Rash promises and kitchen derring-do: turkish coffee brownie layer cake

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This is a cake of two tales. And the tale of two cakes.

Story the first.

Once upon a Saturday night, there was a Pimms cocktail-addled promise to make a layered birthday cake. Which I promptly forgot about until Sunday evening (the birthday was on Monday).

It was the prettiest Pimms cocktail I had ever seen, with three different types of citrus, strawberries, mint, a dash of this and a splash of that. An English-summer-meets-tropical sunset mash of colours and flavours.

But if I have to bake a cake every time I have that cocktail, I may just switch to a martini.

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Story the second.

Once upon a Sunday evening. With a sense of wild, reckless adventure, and no little trepidation, I poured cake batter into teacups and put it into the oven.

Wild recklessness, because I picked up the teacups from an op shop, with no knowledge of whether they were oven safe. Trepidation, because We could have had a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion in the oven.

(But, looking on the bright side of life, a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion might have led to a new oven. One with an accurate temperature gauge, a working oven light, and a steam function for baking bread.)

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Cakes I & II

We didn’t get a new oven.

Instead, we got brownie cakes. I inverted the teacup cakes so they became domed-shaped single-serve mini layer cakes. With just enough space for one candle on top.

The brownie cake recipe is this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment. The only change I made to the flavouring was to add finely ground cardamom to the cake batter and to the ganache. Combined with the coffee in the ganache, it became a riff on cardamom-fragrant Turkish coffee.

When decorating the cakes, I did my usual “rustic enough is good enough” approach. Two teacup cakes were decorated: one with a rose garden theme with dried rose petals and dried whole rose buds; one a kind of disco party theme with silver, pink, green and aqua cachous. Both got a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and generous dusting of edible glitter. Because everything is improved by edible glitter, yes?

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The birthday boy got the disco party themed mini cake, in a miniature cake box. When I gave the cake to him at 9.30am, he told me that was the nicest thing that had happened to him all day. (I suppose I am glad that the cake was nicer than the morning commute to work…..)

We had the rose garden themed cake for dessert that evening. It was one indulgent cake! The brownie cake is more cakey than I would like in a brownie (I’m a fudgey brownie person), but the texture was offset by the rich, creamy and super-decadent ganache. The two elements came together into a pretty near-perfect whole.

And for the other cakes-baked-in-a-teacup, I turned them into cup-cakes!

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PS, The recipe is long, but the instructions are reasonably detailed, and does not require special techniques. It should be reasonably straightforward if you follow the instructions step by step.

PSS, Don’t forget to check out what the other TWD bakers have done! And if you like this recipe, please think about buying the book, Baking with Julia, edited by Dorie Greenspan.

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Turkish coffee brownie cakes

(barely adapted from the mocha brownie cake in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, contributing baker Marcel Desaulniers)

Brownie cake recipe

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 65% chocolate)
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used a mixture of 75% and 85% chocolate)
3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter
4-5 green cardamom pods, husk removed, seeds finely ground (if your cardamom pods are very fresh, you may only want to add 3 pods)
5 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sour cream
Optional: cocoa powder for dusting the baking utensils

Method

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F / 160C. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and dust with flour or cocoa powder, tapping out the excess; OR butter a range of teacups and dust with flour/cocoa powder. I halved the recipe and filled 6 teacups. Use the same sized teacups to ensure the cakes are baked at the same time.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and reserve.

3. Heat an inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler. Put the semisweet and unsweetened chocolates, the butter and the ground cardamom in the top of the double boiler, and heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fully blended and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. (Note, I melted the chocolate over a heat mat rather than a double boiler)

4. Put the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer, and whip on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the eggs are slightly thickened and doubled in volume. Add the melted chocolate and mix and medium speed for 15 seconds. Don’t worry if the chocolate is not fully incorporated — it will blend in as you add the other ingredients. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, working with a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold in the dry ingredients. Give the sour cream a vigorous turn or two with a whisk to loosen it, and fold it into the batter. The batter will be quite thick.

5. Pour the batter into the pan or teacups. With a spatula, smooth and level the batter.

6. For the pan: bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, for teacups: depending on the size of your teacup, likely somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. For both: the cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Transfer the cake(s) to a cooling rack and let cool in the pan or teacups for 10-20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. For the pan: turn the cake out onto a cardboard cake round (or the round from a tart pan with a removable bottom). For teacups: turn the cakes out, invert and trim the rounded top part so it becomes a flat bottom. For both: refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour. This firms up the cake for slicing into layers.

