Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HCB - Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache

Not too long ago, the Heavenly Cake Bakers baked the Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to bake along that week so I postponed it to this week's Free Choice. The advantage is that you get to read everyone's experience/likes/dislikes. Those that followed the recipe in the book, said that the cake was too crumbly. While those that followed the alternative mixing instructions on Rose's blog said the cake was too dense. My mission: figure out a way to make a good "in-between" cake. Easier said than done but I thought I'd give it a try.

Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache

Note: these as my personal thoughts/opinions that I'm drawing from my baking experience over several years - part of my approach to this problem is science-based while some are "gut" based :o) so please feel free to correct me!

Here's my thought process on achieving an "in-between" cake, meaning a cake that's soft and tender yet sturdy enough so it won't crumble when you eat it. To me that means the cake's structure has to be addressed. It needs to be strengthened. There are several ways to do that. I chose to make 2 changes to the recipe ingredients for that: use 3 whole eggs instead of 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. The protein in the extra egg white will provide more structure to the cake whereas the fat content in the 2 egg yolks might have an over-tenderizing effect. The other change is to substitute half the cake flour with bleached all-purpose flour. The AP flour has more protein than cake flour and therefore will give us more structure.

I also modified the mixing instructions. The two-stage method in the book is great and quick, but I think that in this case it might have contributed to the cake's structure problem because the flour gets coated with fat early in the process which limits its liquid absorption, and therefore its gluten formation. So I went back to the "traditional" creaming method.

If you've read my blog for a while you know that I like to tweak butter cake recipes a bit by substituting 1-2 Tbsp of butter with canola oil. I think it makes the cake more moist without sacrificing the butter flavor. I did the same thing here.

Modified instructions:
  • Combine the unsweetened chocolate and oil, and use the microwave to melt the chocolate. Set aside.
  • Sift and whisk together the dry ingredients including the cocoa powder.
  • Cream room temp butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
  • Lightly beat eggs with a fork and add the eggs to the butter mixture in 3-4 steps.
  • Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat until well combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients in 4 steps, alternating with the sour cream first, and then lukewarm (not boiling) water in 2 steps. Scrape down the sides.
  • Beat the cake mixture for an additional 15 seconds on medium-high speed.
  • Pour batter into pan and bake in a preheated oven.
Thick and creamy chocolate batter

Oops... right after I took this shot, I realized I forgot the cake strips. Fixed it!

I made only half the recipe which I baked in a 9" round cake pan for 25 minutes.

My baking time was 5 minute less than the minimum baking time in the book. After I gave it some thought I realized that I should have decreased the oven temp by 25 F because I was using a dark pan. Oh well. It wasn't overbaked so I was happy.

Caramel for the ganache
The Midnight Ganache wasn't hard to make at all. My favorite part was the caramel. Yum! I love chocolate but I really wished I didn't have to add the chocolate to the caramel :o) Too bad I couldn't taste the caramel in the end. Having said that, the consistency of this frosting after I let it sit at room temperature for about 24 hours, was wonderful. Not fussy, easy to spread, and although I didn't try it, I think it would be pipe-able too.

The frosting is so smooth and chocolatey
My husband likes chocolate but isn't a huge fan of dark chocolate. In order to keep this cake from being too chocolatey, I decided to forgo using the Midnight Ganache for the cake filling, and instead fill the cake with 1/2 cup of whipping cream which I whipped with a little sugar, then I folded in about 1.5 Tbsp of homemade triple berry jam. Yum!

A slice of chocolatey goodness. Bon appetit!

Final thoughts/tips:
  • We both loved this cake. The cake still had plenty chocolate flavor without being bitter. Hubby gave it an 8.5/9 out of 10. Not bad for a non-chocoholic :o)
  • The cake was chocolatey, moist, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the sweet filling with a slight tang from the berries was a nice contrast. The thin layer of Midnight Ganache frosting was perfect.
  • Above all, the cake wasn't crumbly when we ate it. I think it was the perfect "in-between" cake :o)
  • I made half the recipe and used 1.5 whole eggs. How do you measure 1/2 an egg? Easy! Get your scale ready, crack and weigh your egg, lightly beat it with a fork, and then use half the weight!
  • I love brown sugar (dark brown sugar, that is). However when a cake recipe only calls for brown sugar, I like to mix both brown sugar and granulated sugar (50-50) because you get the best of both worlds that way since they each have their own characteristics.
  • Recap of my changes: for the full recipe, use 3 whole eggs, 7 oz butter, 1 oz oil, half brown sugar, and half granulated sugar. Don't forget to read the section on how I modified the mixing instructions.
  • Please let me know if you get a chance to make this cake as described above and how you liked it :o)


  1. WOW!!! Hanaâ, that cake is S T U N N I N G!! Beautifully done (as always!). Truly. I wish I had a piece of it right now!!

