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Monday, August 30, 2010

HCB: Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

I made this cake last weekend along with the Marionberry Shortcakes. Both cakes were 1/2 recipes.

The cake itself was pretty easy. It's very similar to the cake base for the other butter/oil chocolate cakes in RHC.

One thing that surprised me when I took the cake - or my 1/2 cake :) - out of the oven, is how short it is. I think it only measured a little over an inch. Plus I would have to split it in half, yikes. That freaked me out a bit and I was afraid that the layers will be too fragile and I will mess it up when I applied the ganache.

Anyway, while the cake was easy, the ganache put up a bit of a resistance - to say the least.

The caramel making part went along smoothly. I had the heavy cream hot and ready and poured it onto the caramel. Sure enough, it bubbled like crazy. So far so good. Then I heated up the whole thing until the caramel dissolved. I took it off the heat and incorporate the butter, then pour it onto the already-chopped chocolate.

Oh, and by the way, I chopped the chocolate using my newly purchased chisel (great tip from Monica.)

Back to the ganache, mixed until the caramel and chocolate are all blended and started looking super shiny. Too shiny in fact, as they started separating. The ganache was looking too greasy and it looked like the oil/cocoa butter separated from the rest.

I panicked and didn't know what to do. Unlike regular non-caramel ganache, I can't re-melt this one and hoped it will emulsify again. How do I know this? Because that's exactly what I did, and I think I ended up melting the caramel because the ganache started becoming watery.

Onto the trash can it went.

By this point I was frustrated and pissed. Not at Rose, not sure at myself either. I was just pissed.

Starting over...

Caramel... while it was approaching the dangerous 350 degrees, my phone rang. I jumped, and released the caramel pot I was holding. A couple of drops of the caramel jumped out of the pan, landed on the palm of my hand (one drop on each hand). I screamed, yelped, jumped! It hurts like hell (never had caramel burn before).

And by this point, the caramel already burned and was beyond saving.

Starting over... with a band aid on my left palm...
Caramel... Exactly 370 degrees. Then heavy cream. I skipped the butter part (or more precisely, I forgot the butter part). Then chocolate and mixing by hand. And the ganache threatened to separate. I threatened it back and guess who won? Don't mess with a girl with a caramel burn!!!

I put the ganache - along with my hand - in an ice bath.

Next, frosted the cake. The ganache feels a bit slimy so I didn't bother to make any decorations.

And I said to myself, this cake looks ugly. It was just way way too plain. So I looked into the pantry and saw leftover chocolate pearls from the Designer Chocolate Baby Grand. I decorated the cake with it.

Okay still looks ugly.

Aha! *lightbulb above my head* Let's make caramel decorations!!!

Caramel... this time I used the full amount of sugar & water for the caramel ganache. The plan was to make some swirly designs but when I poured the caramel out of the pyrex cup it came out in one big glop. So I ended up just pouring the rest out onto the silpat, wait until they cool, and then bashed them in to make the shards.

Results? Not sure I like the combo of chocolate pearls and caramel shards. But I didn't feel like taking the pearls away, and figured that we'd ended up eating the pearls more than the caramel shards so both stayed.

Tasting impression:
I am disappointed. I was expecting more caramel taste, but the chocolate taste was more overpowering. I like the fudgy texture of the cake but otherwise it's a bit on the plain side. Though I do have to say that the taste improved after a couple of days - or it's just because my caramel burn started healing. I can't say I will make this cake again, but I will say that I have one caramel burn story (hopefully it's the only one) and a caramel shard-making experience :).


  1. OMG Chica... you had me rolling on the floor laughing my guts off! You had an accident in the kitchen too? You got a burn, I cut my finger with the stupid new mandolin. SOUL SISTA!

    And yeah, my caramel was misbehaving as well...

    And by the way - AWESOME... AWESOMEEEEEEEE!!!!!! pictures, I love, LOVE the light bulb moment with the caramel decorations.

  2. Oh no, I hate sugar burns. Usually it only happens once because after that, you become SUPER careful!!! Long time ago I was making an Apple Tarte Tatin, so I was caramelizing the apples and sugar. It was bubbling nicely and I thought, I wonder what it tastes like. I stuck my finger in the bubbling sugar mixture and before I realized it was too hot, my brain had already told my finger to go in the opposite direction of the pan. During that motion, I got some of the caramel on my neck which hurt like @#$#. I realized I was lucky because it could have been my eye instead. From that point on, I always take extra precautions when working with hot sugar.
    Sorry, back to your cake. Not sure why it didn't rise that much (I too made only half a recipe and baked mine in a 6" pan) and didn't have that problem. I like how you decorated yours with those chocolate pearls. Very elegant. I love how the caramel shards are "sticking out" from the cake. Almost as if it's saying "don't mess with me", ha ha. Btw, I also found that the chocolate overpowered the caramel.

  3. Spectacular decorations on your cake!

  4. O h dear, i hope your hand has recovered from the burnt. Not fun to get burnt in the kitchen. I hate that esp. when my skin takes an awfully long time to heal..and i'll have a mark that seems to heal forever.

    But i love how your caramel decorations look..pretty!

  5. OMGoodness! You poor thing! A hot caramel sugar burn is the worst. I would be pissed to over trying to do the caramel several times, wait a minute, I was upset. I had to do the caramel several times myself. (laughing) I am typing and thinking at the same time and being tired, decided not to hit the delete button. Hope you do not mind the strange monologue in your comment section =).

    I love your pearls and caramel shards decorating. Fun! and the first photo is Wonderful!

  6. Uhm, all your photos are wonderful, justing opening your blog to a photo like the first one knocked my breath away because I wasn't expecting such pretty color contrast. =) I'm leaving now before I put any more feet in my mouth.

  7. Well done for putting up with that fickle caramel. The cake looks gorgeous in the end..even if you didn't like the taste!

  8. Love your shards, very pretty! So sorry about the sugar burn, I've been there and they hurt quite a bit.

    My thought about the separating ganache is that it was too hot, so the cocoa butter separated out. I think it's worthy a try, if you're ever in that situation again, to let the ganache cool down a bit, then stir or whisk just until the oil re-incorporates.

  9. now you have heavenly cake battle scars! so sorry about your burn--hope you are feeling better. what a disappointment that after all that the cake didn't come out to your liking. pretty photos, anyway. better luck next week!


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