Ganache recipe

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 75% chocolate because I prefer a slight bitter edge to the ganache)
1/4 cup hot strong coffee that has been brewed with cardamom. I used one cardamom pod per tablespoon of ground coffee.

Method

1. Heat the heavy cream, butter, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches the boil. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour in the boiling cream and the hot cardamom coffee. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

2. The ganache must cool thoroughly. you can leave it to cool at room temperature — which could take an hour or so — or you can refrigerate it. The ganache thickens as it cools. You want to use it when it just begins to thicken and can be poured rather than spread over the cake.

To assemble the cake

Method

1. Remove the cake(s) from the refrigerator and invert onto a clean, dry work surface (for the teacup mini cakes, I put them onto rounds of baking paper). Working with a long sharp knife, cut the cake(s) into 3 even layers.

2. Next, you’ll assemble the layer cake. For the pan, you will do this in a 9-inch spring-form pan; check that the sides of the pan are closed. For teacup cakes, I did the assembly inside the teacups – make sure you lightly oil the sides of teacups, and line the cups with a piece of cling wrap which is lightly oiled on the side that will face the cake.

3. For both pan and teacups: place the top layer of the cake, cut side down, in the pan/teacup. Pour enough ganache over the cake to form a decent thick layer, spreading it evenly to the edges with a rubber spatula. This will be about 1 cup for the pan cake, and 1-2 tablespoons for the teacup cake. Refrigerate, uncovered, until set, about 15 minutes.

4. Top with the center layer, pressing it gently into place, and pour over another portion of ganache, again taking care to get the filling out to the edges. Refrigerate until set. (If at any point the ganache has thickened and is no longer pourable, heat it over the lowest heat, stirring constantly, until it returns to its proper consistency.)

5. Place the last layer, cut side down, and press down firmly but carefully to position it. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour before applying the icing. For pan: cover the remaining ganache with plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature. For teacup cakes: put the ganache into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to firm up a little more.

6. To finish, for the pan: run a knife around the inside edges of the cake pan; release the sides of the springform; for the teacup cakes: gently tug on the cling wrap, which should come loose from the sides of the teacup, and turn onto rounds of baking paper.

7. For pan: Pour over the remaining ganache and use a long icing spatula to smooth the ganache over the top and around the sides. For teacup cakes: because this shape has tall, steep sides, use an offset spatula or the back of a teaspoon to scoop icing onto the sides of the cake and smooth it into a thickish layer. For both: allow the icing to set in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Note: Once the ganache has set, the cake can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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32 thoughts on “Rash promises and kitchen derring-do: turkish coffee brownie layer cake

  1. Sunita 19 March 2014 at 4:09 am Reply

    Your mini cakes look festive especially the rose garden. Loved it. And yes, it was delicious!

  2. melimelocooks 19 March 2014 at 4:27 am Reply

    I love the look of your cakes!!! The domes look so beautiful!!! Great decoration!!!
    No oven anymore??

  3. simplyvegetarian777 19 March 2014 at 5:06 am Reply

    I enjoyed the stories so very much as I enjoyed the recipe…a keeper :).

  4. theseasonedtraveler 19 March 2014 at 5:57 am Reply

    Love your stories! And this turkish coffee brownie cake – oh. my. goodness. I wish you were within a Pimm’s reach from me.

  5. gastronomiette 19 March 2014 at 7:54 am Reply

    Dang that cake is dramatic. I’m in awe.

  6. steph (whisk/spoon) 19 March 2014 at 8:11 am Reply

    everything is most definitely improved with edible glitter…I dusted my cake with green glitter, in fact. I love the way these little teacup domes turned out! and that you gave each one a unique decoration…every one is special.

  7. lapetitecasserole 19 March 2014 at 10:16 am Reply

    Beautiful stories, beautiful recipe and beautiful photos… Should I add something more???

  8. SandraM 19 March 2014 at 10:25 am Reply

    Fantastic post! Really enjoyed reading it and love the teacup cakes. What a grand idea!

  9. Margaret 19 March 2014 at 12:23 pm Reply

    Pimms? Cardamom? Teacups? Glitter? You are my kind of girl! And your cakes are adorable!

  10. yummychunklet 19 March 2014 at 12:24 pm Reply

    What a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Liz 19 March 2014 at 2:32 pm Reply

    boy oh boy oh boy that looks good! And I love your story :-) lol the Pimm’s cocktail promise. I heart Pimm’s. Perhaps we should add that to our next virtual cocktail party. Such lovely cakes. Disco cake–brilliant.

  12. Patty Nguyen 19 March 2014 at 4:45 pm Reply

    I love that you bake these in teacups! How cute!

  13. chefjulianna 19 March 2014 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Brilliant! Love that you think outside of the box, or the cake pan (so to speak) :-) Makes for a beautiful and original dessert!

  14. milkandbun 19 March 2014 at 8:18 pm Reply

    OhLala! :D Adorable cakes! I like with a rose on top!

  15. Baking With Gab 19 March 2014 at 9:31 pm Reply

    Gorgeous little cakelets!

  16. Dawn 19 March 2014 at 11:42 pm Reply

    Adorable little teacup cakes!! Glitter atop any cake is a surefire winner to me. :)

  17. {Main St. Cuisine} 20 March 2014 at 3:34 am Reply

    Such a lovely post and oh, those cakes! Each is a little work of art and you’ve captured them really well in your photographs!

  18. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs 20 March 2014 at 10:35 am Reply

    This post made me happy…your little cakes are so much fun, so pretty, and so chocolatey!! They are perfect! Perfectly happy little cakes!!
    Now I need to find out about this Pimm’s you’re talking about… :-)
    Wonderful post. Lovely cakes. :-)

  19. Michelle 20 March 2014 at 2:00 pm Reply

    Too pretty to eat! Well, almost. ;)

  20. Johnny Hepburn 21 March 2014 at 1:47 pm Reply

    Love the idea of these. Especially using cups. Recently I bought ground cardamom for the first time as I still haven’t found a coffee grinder. And I’m adding it to everything! Cauliflower, semolina. Hmm. Actually, that’s about it. Ahem, prone to exaggeration. But I’ve yet to try it with chocolate. Now to get back to the superstore for more of their organic cocoa. And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that’s the most excitement I’ll be getting up to for the next while. Oh, well.
    Oh, fudgy. Is it the amount of sugar that makes ‘em so. As I’ve never made them. Think I read that.

  21. Lorraine @Not Quite nigella 21 March 2014 at 5:22 pm Reply

    I don’t drink a lot of coffee but I absoutely love it in baking! And how cute are these lill cakes? Adorable! :D

  22. Mary Frances 22 March 2014 at 8:42 am Reply

    Adding cardamom sounds like a great idea! Yum!

  23. Karen 22 March 2014 at 11:05 pm Reply

    Love the behind the scenes story about the cakes. Your little dome cakes are so special…what a treat!

  24. Alex 23 March 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

    Wow these sound amazing I have to try them!

  25. lovinghomemade 25 March 2014 at 3:34 am Reply

    They look and sound amazing! And yes, glitter does improve everything!

  26. Cathleen 27 March 2014 at 4:49 pm Reply

    Stunning looking cakes!

  27. sabine 28 March 2014 at 8:21 am Reply

    love the irony in your words, the coffee/cardamon in your cake & the glam on top! What else can you say about a post? super lovely!

  28. sunshine x 2 28 March 2014 at 3:45 pm Reply

    What beautiful cakes! I didn’t know glitter could be edible. And what an interesting and creative idea to add cardamon.

  29. toozesty 29 March 2014 at 11:15 pm Reply

    How creative! Real cupcakes! They’re so cute!

  30. Ashlae 4 April 2014 at 5:54 am Reply

    You had me at Turkish coffee – these look wildly delicious. And dare I say that brownie cakes trump new oven? ;)

    • saucygander 5 April 2014 at 8:16 am Reply

      Haha, brownie cakes are certainly tastier than a new oven! I was glad the cardamom worked well, and thank you for visiting!

  31. Sophie James 17 April 2014 at 8:43 am Reply

    Really sumptuous photos that feel as if they could be eaten. Lovely over the top recipe for a chocolate day :)

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