Now for Something a Little Different

October 22nd, 2012

lucky peach cake

I’m working on a full-size post (with Halloween around the corner, is everyone automatically thinking of candy in “full size” and “fun size”? and how when you were a kid, you always knew which houses gave away the full size candy bars on Halloween night?), but in the meantime here’s a little update.

I was asked by an editor from Lucky Peach if I wanted to test out one of the recipes in their Lucky Peach Issue 4: the “Wedding Cake” inspired by the movie Diner. As with many of Lucky Peach articles, there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek slant; the recipe specifically warns one that this is not meant to be a multi-tier wedding cake, and that instead of the traditional lacy/delicate/elegant decorations, there are “creepy chocolate chunks” that cover the cake.

Regardless of the recipe’s rather perverse sensibilities, the actual components are quite delicious: a moist chocolate-olive oil cake layered with a apricot-grappa marmellata, and frosted with a ricotta buttercream. The chocolate decorations are actually called “chocolate spiderweb thingies” in the recipe, and as they are relatively easy to make and do look appropriately odd and misshapen, it seemed they could make some excellent Halloween cake/cupcake decorations, so that’s why I decided to post the recipe now, in case someone wants some really offbeat (but delicious) decorations for Halloween!

The recipe is quite easy to make: the cake is a variation of those blackout-style chocolate cakes, the marmellata is sweetly jammy, and the buttercream is the not-overly-sugary frosting tying it all together. It is true that none of these components might be used to construct a traditional wedding cake, but it’s tasty enough to enjoy whatever the occasion. The chocolate decorations were pretty hilarious to make too: making random shapes out of chocolate runs pretty counter to most cake decorating techniques, but it’s bizarrely satisfying to see what strange webs I pulled out of the ice.

Are you getting in the Halloween spirit yet?

lucky peach cake2

The following recipe is reprinted with permission from Lucky Peach.

Chocolate Cake with Apricot-Grappa Marmellata

  • Adapted from Lucky Peach magazine. As the magazine notes, this is not meant to be a multi-tier wedding cake, but a simple three-layer cake (my photo only shows one layer).

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apricot-Grappa Marmellata

  • 100 g sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lb dried Turkish apricots
  • 3/4 cup grappa
  • pinch salt

Ricotta Buttercream

  • 3 lbs fresh ricotta cheese (must be fresh, not packaged)
  • 1 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Chocolate spiderweb thingies

  • ice
  • lemons
  • 64 percent chocolate

For the cakes:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour three 9" round cake pans.
  • Combine water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir constantly to keep from sticking or clumping and scorching. Remove from heat when it come to a boil and let cool to room temperature.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to incorporate. Add wet ingredients except for cocoa powder-water mixture, and whisk just until incorporated.
  • Stir in cocoa powder-water mixture just to combine. Divide among prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes on wire rack.

For the filling:

  • Heat sugar and water together in a saucepan just until sugar is fully dissolved. Cool sugar, then stir in the grappa. Soak apricots in the syrup for 2 days until they are fully hydrated and plumped up.
  • Drain apricots, reserving the soaking syrup. Pulse apricots in food processor until chunky and gooey. Add salt and some of the soaking syrup to thin out as needed. Finished marmellata should be a thick paste with chunks still visible.

For the buttercream:

  • Cream butter, salt, and sugar together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment for about 5 minutes. Add ricotta, and cream until fully incorporated and fluffy.

For the chocolate decorations

  • Melt the chocolate in a bain marie or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Let cool to about 82 degrees F.
  • Fill a bowl or tray with ice and nestle a bunch of lemon halves in the ice to melt away divots. After a few minutes, discard the lemons and drizzle the melted chocolate into and around the divots. After 4 or 5 minutes or when you see the chocolate has set, extract the chocolate webs from the ice and store covered, until ready to use.

To assemble:

  • Level cake layerss as necessary. Spread one layer with the marmellata, and a thin layer of buttercream. Top with second cake layer, and repeat. Top with the final cake layer, and frost entire cake with the buttercream. (It may be easier to do an initial crumb coat, chill, and then frost). Decorate with the chocolate spiderweb thingies.

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