about bliss

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

twd: devil's food white out cake

I come from a long line of bakers. Birthday cakes were always homemade, and always delicious. I usually chose German Chocolate cake, and one year I asked my Grandma to teach me how to make it for my Mom's birthday. Some years I deviated, like the time I obsessed over the cakes in my Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook, settling on an angel food cake that had chocolate whipped cream stuffed inside. What a feat of cake making--I was so impressed with the cake Mom made!

My Mom and Grandma don't bake as much anymore as concerns about cholesterol and blood sugar make baked goods a treat rather than a necessity. Each week they ask what I'm creating for TWD, and eagerly await my posts. Sometimes I send a few goodies their way to share with my Dad and Grandpa.

As I've mentioned before, I started baking in earnest while I was writing my dissertation, and haven't stopped since then. My Grandma has been indispensable over the years, giving me Blossom (my newly named trusty pink KA) for my doctoral graduation, a set of vintage pink pyrex mixing bowls, and Baking: From My Home to Yours. We stared at that cover cake and imagined how delicious and wondrous it would be.

pink pyrex

And so, this week, this post is dedicated to my Grandma C. for all of her lessons, love, and support in the kitchen and out. I only wish she were here in Wisconsin and not on the other side of the lake so we could cut into the cake together!

I baked the layers on Sunday afternoon as a pot of dried chickpeas bubbled away on the stove. Once again, I opted for my Valrhona cocoa powder, and used these new Ghiradelli 72% chocolate disks as the melted chocolate and the add-in bits. They remind me of European style chocolate chips, and are also quite delicious eaten by the handful out of the bag...

a surprise find in the grocery store!

My cakes baked nicely in my new cake pans, although they didn't rise as high as I would've liked. After they cooled, I wrapped them up and placed them in the freezer until this morning when I set about assembling the cakes.

new cake pans, properly parchmented

After reading through the icing directions and the P&Qs on the TWD site, I decided to make the Swiss Meringue recipe from Amanda Hesser's delightful book Cooking for Mr. Latte (a book I dub "foodie romance" in a published article about food and chick lit:). I've made this icing many times and felt more confident about my success taking a familiar route.

Here's my adaptation of Hesser's recipe:

4 egg whites
1/4 c. honey (she calls for corn syrup but I refuse to use it)
2 TBS water
2 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together the first 5 ingredients in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl that you place over a pan of hot water kept on moderate heat. Beat with an electric mixture until peaks form when the beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into another bowl to stop the cooking process. Add the vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth, thick, and glossy, about 5 minutes more. Voila!

swiss meringue

I carefully sawed my layers in half, discovered how flat they were, and decided not to crumble a whole layer but rather to crumble the bits that fell off as a result of my sawing (try as I might, the layers were rather uneven), and create a four layer cake. The cake frosted easily, and I decorated it with the smattering of crumbles and a few of my chocolate heart cookies.

a love-filled cake

Although I won't be able to share this cake with my family, I'm going to bring it to campus tomorrow and share it with the literati, a new group of students who are interested in reading and writing literature. Perhaps I can win over a few more majors and minors with this gorgeous cake:)

Thanks to Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater for choosing this high profile cake, and, as always, thanks to the TWD bakers for their kitchen fellowship. Finally, thanks to Mom and Grandma for all of their kitchen wisdom (and forgive me for posting this photo of the three of us:)

three generations


  1. I love your take on the frosting, I wasn't much a fan of the one in the book! And your photo of the cake with the two hearts is gorgeous!

  2. Nice looking cake! Great job.

  3. What a sweet story about your family! Thanks for sharing. Pretty cake too!

  4. Your post brought tears to my eyes (daughter and granddaughter of bakers; mother of two baking daughters). So sweet! And so is that cake. I'm glad to have your recipe for frosting, and also glad to know it is successful w/o corn syrup. I avoid it also.
    Love the snapshot.

  5. You're all wearing pink! Wish I were one of your students today - I'd tear in that cake!

  6. What a sweet post! I love that you shared these nice memories with us. Your family sounds fabulous! And your cake was stunning. Love the cookies on top!

  7. What a lovely post! Great cake and great family history.

  8. I love your post! Especially love your three generation snapshot! You did a fabulous job on this cake. Thanks for sharing the recipe for Swiss meringue, too -- the Italian meringue that accompanied this recipe was a little scary for me. I bet this cake was a huge hit with the literati!

  9. Great family picture and great looking cake. I really like your center piece.

  10. What a great post! Your family sounds wonderful and supportive.

    Your cake looks gorgeous! YUM.

  11. I love your blog. You're very fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with your family, treasure it always. You cake it beautiful and i'm going to keep your recipe for the icing and use it next time. :)

  12. I love the picture of the three of you. You all look incredibly young! (C'mon 35 is nothing just wait to you hit my age. Then you'll know the meaning of being reflective!)

    What great gifts from your grandma. Every time you bake, you'll always think of her. And those Kitchen Aids last forever. You'll be passing it onto your children no doubt along with all of that generational wisdom.

    I like your garnish of the chocolate heart cookies, and I really like those chocolate disks. ("Chocolate buttons" as Nigella Lawson calls them.)

    I haven't tried the Amanda Hesser recipe, but I did read Cooking for Mr. Latte and enjoyed it. The budding literati are lucky to have you on campus. Make them some madeleines and maybe you'll snare some Proustian scholars!

  13. thanks for your comments, everyone! i am truly blessed to have such an amazing family. they've taught me so many useful lessons over the years:)

    Matt, thanks for stopping by! Yes, madeleines and Proust will definitely be in order for the literati. Our next meeting is on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Birthday (March 6) ...that presents a culinary challenge... any ideas, anyone?