Happy Friday! Today is an extra special day – it is my 100th post here on Solano’s Kitchen. If you had told me a year ago that I would be doing this, and that I would have 100 posts up here already, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I still remember pretty distinctly my first real introduction to food blogs. A friend at work printed out a recipe for me, and said “you should check out this website – she has a lot of great recipes on there.” (the website, by the way, was Annie’s Eats – one of my very favorite blogs to this day!) From there, there was no turning back. I rapidly began collecting a list of “must-read” blogs (check out my blogroll on the right), and I’m pretty sure I’ve read a post on one food blog or another just about every day since (yes, even while on vacation; maybe not on our wedding day, but let’s be serious – I probably did).
After reading all of those food blogs, I was definitely inspired to start improving my culinary skills – particularly in the realm of baking, which is where my real passion lies. Months of fairly regular baking went by, and I even had some friends start placing orders with me for cakes and cupcakes. I started posting pictures of the things I was making on Facebook, and in January 2012 my mom commented on my Facebook album with “you need to start a blog or something.” The idea was quickly seconded by a few friends, but my immediate reaction was yeah right – who has the time, let alone the skill and know-how, to do that? As people continued to bring it up here and there, I continued to brush the idea off. In March 2012, Daren even bought me my own website to help me get started, but the idea continued to seem far too overwhelming – I never thought I would be able to get it set up on my own.
Then, in late December 2012 (almost a year after the idea had been floated by my mom), something finally clicked and I decided I was ready to do it – and Solano’s Kitchen was born! My first post was these pecan pie thumbprints (check out that awesome, flash-filled photo.. yikes), just in time for some holiday cookie baking. (Please try to ignore that photo – I swear the cookies taste WAY better than they look in the shot!) 100 posts later, I’m so glad that I took that leap, and I can’t wait to continue cooking, baking, and sharing it all with you.
I really wanted to make something special for this 100th post. After scouring my Pinterest boards and my various cookbooks, I decided that this Sweet & Salty Cake from the BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook would be an awesome choice. I had made the chocolate cake itself before in this Mile High Chocolate Cake, and after doing so I decided I would rather use my go-to chocolate cake recipe. There’s nothing wrong with the cake recipe in the book – it tastes delicious – but it does use shortening, and when it’s not going to affect taste or texture I prefer to go the all-butter route.
The final product is pretty fantastic – moist, chocolatey cake, sandwiched between layers of salted caramel and whipped chocolate caramel ganache frosting, with an extra sprinkling of fleur de sel here and there. All the elements of this cake were absolutely delicious- I LOVE saltiness, especially fleur de sel, in desserts, and you can never go wrong with caramel in my opinion. I did have a littttle bit of trouble with the assembly- my frosting never got “fluffy” the way they describe in the book, and even though I knew it was probably a little too soft, I was impatient and forged ahead – a decision I pretty quickly regretted. Because my frosting was so soft, the cake layers started slip-sliding right off of each other, and a lot of the frosting got squeezed out from between the layers in the process. Before continuing, I threw the cake and the remaining frosting in the fridge, and immediately got on Facebook and started grumbling:
Luckily for me (and the sanity of everyone around me ), the frosting set up pretty quickly in the fridge, and I was able to salvage the cake (although it was just a tad lopsided, and the frosting certainly didn’t look quite as perfect as I would have hoped). So, lesson learned: if your frosting seems like it could even possibly be too soft to stand up to 3 layers of dense, heavy cake, STOP! Put it in the fridge! Give it 30 minutes to cool down and solidify a bit, then whip it briefly again in your stand mixer before forging ahead. Consider yourself warned
For the cake:
- 1½ cups (4½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pans
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1½ cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 sticks (1½ cups ) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (18 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. (9 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) sour cream
For the salted caramel:
- ½ cup (4 ounces) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (preferably fleur de sel)
- 1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) sour cream
For the whipped caramel ganache:
- 1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
- 1½ cups (12 ounces) heavy cream
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, kept cool
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess.
In a medium heatproof bowl or measuring cup, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder and boiling water. Stir until mostly combined, let sit for 2 minutes, and then stir again until smooth. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the vanilla extract.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Whip on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
When the butter and sugar is well-creamed, add in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition until just incorporated.
Divide the batter between the 3 cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; rotate the pans once halfway through the baking time. Remove the pans to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.
To make the salted caramel:
In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream and salt and heat gently over low heat to warm the cream. Alternatively, the cream and salt can be microwaved in a heatproof measuring cup until warm.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and place over medium-high heat. Occasionally, gently stir the mixture until the sugar is melted, being careful not to splash sugar up the sides of the pot. Continue heating until the mixture reaches 350°F, or until the caramel has turned a deep golden brown. You can gently swirl the pot as needed while cooking. Once the caramel has reached that deep golden brown, immediately remove from the heat. Slowly add in the heavy cream, whisking constantly – the mixture will bubble and steam violently during this process, so be careful! Once the cream is fully incorporated, whisk in the sour cream and set aside to cool to room temperature. If made ahead of time, the caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator (same goes for any leftovers).
To make the whipped caramel ganache frosting:
Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside.
Add the heavy cream to a small saucepan and heat gently over low heat to warm it. Alternatively, the cream can be microwaved in a heatproof measuring cup until warm.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and place over medium-high heat. Occasionally, gently stir the mixture until the sugar is melted, being careful not to splash sugar up the sides of the pot. Continue heating until the mixture reaches 350°F, or until the caramel has turned a deep golden brown. You can gently swirl the pot as needed while cooking. Once the caramel has reached a deep golden brown, immediately remove from the heat. Slowly add in the heavy cream, whisking constantly – again, the mixture will bubble and steam violently during this process, so be careful! Once fully incorporated, stir gently for another 1-2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for 1 minute, then gently stir until the chocolate is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly, then begin mixing on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Continue mixing until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Once cool, add in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once the previous addition has been incorporated. Once fully incorporated, increase the speed and continue whipping until the mixture gets light and fluffy. At this point, you may need to transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes to help it set up, before continuing to whip.
To assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on a cake board or serving platter. Gently spread about ¼ cup of the caramel sauce over the cake, and allow to soak into the cake (this may only happen if the caramel is still slightly warm; if it doesn’t don’t worry about it!) Spread about ¾ cup of the ganache frosting over the caramel, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel. Place the next cake layer on top, and repeat the above process. Add the third cake layer, and spread with a layer of caramel sauce. Apply a thin layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake (your crumb coat), then refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to seal in all of those crumbs. Frost the top and sides of the cake with your remaining frosting, then sprinkle with some additional fleur de sel.
If your house is cool, the cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container; if not, store in the refrigerator and allow to come back to room temperature before serving. The Baked boys recommend storing for up to 3 days; in my experience, cakes will easily keep up to a week.
Yield: 12-16 servings