  2. gorgeous! i just posted my devil's food cake too. i used full-fat yogurt which decreased the fat content overall, which i think helped keep my cake from being too tender. i love that you filled your cake with a triple berry whipped cream. that sounds delicious!

  3. That looks like quite a cake, Hanaa! I have yet to try your trick of subbing some oil for butter, but your cakes always look so wonderful, it seems like it works beautifully.

  4. I am VERY impressed by your understanding of the science. I get lost just reading about it. How I wish we could've teamed up with you baking and me decorating (not that I'm underestimating your decorating skills!)

  5. Hanaa,
    You are amazing! I want to try the cake again using your methods (is it method or is it madness?)

  6. Wow, Hanaa - your cake is gorgeous! The ganache is sooooo smooth and silky looking and I love the idea of a different filling! Sometimes I am so "by the book" that I wouldn't have thought of changing things up like that, but it gives the cake slice so much more character :)

  7. Hanaa, you're a rockstar! Thanks for detailing your changes and your reasoning behind it. I am so impressed by your understanding of baking science. I'm like Alice, I followed the recipe - except for the part where I use different pans :).

    Your cake looks awesome! The ganache is so smooth. Glad to know that it's still soft after 24 hours.

  8. Loved this post. You were right on about using the whole egg instead of 2 yolks to strengthen and reduce crumbling--good thinking! And it looks just wonderful--I am really wanting it right NOW.

  9. I'm printing this and placing it on the book, next to the recipe.. love your changes.. I also like a in-between cake...

  10. Brilliant! It looks fantastic.

  11. Wow, that looks so special and have such a way with swirling on that icing. The inside is just plain fun!

  12. Excellent! I keep telling myself that I need to understand why and maybe will bake better cakes. This helps!
    (and I should use my cake strips!)

  13. @Nina: thank you so mmuch. I still have some left :o)

    @ECL: thanks. I like your yogurt idea. The triple berry whipped cream worked really well.

    @Margot: do try subbing some oil in your butter. I think it really works.

    @Anat: thank you so much. Yeah too you're on the East Coast :o)

    @Marie: thanks! Do try it and let me know how it compares with the original.

    @ITK: yes, the ganache was wonderful to work with. I loved its consistency. Well, now you know. YOu don't always have to go "by the book" :o)

    @Jenn: you're too kind :o) The ganache must be the least fussy frosting I've ever worked with.

    @Nancy: wow, thanks Nancy. I appreciate you stopping by. Thank you so much for confirming the "whole egg" idea for strengtening the cake's structure.

    @Monica: do let me know how it turns out when you make it, Monica :o) I hope you like it.

    @Vicki: thank you, Vicki!

    @Kayte: thanks! I love swirling the frosting on top :o)

    @BakingSoda: it definitely helps to understand the whys especially when something goes wrong :o)

  14. Lovely cake. I like the whipped cream filling.

  15. Hi Hanaa - my last attempt to leave a comment failed due to an error message I've never seen before. Wish I would have saved them because now they're gone. Anyway, I'll keep it short and sweet this time. Lovely cake, great adaptations. I do the Bleached AP all the time, but I don't usually adjust the egg content. Good thinking!!

    Love your swirly design!!

  16. Wow! I came here looking for a chocolate cake to make for our anniversary and this one is definitely on the list. :-)

  17. Wow...looks yummy!!!
    I love your step-by-step instructions, and great presentation.

  18. Hi again,

    Thanks for stopping by and posting about how you use taster-raters. The fact that recipes can be modified and improved just by heeding the critiques of others (and not even tasting) really does underscore how valid the approach is. Also nifty that you could see the results in your entries in the fair.

  19. This looks so good! I almost want to get to the kitchen and bake this now! :D Thanks for stopping by my SMS post.

    Carmen of Baking is my Zen

  20. You're so smart!! I want to try your method too! Now i'm going to copy this down!

  21. Hi Hanaa, thanks for posting a link to this. I absolutely agree with everything you said especially about the creaming method! I'll definitely do that instead of Rose's method next time. Thanks for the tip also on mixing the eggs first before measuring! I used to just lessen the whites which I now know changed the protein content of the cake. Hope I can make a perfect DFC soon! It's becoming my mission somewhat to perfect this LOL


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