September 2, 2012

Baking with my "original" nephew - Chocolate Orbit Cake

It seems like yesterday when there were no children in our extended family.  Then, everyone started getting married and we had kids!  I had my son 7 years ago and now I count eight nephews and nieces all under the age of ten.  My brother has 3 boys  and a few days ago, I had my "original" nephew, the 9-year old and oldest, over to do a little baking (with a teeny bit of help from my own little one).
A miniature, 6-inch, version of the "Chocolate Orbit Cake" (the holes on the surface reminiscent of craters on the moon)
We made David Lebovitz's Chocolate Orbit Cake, also known as Chocolate Idiot Cake because he thinks just about anyone can make it without fail.  It's a recipe I've wanted to try given my love of chocolate - and this cake is all about the chocolate.
The cake batter couldn't be easier to whisk together but I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I almost fell into the category of "idiot" when I baked the batter in two 6-inch cake pans rather than one 9-inch springform pan and things went a bit off from there.

There's nothing wrong with the recipe itself and, in fact, the finished cake is in deliciously chocolaty and smooth like rich ganache.  However, I followed the instructions from my copy of Ready for Dessert which said you could make the cake in either a springform or cake pan and while that might be true, do not try to flip the cake back right-side up (like I did with one) if you invert it from a cake pan like the recipe tells you to do.  Maybe it would work for you but the risk is disaster in the form of broken/stuck-to-the-plate cake.  So my advice is stick with a springform pan and you'll have no problems whatsoever.  Ironically, I actually used the slightly different quantities (a little less chocolate and butter) in the recipe posted online and assumed the instructions would be the same as the version in the book.  I now notice after the fact that the online recipe makes no mention of using a cake pan and simply tells you to go with a springform.  What can I say?  You live, you learn...
Like I mentioned, we made two small cakes, which took longer than I expected to set.  The cake bakes in a water bath, which the boys had nothing to do with.  Since I have burn marks on my arms from the handles of the roasting pan (checking on the cakes, not knowing when my minis would be done), I'm glad I kept them out of the way (the boys were busy playing a videogame at this point anyway).  So, when all was said and done, I kept the broken but still delicious cake (the one I attempted to turn right side up) while the other made its way to my nephew's house for his dad's (my brother's) upcoming birthday.  My brother's birthday seems to make me think of fudgy flourless chocolate cakes. 

This cake is very much like eating chocolate ganache.  With only chocolate, butter, eggs, and sugar as its ingredients, you can understand why.  It is rich, dense, moist, and full of dark chocolate flavor - all characteristics I like but consider yourselves forewarned if you are not looking for something decadent like this.  I used a combination of semisweet and bittersweet Callebaut chocolate; make sure you use a chocolate you enjoy eating because the chocolate flavor really comes through.  Because of its richness, a thin slice will suffice.  I find it really scrumptious all by itself but a scoop of vanilla ice cream (proudly homemade, in this case) is always very nice and I find that most people find it a necessity to balance out all that chocolate. 

There are only 4 ingredients in this recipe.  Plenty of dark chocolate and butter, followed by eggs and sugar. 

Learn from my mistake and bake the cake in a buttered, 9-inch springform pan.  Since the cake is ready when it's just barely set, the springform pan makes it simple to just remove the sides once the cake fully cools and you're ready to serve it.

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, start by melting 10 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter.  (Note the recipe in the book calls for 12 ounces of chocolate and 16 tablespoons, or 2 sticks, of butter.)  I also stir in 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso powder when working with chocolate.
Nephew cutting butter into chunks with a blunt knife
Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat once melted.  Break 5 large eggs into a medium size bowl and whisk it together with 1 cup of sugar.
My son also took part in a little chocolate stirring
I think I taught my nephew how to crack eggs - we only lost the first one he attempted
Then whisk the chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar until completely incorporated.

Now, the only tricky thing is the cake needs to bake in a warm water bath.  Pretend I've scraped the batter into a 9-inch springform pan.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, set it inside a roasting pan and fill the pan with very warm water about halfway up the cake pan. 
The cake bakes in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  My minis took even longer than that, possibly with me checking on them several times since I wasn't sure how long they would take.  The cake is done when it appears set (though still a bit jiggly when moved) and your finger comes away clean when you gently touch the center.  Remove the cake from the oven and roasting pan and let it cool completely before unmolding.
Expect to see these holes/craters on your Orbit cake
The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  I like to take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before eating with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Given its richness, you could get about 16 servings out of this cake.


Chocolate Orbit Cake
From David Lebovitz

- One 9-inch cake (this cake goes a long way and you could get about 16 servings given a small slice will suffice due to its richness) -

10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

(Note: A slightly different version of this recipe, found in the book, Ready for Dessert, uses 12 ounces of chocolate, 2 sticks of butter, and 6 eggs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate together with the butter.  Stir in espresso powder, if using.  Remove the bowl from the heat once mixture has melted and is smooth. 

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together.  Whisk in the melted chocolate and butter mixture until completely incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and set it into a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with very warm water about halfway up the side of the cake pan.

Bake until the cake appears set and your fingers come away clean when you gently press the center of the cake, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove cake from the water bath and let cool completely.  To unmold, run a knife around the sides of the pan and release the sides of the springform pan.

The cake can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.  This is good news since a small slice should suffice given how rich this flourless chocolate cake is. 

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