About a month ago there was a baseball game that grad students were encouraged to attend. With the promise of free food, (though admittedly it turned out to be non-vegetarian burgers… Yay cheese sandwich?!) my roommate and I checked it out. I saw a face a few tables away that looked so familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. I thought it was maybe just one of those times someone looks like an old student or something. HOWEVER, a while later she came over to my table and asked me where I’d done my undergrad. Turns out I DID know her– we had played Ultimate together for a semester! Burlington is a crazy small world sometimes.
Anyway, it was her birthday on Saturday, and we had a potluck outside in her yard, complete with dogs and a fire pit.
With a potluck there was no question about which course I would bring! When I asked her if she had any special requests, she said she liked chocolate, preferred cake to cookies, and like cream cheese better than “regular” frosting.
The funny thing is, although chocolate is one of the three foods I couldn’t do without (bread and peanut butter being the other two), I have gotten out of the habit of baking chocolate cakes lately. In fact, it has been about a year since I make an Earl Grey chocolate cake. But at least I knew I had a good base recipe to alter…
Technically the more descriptive name for this cake would be Chocolate Maple Spice Peanut Butter Praline Crunch Cake with Bourbon Chocolate Mousse and Brown Sugar Maple Glazed Pecans. But that seemed a little long…
It starts with a rich dark chocolate cake. Like many chocolate cakes, this one calls for some coffee. I know everyone says you can’t taste it, and it’s just to bring out the chocolate flavor, but I’m always so afraid everything will taste like coffee. So I used a maple chai tea instead to add just a little spice and to hint at the maple pecans. First you mix the tea and chocolate.
Meanwhile, you whip some eggs until nice and yellow
Add some sugar, oil, corn syrup, vanilla, and the chocolate.
Then you add the flour, cocoa, etc alternately with buttermilk. This recipe makes a CRAZY amount– it almost overflowed my KitchenAid, be careful!
This recipe makes enough for three 8in square cakes. Unless you’re looking for a very tall cake, I’d consider cutting the recipe in half. I should have, but I ended up just making two separate cakes instead. I like about even layers of cake and filling. If you like tons of cake, maybe you could just keep the layers whole and be happy.
Next, I made the “praline crunch.” But shhhh there’s a secret… It’s really a peanut butter white chocolate cornflake crunch. It is amazing though– so sweet and buttery and, yes, crunchy. I could eat a whole bowl of it!
I improvised a double-boiler to melt the white chocolate
Then you just mix in the peanut butter and the cornflakes and voila– the easiest crunch recipe I’ve ever made!
I then cooked up some butter/brown sugar/maple syrup mixture and added pecans
They bake in the oven for a few minutes to get nice and crispy and coated
This recipe also marks the first time I’ve ever made chocolate mousse! I remember my grandmother used to make it all the time when we visited because I loved it. And my brother used to play around with mousse recipes in middle school. For some reason I’ve grown out of it (I think I like more texture in my desserts), but I wanted to try it in a cake. Although there are several steps, none of them are particularly difficult. Probably the hardest part is just all the different dishes. But I think it turned out beautifully! Nice and light, but still chocolate-y, and you can definitely taste the bourbon!
I also made some chocolate ganache from my favorite recipe.
Assembling the Cake
I cut all my cakes in half and made two separate but identical cakes. I figured I could bring one to the party and take the other one to work.
- Place the bottom cut layer of cake on your display/cake board
2. Add a very thin layer of chocolate ganache
3. Spread on a nice thick layer of the crunch. It should be about as high as the cake layer itself
4. Top with the second cake layer and add a layer of chocolate mousse
5. Sprinkle some pecans on top of the mousse
6. Add the top layer of cake
7. I did a crumb coat of ganache and let it set up in the fridge for about half an hour before doing the final coat. I added pecans around the edge and some sprinkles and candles for the birthday girl.
If you’re not going for the birthday look you could do what I did with the second cake, which was pile the rest of the crunch on top. Easy decoration!
See below for the recipe breakdown:
Dark Chocolate Maple Spice Cake
I started with the “deep and dark ganache cake” recipe from Taste of Home (http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/deep—dark-ganache-cake). I used a maple chai tea instead of coffee, cake flour instead of regular flour, and I used half 60% chocolate and half 99% chocolate.
I used the recipe from Chez Nous (http://cheznousbistro.com/2013/dark-chocolate-praline-crunch-torte). You’ll have to scroll down the page to get to the praline crunch part. I used about 6 cups of corn flakes. but add however much you like until you get a texture you’re happy with.
Maple Glazed Pecans
For once I didn’t change anything and just used a recipe from Pillsbury (http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/glazed-pecans/a53aa7a8-efd1-42bf-886a-2d70be56f363).
Bourbon Chocolate Mousse
I used a recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches (http://everybodylikessandwiches.com/2015/02/youre-so-easy-to-love-bourbon-chocolate-mousse-with-hazelnuts/). I didn’t add the hazelnuts since I knew I’d have pecans in that cake layer. It made plenty, I’d probably cut it in half next time.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
As usual, I used a recipe from Sweetapolita (http://sweetapolita.com/2014/03/sweet-salty-millionaires-layer-cake/). I made a half recipe this time and only had a little bit left over. I used about ten oz of 60% chocolate and for the final ounce I used the rest of my 99% chocolate.
Please let me know if you make this cake. I could see myself picking it for my birthday, but it does take four to five hours from start to finish! I have a much easier (and also my favorite) cake planned for MY birthday…