A little serendipity brought us a last minute dinner invitation and a babysitter for New Year’s Eve, so off we went for a grown-up dinner complete with fine china, wine and champagne. What a treat! No better excuse to make this Devil’s Food Cake from the Tartine cookbook (Tartine is a fabulous bakery here in San Francisco’s Mission District). If you haven’t haven’t seen it, this cookbook is absolutely drool-worthy. It’s got everything from pastry and dessert basics to breakfast recipes, tarts, cakes, creamy desserts and cookies. Some of the recipes may seem a bit involved at first glance, but they are well-written and surprisingly easy to follow. I can personally vouch for the quiche recipe — it’s outstanding. Best of all, Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson share many techniques throughout the book that will improve your baking even beyond this set of recipes.
I’ve had my eye on the Devil’s Food Cake recipe for about a year, but no occasion to make it. The batter is velvety and the cake is filled with caramel sauce and a touch of bittersweet chocolate ganache. The whole thing is frosted with more ganache and then covered with cake crumbs that you make with your cake trimmings. As a special touch, I added a little edible gold (it was New Year’s Eve afterall!). I think the cake would be equally as good, and a touch less rich, with a just a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dallop of vanilla whipped cream or ice cream.
You can make the caramel sauce and ganache while the cake bakes, so it comes together reasonably quickly, but you’ll want to set aside the better part of an afternoon to make it from start to finish. It’s best served at room temperature and covered with ganache, will hold for several days which makes it a good choice for a fancy party.
I used a technique to cut the layers which I remember seeing on Alton Brown’s show. He actually used a saw blade and some trim molding from the hardware store as a cutting guide. I used a long carving knife and one of my son’s blocks which happened to be the perfect size. It worked like a charm for getting nice even layers. I kept the knife flat on the block to keep it level and just kept cutting from the edge to the center until I had worked my way all around the cake. Easy peasy.
The dinner was lovely, the company great and the cake was the perfect end to the evening. Anyone who loves to dessert, definitely needs to check out this cookbook and better yet, visit the bakery next time you’re in San Francisco. The lines can be long (and the calorie count high!) but you’re sure to savor something memorable.
Here’s to a healthy, happy…. and yummy 2011 for us all!
But first, I think I’ll sneak a piece of cake for my New Year’s Day breakfast. 🙂
[Photo of Tartine by tablehooper.net, Flickr Commons]