It seems like everywhere I turn, there’s a big, fat plug for Miette’s cookbook, Miette: Recipes from San Francisco’s Most Charming Pastry Shop. Visions of that absolutely adorable Tomboy Cake teasing from the cover dance around at the bookstore down the street, in the old 7×7 in the bathroom, and throughout random conversations with foodier-than-myself friends.
This weekend I had just about had it – enough of it and the massive chocolate cake craving building in my stomach. So I decided to just make the cake and throw some wholesome domestic balance into my weekend full of streaming Weeds. Why is this significant? Because I don’t bake. I don’t cook. There is no place in the world that I feel more uncoordinated than the kitchen. Any kitchen. When the urge to make something hits me, I usually procrastinate until it goes away. This time, though? I decided to do it. I had successfully made coconut-lime udon soup and corn avocado tomato salad earlier in the week. This time, I’d embark on baking. On the menu: Miette’s Double Chocolate Cake – shared by fellow Chronicle Books author Bakerella – and Sweet Fromage Blanc Whipped Cream.
So here’s the thing, I set aside a morning to do this cake. I had just enough mixing bowls and all the ingredients necessary for my take on the cake. I read the recipe multiple times, and with Bakerella up on my iPad, finally I dug in to the actual steps. I hit a rhythm! A clunky, first-timer-at-Sunday-ballroom rhythm, but still! I was feeling pretty comfortable! Measuring, bowl-ing, mixing, pre-heating. I poured each ingredient into a makeshift prep bowl per its designated step ahead of time.
The cake looked gorgeous, filled the room with that deep chocolate cake smell, and I felt so proud. Unfortunately, while gorgeous, the attempt was unsuccessful – And, oh, how I very nearly cried.
Bill helped me frost the cake with – yes – goat cheese frosting, and it looked so good! I liked how the frosting was fluffy and not super sweet. We must have slathered on half an inch of frosting between the layers and all around. Things were lookin’ sexay. Finally, I tucked into the cake. And that’s when I almost cried.
You see, I didn’t put any sugar into the cake batter. If you look at the cake recipe listed on Bakerella, the sugar is mentioned first in the ingredients listing. Being paranoid to miss a step, I based my prep bowl creations on the preparation steps, and thus completely missed the 2¼ cups (That’s 16 ounces.) of sugar that should have been included in Step 7. I know what my problem was. As I got cocky in the baking, I started skimming the steps and didn’t think there’d be three to-dos (in this case: add chocolate mixture, add buttermilk-vanilla mixture, and add sugar) in one step. Clearly I was only confectionarily capable of executing two steps per numerical item. The sugar got dropped.
The result? Amazing-looking dry but saltyish cake just barely tolerable to the taste when coated with whipped cream.
I am. So sad.
At any rate, I mixed and matched the cake recipe with a fromage blanc whipped cream. Below the cut, the recipe for Miette’s Double Chocolate Cake via Bakerella, and Sweet Fromage Blanc Whipped Cream via Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard. I made notes for my replacements, and if you actually add sugar back into the steps, I’m sure the cake will be absolutely delicious.
Lesson learned: Read The Fucking Manual. Closely.
Miette’s Double Chocolate Cake via Bakerella
Made with both melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder, this chocolate cake is rich, complex, and bittersweet—a perfect match for sweet frostings, which is how you’ll find it paired in our Tomboy Cake, Bittersweet Ganache Cake, and Old-Fashioned Cake. As with the other base cakes, this recipe yields two 6-inch cakes, so you can have one on hand in your freezer to decorate anytime. This cake is infallibly moist. Part of the reason for its fine-crumb texture is that we strain the batter through a sieve to remove any lumps before pouring it into the pans. Straining out the lumps rather than trying to stir them into the batter prevents overmixing and leads to a dense cake. We also sift the cocoa before dusting the pans, a technique that will give the exterior finish of your cakes a lovely smooth patina. For the Old-Fashioned Cake, we bake this cake in a contour pan, a special design with a beveled edge around the bottom that yields an elegant cake with an almost seamless form. Contour pans come in standard sizes, including 6-inch, and are easily found online.
