Chocolate Velvet Cake

I received a beautiful patisserie cookbook for Christmas, thank you dear sister. There are so many mouth watering recipes in it that I didn't know where to start. I decided to start with one that I had wanted to make for a while - A Red Velvet Cake. Being loathe to use a red food colouring, my first attempt at the cake contained beetroot powder. Alas, you couldn't tell that it was red (and I could taste the beetroot). My second cake contained red food dye and it still wasn't sufficiently red. Third time lucky? 

For the third attempt the cake was definitely red, was a great texture but the red food colouring was too overpowering. I felt like grabbing a knife & scraping the cake off my tongue. It was too horrible & the best place for this cake was on the humus heap.

It made sense to ditch the food colouring & focus on making a Chocolate Velvet Cake.  

 

 Ingredients 

Cake

300 g Bakers' Magic Gluten free flour

45 g Cocoa

400 g Caster sugar

1/2 tsp Salt

1.5 tsp Baking powder

1.5 tsp Bicarb of soda

250 g Butter 

3 tsp Vanilla extract

4 Eggs

400 g Sour cream

50 g Buttermilk/milk

  

* The colour, fat content & quality of cocoa will vary between brands.

 

 

Icing

240 g Brown sugar

4 Egg whites

500 g Unsalted butter (softened)

6 g Coffee (instant)

45 g Boiling water 

100 g Creme fraiche*

 

*The original recipe used cream cheese, the amount used curdled the icing & it didn't taste that nice. I tried sour cream instead but it was a bit too sour. The creme fraiche makes the icing slightly tangy. I also tried the plain icing - my family preferred the flavour of the icing with the creme fraiche.  

 

Method

Turn oven on to 1700 C (fan forced).

Lightly grease & line the bottom of three (preferably) or two 20 cm round cake tins with baking paper. I've made this using 2 cake tins & 3 cake tins. If you use 2 tins cut the resulting cakes in 1/2 to end up with a 4 tier cake.  

Cake

If you keep your eggs in the fridge 1/2 fill the kitchen sink with hot tap water. Put the eggs in the hot tap water for 10 mins. If you keep your eggs at room temperature warm the eggs up by placing them in a dish of warm water (slightly hotter than 37 C).

Mix together the dry ingredients (Bakers' Magic gluten free flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder & bicarb of soda). Set aside.

Using an electric mixer (stand or hand held) cream the butter & sugar until light & fluffy. 

Add an egg & continue to beat the mix until it has been incorporated. Repeat with the remaining eggs. 

Mix in ~1/3 of the dry ingredients. 

In a small bowl mix together the sour cream, vanilla & buttermilk/milk.

Add in the sour cream mixture & gently beat until all combined.

Fold in the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake tins (~550 g if you are making 3 cakes & ~830 g if you are making 2 cakes).

Bake for ~30 mins regardless of whether you are using 3 or 2 tins. The actual baking time is going to vary depending on the number of cakes & your oven. If you are baking 2 cakes it may take as much as 50 mins if you have a 'coolish' oven on the other hand it may only take 35 mins if you are making 3 cakes & you have a 'hot' oven. If in doubt insert a skewer into the middle & if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

Bring the cakes out of the oven & allow to cool for ~10 mins before turning them out of the tin.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

The 'proper' way to make Swiss meringue is to dissolve the sugar in the eggwhites in a bowl over hot/boiling water. The mix is continuously whisked until it gets to a temperature of 60o C. Then you transfer the egg whites to a bowl from a stand mixer & whisk it until it is thick & glossy.

The last time I did this it was a bit of a laugh being so very awkward on my stove (hitting my head to try & see the mix, watching the thermometer slide into the whites & I definitely needed at least another pair of hands) as such I have an alternative for this method. Basically we need to heat the whites to ~60C to ensure that any bacteria (most likely Salmonella) present are killed, to help the sugar dissolve & to stabilise the egg white. Salmonella can be present on the outside of the egg & if a hen has an infection can be present in the egg yolk. I've tested the temperature & when I made it I can get the Swiss meringue to just above 52C by the method below. This temperature is above the maximum temperature that Salmonella can grow but a bit below the specified 60o C as such if you are in any doubt make the icing the 'proper' way. I'm happy using the method below as I use well cleaned eggs & Salmonella is not often associated with the egg whites (there's not much for it to grow on, only protein & water). It will be up to you whether you use the 'proper' method or the one below.     

Put the oven on to 130C. Weigh out the brown sugar into a slice tray & put it in the oven for at ~15 mins. Every now & then mix the brown sugar to ensure it is all the same temperature. After 15 mins the temperature of the sugar should be above 110C.  

Warm the whole eggs in some hot tap water (I usually fill my sink) for at least 10 mins. Separate the whites into a bowl for a stand mixer (you don't want to do this with hand held beaters) & rest the bowl on refreshed hot water until you are ready to start whisking.

Dissolve the instant coffee in boiling water. 

Start whisking the egg whites on high speed.

Working quickly (use an oven mitt) add the hot sugar to the whisking egg whites & add in the dissolved coffee.

Continue whisking until thick & glossy. 

Divide the softened butter into 16 blocks. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium, then start adding the butter a block at a time. Before adding the next block of butter ensure the previous block has been incorporated.

After you have added just over half of the butter the mixture may look curdled, but keep adding the butter slowly & the mixture will come back together. Keep mixing for ~5 mins after the last butter has been added.

Gently fold in the creme fraiche.

Assembling the cake

Place the first layer on a serving plate & put a good sized dollop of the buttercream on top. Spread until it is evenly distributed out to the edges of the cake. Repeat with the second & third layers.

Spread the remaining buttercream icing on the sides & top of the entire cake.

If you want add decorations to the top of the cake (I used cocoa nibs). 

Refrigerate to set the icing.

Slice, serve & simply enjoy!