Introduction: Proof Bakery's Chocolate Espresso Cake
So this Instructable started out as a challenge for myself because I love baking, but it was a few steps beyond what I had ever tried. It was inspired by this video by Buzzfeed. Proof Bakery showed enough for me to try and recreate the cake based on a few other recipes I tracked down.
You'll notice I skipped the layer of chocolate on top. This is because this is a very rich cake, and the thought of adding another layer of chocolate on top was incredibly daunting. So, I opted to not add it for this.
I used recipes I found online for the cake, crémeux, and the icing.
That being said, I'm a college student and there were some adaptations to make up for missing ingredients. But we'll get into that later. For now, onto the cake!
Note: The crémeux takes time to set! Six hours at minimum, overnight is better. Don't make this cake the same day it needs to be served; a day or two earlier is a good plan.
Step 1: Devil's Food Cake Ingredients
For the cake, you'll need:
- 2 cups (250g) cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ cup (75g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 1 cup (235g) hot coffee
- 1 cup (145g) canola oil
- 1 cup (240g) buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
I've never sifted my flour, and it still turns out fine. If you don't have buttermilk in your fridge, it's okay, I don't either. I took a cup of milk, added a tablespoon of vinegar, and let it sit for about ten minutes.
Step 2: Turn on the Oven and Mix the Dry Ingredients
Before you start anything else, turn your oven to 325°F/165°C/Gas Mark 3. Take your 9-inch round pans and grease them with butter, then coat them with cocoa powder. It'll stop the cake from coming out all dusted in white, like it would if you used flour.
Once your oven and your pans are prepped, take your flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and sugar, and mix them together in a large bowl. Make sure they're well mixed, otherwise you'll end up with plain lumps of flour and cocoa and no one wants to bite into that.
Step 3: Mix Your Wet Ingredients
Make a cup of coffee, whatever your preference is. We have a french press, so I made it in that. While you're waiting for your coffee, if you need to sour your milk to replace the buttermilk, you can do that. It should be ready by the time your coffee is done. Then take your coffee, your buttermilk/soured milk, your canola oil, your eggs, and your vanilla and mix that in a bowl. Recruit someone else to do dishes if you can swing it.
Step 4: Mix Them Together!
Take your wet ingredients and add them to your dry, mixing as you add if you can. I have weak wrists and glass bowls, so I tend to just dump everything in and mix after that. If you also make cookies, I know adding wet to dry is backwards, but it seems to work. Stir enthusiastically until it's well mixed together, it should look something like the photo. If you're working with glass bowls, take a look and make sure you don't have any big spots of flour that you missed stirring in.
Step 5: Into the Oven
Now that you have your batter, you can pour it into your greased pans. Fill it to about two-thirds to three-fourths full. Make sure they're level, and then put it into the oven!
Step 6: Wait Patiently
The cake should take about thirty minutes to bake, depending on your oven and the alignment of the stars. When you think it's done, gently press it with your finger instead of sticking a toothpick in it right away. If the cake springs back, then you can check it with a toothpick. Once they're done, let them cool COMPLETELY before you try and ice them. Seriously, it will make icing them way easier.
While the cakes are baking, let's start on the crémeux.
Step 7: Crémeux Ingredients
For the cremeux, you'll need:
- 1 1/2 cups (360g) heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups (360 g) whole milk
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate (70 to 72 percent cacao), finely chopped
I used 300g of chocolate and it turned out fine. The chocolate also doesn't have to be dark, if you're one of those people who doesn't enjoy it. If you don't use kosher salt, make sure you add less table salt since it has less volume- it should be closer to 1 1/2 tsp.
You'll also notice I didn't use whole milk. They didn't have any in the correct size at the grocery store, so I used 1 cup (240g) of half and half and 1/2 cup (120g) of 1% milk. I know that's not how math works but it turned out so make do with what's convenient.
NOTE: This needs to chill for at least six hours. Overnight is better. Don't make it just before you need to use it!
Step 8: Heat the Cream
Pour the heavy cream and the whole cream (half and half and 1% if you're me) into a pot and stir it until it's simmering lightly. Make sure the heat is medium low, since you don't want to scald the milk. It shouldn't need constant stirring, so just keep an eye on it while you do the next step.
Step 9: Separating the Eggs
You need five egg yolks. There are all sorts of neat tricks out there to separate egg yolks and whites, but I prefer the old-fashioned method. Crack the egg roughly in half, and then hold it upright while you open it over a bowl. The egg white should fall into the bowl while the yolk remains in the shell. Gently pass the egg yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell to get as much of egg white off as you can, and then put the egg yolk into another bowl. Do this four more times, and you should end up with the photo. Stick the egg whites in the fridge, you can make an omelette with it later.
Step 10: Add Sugar, Salt, and Cream
Your cream should be simmering at this point, so shut it off.
Add the sugar and salt to the egg yolks, then mix it in well. Once they're mixed in, add the cream to the bowl and mix it all together. Pour it back into the saucepan and put it back on the heat, although it should be pretty low. Stir it with a wooden spoon so you can tell when it coats the back of it.
