This month I've been trying out some gorgeous recipes that have been floating around the blogsphere; recipes where salted caramel, thick chocolate brownie and rich cheesecake layers interlace with flowing ganache or flavoured buttercream. The sort of desserts that fully deserve being described as 'decadent'.
These recipes tend to involve a number of steps spread over several hours (or days!) but all the effort is... Totally. Worth. It.
So for the next couple of posts I'm going to do some promos of other baker's great ideas by trial and taste test. Hopefully you'll find you're a fan of their work and support the many inspirational (and irrepressible!) bakers who spend so much time developing recipes for anyone to try for free!
First up: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake Cake from Shugary Sweets.
You might notice that I've called it something different in the title of my post. I'm a little bit of a grammar cop - the adjectives (eg. chocolate) in English need to come before the nouns (e.g. cake).
It's not like I care or anything... but this dessert is difficult to grammarise(sp?!), because there are really two cakes: chocolate cake and cheesecake. But the cheesecake is not chocolate flavoured, it's plain/vanilla-ish.
See the problem? By calling it a chocolate cheesecake cake you could misunderstand and expect the cheesecake to be chocolate flavoured.
And you would be bitterly disappointed (well, maybe).
Also, by starting the description with 'salted caramel' you could expect the cake to infused with that flavour, rather than topped with it.
And you would also be disappointed (although not really, because there's still lots of lovely caramel in the icing!).
I'm not writing this in criticism - I just feel like I need to clarify why I've called it by different name (a rose, anyone?!).
So that no-one would be disappointed.
If it makes it better, I've used the original name in my computer file name for the photos I took of it...
Ok, ok, let's just have pictures instead of words.
Bring me the notes for this recipe! (Before Grammar Cop spoils this post any more...)
- The recipe is really easy to follow but takes a bit of planning; I made the chocolate cake first because - unless you split the mixture between two cake tins - it needs to be thoroughly cooled and preferably refrigerated before attempting to cut it through the middle. Which brings me to the next point...
- Cook the chocolate cake well. I used the Sweetapolita recipe but thought that it needed to be a little bit gooey to go with the cheesecake layer, so I shortened the cooking time. And... I was the one who was disappointed - it was so gooey that I couldn't cut through the middle to split it into layers without making a huge mess. Lesson learned.
|Nothing risked, nothing gained...|
- Well oil the tin and use baking paper on the base for the cheesecake layer. This is a base-less cheesecake (i.e. no biscuit crumb) - but it works really well! I was a little unsure if the cream and sour cream in the mixture would prevent it from solidifying in the oven, but nope, it set great!
|Cheesecake layer on its lonesome|
- Add cooled caramel sauce to the buttercream. This may seem like common-sense... but yeah. By this point in the recipe, you probably wish the whole thing would end so that you can just EAT the cake, hence you might opt for a pre-made caramel sauce. If you're still telling yourself 'no pain, no gain', the recipe includes a link to a sauce-making process that requires a candy thermometer. You may not have one of these or, like me, you might not trust your thermometer as far as you can throw it (perhaps I should get a new one, you say? Perhaps you are right... or perhaps I just want an excuse to throw something around in the kitchen!). In this case, you could use the easy and super-delicious recipe below that I've developed by checking out other recipes and trialling them.
|Applying caramel buttercream to the cake-cheesecake-cake stack|
- Use a water bath to melt chocolate for the ganache. Burnt chocolate is lame and next-to-useless (unless you really are trying to make sure your guests don't come back again). Because I am prone to burning chocolate just by looking at it, I've given a safer method below for making ganache by heating the cream only.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream
50g butter, roughly chopped (salted or unsalted, whichever you prefer)
1 tsp salt
Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir until the sugar water begins to boil. Now, put down your spoon somewhere that you won't be tempted to pick it up from for awhile. But don't go and sit down - you need to keep your eyes firmly trained on that sugar water! You're waiting for it to begin to change from clear into an amber colour. This takes approximately five minutes and during this time you MUST NOT STIR the water - it's the law. If the sugary build up around the edge of the water level starts to drive you crazy, I will permit you to take a pastry brush and gently sweep those bits into the bubbling liquid. But no more than that.
When the sugar water starts to look golden-coloured, take the pan from the element quick-smart. You may be tempted to wait to see if all the liquid will turn amber, not just one part/half/quarter/smidgeon. Resist temptation - it's not worth the pain of burnt caramel.
With the pan off the heat, you are now permitted to pick up your spoon. Add the cream slowly, stirring well and keeping your skin as far from the top of the pan as possible in case the liquid spits up. When all the cream is incorporated, add the butter and salt, and stir to melt and combine the butter. The more butter you add, the thicker the caramel will be when it sets.
At this point, some people would put the pan back on the heat and stir the mixture in an attempt to thicken it. I don't think this makes a difference - it will thicken just as well at room temperature. But if you've got time to kill, I won't stop you!
This recipe makes enough to add to the buttercream, garnish the cheesecake cake with, plus extra to spoon over individual slices. Mmmmmm....
115g dark chocolate chips or finely chopped block chocolate
1/3 cup whipping cream
Place the cream in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and stir until it starts to simmer. Just before the cream starts to bubble, snatch the pan (carefully!) off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Stir the mixture until smooth.
If any solid bits of chocolate remain, cover the pan with a lid and leave off the heat for 5 minutes, then stir again. If there are STILL solid bits, transfer the mixture to a microwave-safe container and nuke for bursts of 10 seconds, stirring after each until you have a lump-free, perfectly homogeneous chocolatey syrup.
You don't need to accompany this rich dessert with anything, but if the density and decadence are overwhelming, try some unsweetened yoghurt and fresh fruit!