I am not a baker. That old adage about either being a cook or a baker holds very true for me as the patience required to measure and watch and mess around with little fiddly bits is just not in my character. I hate how you can’t really taste your food along the way when baking – so you might get all the way to service without knowing what your guests are eating. Plus, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, preferring to munch on crunchy, salty bits not sweets, and certainly not chocolate. All of that being said, I love this cake from Ina Garten’s Parties cookbook….which she in turn borrowed from the Loaves and Fishes Cookbook. Any time a client wants a cake this is what I’ll prepare as it can be prepared up to a week in advance (just wrap tightly and leave in the fridge) and the icing requires no fiddling or smoothing or care. Place a couple of sheets of gold leaf in the middle when you arrive at the event and you’ve got the most elegant cake that is moist and absolutely foolproof.
For those of you not familiar with Ina Garten, you’ll do yourselves a favor if you run out and buy her books (or at least search for her recipes on the Food Network). I’ve been using her recipes for as long as I can remember and they have never let me down. As a former caterer, her recipes are some of the best I’ve found for entertaining and her philosophy in the kitchen is one I always try to remember: make some, buy some. Her dishes are packed full of flavor and you can tell they’ve all been tested and then tested some more (so unlike many cookbooks I come across). These are sophisticated, clean flavors – not the most exciting or cutting edge, but delicious and crowd pleasing.
Living in London as I do, there are several grocers in posh neighborhoods that cater to the wealthy American banker types who live here, and sell American groceries: Apple Jacks cereal, corn syrup, baking soda, cornbread mix, macaroni and cheese, Combos, canned cranberries, seasoned breadcrumbs. It seems a random mix of items at first glance, but while making my way through my American cookbooks, I realize these shopkeepers really knew what they were doing, bringing in exactly what’s missing in the British shelves. However, one thing they didn’t bring in that this particular recipe requires is Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. A little research and I’ve come up with the perfect recipe as a replacement and I’m guessing that making it from scratch makes this cake even better than the original. Finally, for larger parties like the one I recently did, I double the recipe and make one huge round. I’ve also made these into cupcakes and into several tiered cakes for a more dramatic effect.
Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
makes 16 ounces
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Whisk together all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and heat until slightly thickened. Be careful as this has a tendency to boil over the second you look away and it creates quite the mess! Allow to cool before using in the cake.
Chocolate Ganache Cake
makes one 8 inch cake
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
16 ounces Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Ganache Frosting
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (or a shot of espresso)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, butter and flour your 8 inch round cake pan and then line the bottom with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Now add the eggs one at a time, then the syrup and vanilla. Finally add the flour and mix until JUST combined (so it doesn’t get tough). Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool completely in the pan.
For the ganache simply heat all of the ingredients in a saucepan, stirring constantly until melted. Ina has you use a double boiler but I’ve never used it, just have been careful to moderate the heat and stir so it doesn’t burn. If you’re cautious, use the double boiler.
Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the ganache over it. I use a small offset spatula to make sure the entire top and sides are evenly covered. Decorate as you like!