I had to google what it meant to coat the back of the spoon, so you reap the benefits of my education. It's essentially when it's thick enough to clear a strip on the back of the spoon and it doesn't just immediately fill back in. Stir until the back of the spoon looks like the picture, and then take it off the heat.
Step 11: Chop the Chocolate
You want the chocolate to be as fine as possible so it'll melt faster, so take a big knife and go to work. I had help, so we tried grating it first. Grating is a lot of effort, it melts in your hands, and it's slow. Just chop it up, it's faster. Once it's chopped into pieces, add it to your cream-egg yolk mix and let it sit for a few minutes until the chocolate is mostly melted. Then, stir it in. Apparently, I switched back to a whisk, but as long as it's well mixed it's fine.
Step 12: Chill Out
Your cake should be cool enough to put in the fridge at this point. Cover it with plastic wrap so it won't harden and let it chill as long as the crémeux. The cremeux should get transferred into another bowl. It's apparently preferable that it's not metal, but I'm not exactly sure why. Stick with glass or plastic if you can. Let them sit for at least six hours, preferably overnight.
Step 13: Espresso Buttercream Icing Ingredients
For the buttercream icing, you will need:
- 1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups, or 340g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 c. (375g) powdered sugar, sifted
This recipe was fun. Again, I don't sift my ingredients, and it seemed to turn out fine.
If you don't have instant espresso powder, it's apparently a complicated substitution. I tried actually making espresso and wasn't happy with the way it tasted in the icing at all, so we just ended up dumping ground espresso coffee in- around 3 of our coffee scoops, which isn't a helpful measurement. If you need to do this, add to taste.
Step 14: Just Beat It, Beat It
I have a stand mixer, which is absolutely cheating. If you have one, or even a hand mixer, this will be much easier. If you're trying to do this by hand, please tell me how it goes because I have so much respect for you.
Throw the butter in a bowl and beat it until it's light and fluffy. Once it's fluffy, add the sugar one cup at a time. Any more and if you're using anything electric the sugar will be on you instead of in your icing. Once it's all mixed in, you can add the vanilla. If you're using the espresso powder, mix it into the vanilla first. If you're using just ground espresso powder, then spoon it in and mix it in by hand. Stick it in the freezer while you get everything else ready.
Step 15: Ready, Set...
Grab a plate, preferably one that's flat and significantly larger than the cake. If you have one that spins, that's even better, but you can do it by hand too. Gently pry one layer of cake out of the pan using a spatula and flip the pan over onto the plate. Pat it gently, or if it's being stubborn, firmly. I should probably apologise to my downstairs neighbours. Once it's popped out, you can grab your icing and your crémeux from the fridge and freezer respectively.
Step 16: Ice!
You're going to start with the crémeux. It should be pretty stiff, so grab a spoon and put a healthy amount on to the cake. If you have an offset knife, it's really handy here. If you don't, that's okay, a regular butter knife works too. Once you have your crémeux spread evenly, you can move to your icing.
Helpful tip: Keep your icing cold and your knife of choice warm. It'll be easier to spread and you won't shred your cake in the process. You can see me icing in the video for this step.
Step 17: Ice, Ice, Baby
That title joke has probably been made so many times. Add your icing on top of the crémeux and spread evenly. Once your icing has been spread satisfactorily, you can add the next layer of cake the same way we added the last one. Be careful! It might be easier to transfer it to another plate before adding it so you have more control. If you're really snazzy, you can slice the top off so that it's flat. I'm not that snazzy, and the top of my cake will be slightly round.
Step 18: Note on the Recipe
So, this is the point where I really deviated from the original design. I had a lot of crémeux and icing left, and decided to do one layer of crémeux and then a layer of icing on top. If you're not a sugar person, what are you doing here? But you definitely don't have to do this part. You can just ice the top, you can just put the crémeux on the top. But this Instructable will follow the steps I took, so we're doing both.
Step 19: Crémeux Crumb Icing
The crémeux is pretty thick, so it makes a great cover layer. Spoon it onto the top and spread it down gently from there. You can also scrape some onto your knife and spread it like that, whatever works best for you. Keep it warm and be gentle, don't overspread. Otherwise, you'll just drag huge gaps in your icing. Now, if you want to quit here, it looks pretty great. If you're like me and hate wasting anything, then onto the last layer.
Step 20: Final Icing Layer
Same as before, add a bunch of icing on to the cake and then spread from there. Keep your knife warm, because the icing is much thinner and it will mix with the crémeux. You'll notice my layer of icing in the final photo is much darker than the layer in the middle of the cake because I didn't take my own advice, and they blended. But they're still tasty if they blend, so don't worry too much. It just depends on how pretty you want it to be. Smooth the icing out as much as you can, and you're done!
For best results, change the lighting in your photos dramatically.
Step 21: Serve!
This cake is not for the faint of heart. Go with small slices and share the love- believe me, you don't want a lot of it. However, it is incredibly tasty and makes a great birthday cake or other such special occasion. Thanks so much for reading this, and please let me know how it turns out! I'd love to hear how other people's interpretations of my crazy baking ideas work. Also, if you enjoyed reading this, please consider voting for it in the Copycat Recipes contest!
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