This week I’m on vacation! So I’ve invited some amazingly talented bloggers to guest post and keep you entertained while I’m gone.
Today’s guest post is by Janna Patterson – Eats and Beats. Janna lives near my talented cousin in the DC area, and my cousin “introduced” us. Janna has two adorable kids and a love for entertaining. On Beats and Eats Jenna shares entertaining tips and menus, wonderful recipes, as well as tunes to play while you’re in the kitchen and entertaining.
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Well I just about pulled a face muscle from smiling when Barbara invited me to do a guest post. I mean, holy smokes, does the woman know her stuff! Such an honor to have a space on her site and her readers as my audience for a day!
Today’s lesson is titled: “The Four Stages of Chocolate.” I know this is a subject matter you can all get behind!
Stage 1 is almost not worth mentioning, because it usually involves the kind of chocolate that you find laying around the house late at night when you’re too sleepy to drive to the store in pursuit of the good stuff. It’s the kind that you can eat a whole bag of and never really be satisfied. This chocolate usually rhymes with smershey’s fisses. As time goes on I become more and more convinced that stage-1 chocolate has little value. Blech.
Stage 2 is the everyday, comforting chocolate you find in your homemade chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes. It’s warm, it’s sticky, and it’s familiar. It says, “Hey, old friend. Let’s put on some ‘jamas and watch ‘An Affair To Remember.’”
Stage 3 is the sort of carefully crafted chocolate you purvey through the glass at a specialty shop. The flavors are creative and balanced, the aesthetics are detailed, and the texture is like silk. Most often, one of these creations, savored slowly, is enough to make you want to pirouette your way to Heaven.
Then there’s stage 4. This is the kind of experience you seek when you don’t just want chocolate; you want CHO. CO. LATE. You want it rich, you want it big, and you want it now. This chocolate holds intense eye contact as it shimmies its way toward you to the steady pounding of a bass drum. There’s no fighting it.
Usually I’m a stage 2 or 3 kind of gal, but about once every few months I get a stage-4 hankering, and that’s why I came up with the Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Cake. The cake itself is almost sticky it’s so moist. And the frosting… Oh, the frosting… It means business. And it’s knocking at your door, honey.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda,
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- 12 ounces high-quality, bittersweet chocolate
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tablespoon hazelnut extract
- 1 1/3 cups Nutella, or other chocolate hazelnut spread
- Fit the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Grease three 8-inch pans (or do as I did if you don’t have three and just use one of them twice) and set aside.
- In a medium bowl sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt, and set aside.
- In the large bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together, by hand, the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla until combined, and then whisk in the melted butter. With the bowl under the paddle attachment running at a low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and continue to beat until smooth, about 2 minute. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in boiling water with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very loose.
- Pour the batter evenly between the three 8-inch pans and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out with just a few steaming crumbs attached.
- Allow to cool to room temperature. If combining with the Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Frosting, wrap entirely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) until completely cold.
- In a medium sauce pan, heat chocolate and heavy cream on medium-high heat, whisking constantly until it reaches a boil. Turn down to a low boil and continue whisking for another minute. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Quickly stir in the hazelnut extract and Nutella. Let cool completely to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap so that it’s directly touching the frosting, and put in the freezer and leave it in the freezer overnight. It should be very thick, but not unworkable.
- To Assemble the Cake:
- Just before spreading, gently whisk the frosting only until it’s spreadable. (You can use a wooden spoon if the frosting is too thick initially for the whisk.) Place each of the three cake layers side-by-side and frost just the tops with even portions of the frosting, heaping it toward the middle of each layer. Place the first layer on the desired serving stand and then stack the second and the third directly on top to create a three-layer cake. Get creative with the topping- a pile of raspberries, a pile of mixed berries, cherries with the stems still on, shaved chocolate, powdered sugar, etc.