a nice airy texture. Turns out you can have your cake and eat it, too (pardon the pun).

2. Creaming
Usually in my cakes I go for the good whisked eggs and sugar base to make them light and airy, but that approach is far too delicate to hold air in a rich cake such as this (or indeed a fruit cake). Butter offers a far superior structure as a solid fat: I cream the butter and sugar together until it's almost white and super light, before whisking in each egg one at a time, making sure to completely whisk in each egg.

3. Baking soda and baking powder
This cake batter is quite thick, so in order to keep it light and airy it needs two kinds of lifting power: a fast acting, and a slow acting. The baking powder begins to work as soon as it hits the oven, and once it's been used up, the soda kicks in and continues to raise the cake slowly but surely until it's fully cooked.

There are many nuances to this cake, but I'm not going to bore the knickers off everyone with science stuff. I'll just explain how to make the cake.

☑ Soya (check for soya lecithin)
☑ Yeast
☑ Wheat
☑ Nuts

☒ Eggs
☒ Dairy (dairy substitutes can be found in italics)
☒ Gluten
☒ Refined sugar products

For one large 8 inch (22 centimetre) round cake
  • 7 ounces (200 grammes) white spelt flour
  • ½ teaspoon (3 millilitres) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (3 millilitres) baking soda
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) butter, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) vanilla essence
  • 3 ounces (85 grammes) brown sugar
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) cocoa powder
  • 6 fluid ounces (180 millilitres) hot water

For the filling and icing,
  • 12 ounces (340 grammes) chocolate
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) caster sugar
  • 6 ounces (170 grammes) evaporated milk
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) vanilla essence

  • Preheat your oven to 170ºC (325ºF, Gas Mk. 3), and grease and flour an 8 inch (22 centimetre) deep round cake tin.
  • In a large jug, mix together the brown sugar and cocoa until fully blended with no lumps of sugar or cocoa powder. Add the hot water, and mix thoroughly into a syrup. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
  • Sieve the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together into a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar until very light, fluffy, and pale. You can use an electric mixer, or a wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until completely creamed. Take your time with each egg to prevent curdling. Mix in the vanilla essence, also.
  • Add half the flour mixture, fold gently with a rubber spatula or balloon whisk. Fold in the cocoa syrup in the same way, then finally add the rest of the flour and mix until completely combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Check the doneness by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean it's done. However, if it's sticky, return the cake to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  • Once the cake is cooked, set it on a wire rack and loosen the edges with a thin knife or palette knife. Allow it to cool completely in the tin before turning out to decorate.

For the icing and filling:
  • For the chocolate icing, pour the evaporated milk and the sugar into a saucepan and heat together gently until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a minute or two.
  • After two minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and butter, or margarine, and stir until melted or almost melted.
  • Return to the heat and cook for another minute, stirring continuously, until you have a smooth, shiny mixture. Remove from the heat and allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent crusting, until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

To assemble:
  • Cut the dome off the cake, then slice in half horizontally. Attach the top half of the cake to its platter with a tiny smear of the filling to make the bottom layer. Spoon one third of the filling onto the bottom layer, spread out with a palette knife (or butter knife) until it's about half an inch (1 centimetre) from the edge.
  • Place the bottom half of the cake on top upside down, so the flat surface is not the top of the cake. Press gently to glue together, and chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up.
  • Spread about a third of the icing on top of the cake, making a swirling zig-zag pattern for decorative effect, then ice the sides with the remaining icing. If you're not feeling confident about not getting crumbs in the icing, do a thin crumb coat first, chill for 10 minutes, and then ice completely.
  • Once the cake is completely iced, decorate how you like with sprinkles, or chocolate vermicelli. You could also use the leftover cake dome and make it into crumbles for decoration.

Apologies for the poor picture quality, but it was late at night and indoor lighting is cat. The texture of this cake is soft, fluffy, and moist. Perfect for a celebration!

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