1½ CUPS (7½ OUNCES) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1¼ CUPS (4½ OUNCES) NATURAL UNSWEETENED COCOA POWDER (SEE NOTE)
– I used Hershey’s Cocoa Powder because I’m cheap.
1½ TEASPOONS BAKING SODA
½ TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
¾ TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
2 OUNCES 70 PERCENT CACAO CHOCOLATE, COARSELY CHOPPED
– I used Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips because we have a huge Costco-sized bag to finish.
1 CUP BOILING WATER
1 CUP BUTTERMILK
– I used soy milk because: A) I’m Asian. B) I forgot to get buttermilk at the store.
½ TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
2 LARGE EGGS, AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
½ CUP VEGETABLE OIL
2¼ CUPS (16 OUNCES) SUGAR
– DO NOT GET COCKY. DO NOT SKIP.
- Liberally butter two 6-by-3-inch regular or contour cake pans and dust with sifted cocoa powder. Tap out the excess cocoa.
– Since this was my first foray into baking something from scratch (that I’ll publicly admit to, anyway), we didn’t want to invest in a fancy cake pan quite yet. I just got a tin foil set of 9″ rounds from the local grocer, and structurally they worked fine.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
- Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Whisk until the chocolate is melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the oil, whisking until combined, about 30 seconds. Raise the speed to medium and whisk until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds longer.
- Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and vanilla mixture. Add the sugar and whisk until the batter is smooth and liquid, about 2 minutes.
– Yeah, add in the sugar. That would be a good idea.
- Stop the mixer. Remove the bowl and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, preferably by hand, lifting and folding in from the bottom center. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just briefly by hand. The batter may still look a little lumpy, but stop mixing.
- Pour the batter through a medium-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl to remove any lumps. Press against the solids in the sieve with a rubber spatula to push through as much batter as possible, then discard the lumps. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed and a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
– I did no such medium-mesh sieving.
- Transfer to wire racks and let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. When the cakes are cooled enough to handle the pans but still a tad warm to the touch, carefully run an offset spatula around the edges of the pans to loosen them, then invert the cakes onto the racks and remove the pans. (Note: If you are making the Old-Fashioned Cake and therefore using a contour pan, just invert the pans and drop them sharply onto the racks; they should fall out cleanly. Using an offset spatula in a contour pan will mar the edges of the cake.) Let cool for about 20 minutes longer. Wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate to ensure that the interiors are completely cooled before decorating, at least 1 hour or for up to 3 days. To freeze, wrap tightly in a second layer of plastic and store in the freezer up to 2 months.
We use natural cocoa powder not Dutch-processed, as the Dutch-processed cocoa has been treated with an alkalizing agent that heightens the color but gives it a milder flavor. For this recipe, it is important to use natural product such as Scharffen Berger to attain a deep, dark chocolate flavor.
Recipe courtesy of Chronicle Books
Adding fromage blanc to ordinary whipped cream somehow rounds out the flavor and strikes a perfect balance with the sweetness of the vanilla and sugar. Use it to top desserts, berries or anywhere that you might use whipped cream.
1 PINT WHIPPING CREAM
1 (5½-OUNCE) TUB HARLEY FARMS FROMAGE BLANC
3-4 TABLESPOONS SUGAR OR HONEY, OR TO TASTE
– In case you’re wondering, yes, I did remember to add sugar to the frosting.
1 TEASPOON VANILLA
Combine and then whip the cream and the Fromage Blanc on a mixing bowl. Shortly before it’s stiff, add the sugar and the vanilla. Continue whipping just until the cream will hold a good stiff peak when the beaters are lifted. Spread on the cooled layers. Chill until ready to serve. Will hold nicely for hours in the fridge.
Recipe from Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard