Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Now I like to bake. A lot. So I was glad my mom was with us when it was her birthday--now I had the chance to make something special!
I sat and thought one night of what would be the perfect dessert for my mom. I thought about creme brulee because I know she likes it so much (but I don't know, it just didn't seem very birthday-cakey). And I thought about tiramisu because I know she likes that so much (figured it wouldn't be good with the little kiddos around though). Then I thought about how she likes salted caramel, and then I knew I had it: dark chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce. Bingo! 

Instantly in my mind I had a vision of a bundt cake drizzled in caramel sauce.

So I tried to find some recipes to compare, and I must say it ended up being quite the process! I was surprised how few recipes I found, and the ones I did find weren't really what I wanted. Or, perhaps they were but I just couldn't tell from the mixed reviews.

I was getting a little obsessive about this. I read quite a few recipes and quite a few reviews to those recipes and just wasn't getting anywhere. I mean, where was THE recipe???

 Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place and turned to my Best Recipe cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. While they didn't have a recipe for a nice, dense chocolate bundt cake, they did have quite the discussion about chocolate cake (anyone else out there just LOVE to read their extensive discussions about recipes?). After reading it I felt I had a pretty good handle on what my recipe needed to look like. I did another internet search for a chocolate bundt cake, this time one from America's Test Kitchen and voila! Pefect-o! I found one from Cook's Illustrated, the magazine that is put out by America's Test Kitchen.

Boy howdy was it good! 
Good as in intensely dark, dense yet fine-textured, moist and memorable. My first bite's reaction was, "Woaw--that's intense. Maybe too intense? This won't be what people are used to." Then I drizzled caramel sauce on it and took another bite. 

Then I knew it was just right.

Did I mention I gained 4 lbs last month? I totally think it was the cake. I couldn't stay out of it! I finally resorted to giving some away.... 
Man it was good.
If you have a think for dark chocolate, then this is the cake for you.

It truly hit the texture/flavor combination I had envisioned right on the money. 

And funny, the thing I was actually most impressed about was the funky greasing and flouring technique the instructed: they direct you to make a melted butter/cocoa powder paste and then paint it into the bundt pan. I was a bit nervous about it, but it was amazing! I've never had a cake come out so effortlessly and so beautifully smooth!

Took it out, plopped it onto the cake stand and once it had cooled for awhile, drizzled on some pretty fantastic salted caramel sauce. I used the Brown-Eyed Baker's recipe because she had great step-by-step photos, and I must say it complemented the cake wonderfully.

And sliced apples the following day. :)

Oh gosh, now I'm hungry again.

Next time you are ready for a grown-up version of chocolate cake, this is the recipe for you. 

Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce
From Cook's Illustrated and the Brown Eyed Baker

Click here to print
For the Release (for the Bundt pan)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon cocoa

For the Cake
3/4 cup natural cocoa
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup water (boiling)
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups packed light brown sugar (14 ounces)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature

For the Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 scant tablespoon fine-grain sea salt

  1. Stir together the melted butter and cocoa in small bowl until paste forms; using a pastry brush, coat all interior surfaces of standard 12-cup Bundt pan. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine cocoa, and chocolate in medium heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda in second bowl to combine.
  4. Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions. Reduce to medium-low speed (batter may appear separated); add a portion of the flour mixture and then the chocolate/sour cream mixture in batches and mix until just incorporated. Scrape bowl and repeat alternating between the flour and chocolate mixture. Once it has all been added, scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake until wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 3 hours.

Caramel Sauce:
I’d recommend heading over to the Brown Eyed Baker’s website to see her step-by-step photos. Here are her instructions for the caramel sauce though. I had made other types of caramel sauce before, and this one I thought was a bit tricky but it worked well and tasted great.
  1. Add the sugar to a heavy saucepan, with a capacity of at least 2 or 3 quarts. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. The sugar will begin to form clumps, just keep whisking and as it continues to cook. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
  2. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.
  3.  As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. You may need to continue to gently heat and stir if it is clumpy or formed a glob. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.
  5. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then you can pour it into a jar to keep, into a nice sauce cup, or directly onto your cake.

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