it’s been hot here. big blue skies and 100 degree days.
this morning it was hazy, cold like an autumn morning. it sprinkled.
i must be turning into a real pacific northwesterner, relieved to have a few hours from the sunshine.
the heat sure does make me sluggish out here.
but i’ll tell you what, no matter how hot it gets, how sunny and sweaty and still, i just can’t stop baking.
i’ve got my oven packed with peach pie and moroccan cookies and almond biscotti
it’s hot, sure, but ain’t nothing like a biscotti on a cool morning like today.
last weekend i trucked out to hood river, east of portland, on the columbia river gorge. i have dear friend, keely, who lives in a country home with her husband on the outskirts of her family’s vineyard, wy'east
wy’east is the native name for mount hood, which can be seen like so, from their rolling vineyards
i’ve always loved the countryside, so being out there is like going home.
not to mention, it’s beautiful, and when i woke up in the morning, mount adams greeted me
it sure is something to be out there – purple martins just barely touching the ponds edge, crickets all night, meteor showers, windy afternoons, quiet.
keely’s family was having us for dinner, and at her father’s request, we were to make chocolate chip cookies. we decided it would be more fun to make chocolate buttercream cake.
so we pulled the shades, plugged in the fans, and pulled out a few bowls, a whisk, a wooden spoon, and other cake-baking amenities.
so here’s a copy of chocolate buttercream cake that i found a many years ago in a barefoot contessa cookbook
it is, of course, to be enjoyed on a cool summer night, after swimmin’ and snoozin’ and workin’ and lovin’
chocolate buttercream cake
for the cakes, you'll need:
1 ¾ cup al purpose flour
1 cup dutch cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons coffee, cooled
ideally, with this recipe you should use a stand-up kitchen aid mixer. however, this piece of equipment is, indeed, a luxury, so a hand mixer will be just fine
preheat oven to 350. butter two 8 inch round cake pans, and dust them with flour
in a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. set aside. in a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. set this aside, too.
in a big bowl, cream butter and sugars. add eggs and vanilla. add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds.
divide batter between your 2 pans and bake in on middle rack for about 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the cake doesn't spring when you lightly touch it with your fingers
meanwhile, take a break, enjoy the sunshine, and make your frosting
for the frosting, you'll need:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 tsp water
2 tablespoon dark rum, optional
chop chocolate and melt in a double boiler (in french we call these bain-marie, or, a water bath, you don't need anything fancy - just one big pot filled about half way with water, and a smaller pot that fits over top. the water heats the top pot and thus, melts the chocolate without burning). once chocolate is completely melted, set aside and let it cool.
in a medium sized bowl, heat the egg whites in your bain-marie until they are warm to touch. throw in your sugar and salt with heated egg whites and begin to whisk with your mixer until the meringue is col and holds stiff peaks.
add butter one tablespoon at a time, scrape the bowl and add melted chocolate, vanilla, espresso, and rum (if using).
and there ya have it, chocolate buttercream frosting! if its too soft (because it's over 100 degrees outside...), don't freight! you can throw it into the fridge for a little bit and re-whip it up before frosting your cakes.
the most important thing to note when frosting cakes is this: the cakes must be completely cooled. if they're not, the frosting will melt, and your cakes will fall all over the place. believe me, it's happened to me more times that one. so don't jump the punch folks, wait it out, enjoy the afternoon, and frost them when they're ready.
and so, to end my weekend at the vineyard, even though the buttercream was soft, it held up just fine in all that heat, and we brought it out to her folks, and their friends, and shared it in the breezy evening, beneath the stars (sans city glow) with willamette valley dessert wine.