Chocolate Cake with Plum Basil Jam and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cake with Plum Basil Jam and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

   I’ve written many chocolate cake recipes, most of which have made it here on the blog. Every time, one comes out better than the last one. I’m often tempted to go through and change all the previous chocolate cake recipes- especially my very first post(a chocolate cake), but what would be the point in doing that. Honestly, if I knew all that I know now I would’ve never posted that first cake recipe. I was just learning about ratios and recipe writing, so of course, the cake was far from being perfect. I failed so many times on it, but that last try seemed good enough to post. I made it again sometime later and let’s just say it’ll probably go down in history as the dryest chocolate cake ever made. Embarrassing as those first blog posts are, I’m leaving it up as a reminder of where I was when I started this blog, but also a reminder to myself to never again post a recipe I’m not 100% satisfied with. Good things take time, even if weeks go by without a single blog post. I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. I was trying to post a new recipe three times a week when I first began my blog. Some can do this, others cannot; I’m definitely the latter.  Not only was I wasting money, I was also wasting all my creative energy. 

  There’s nothing more delicious than a slice of chocolate cake that looks like it’s made entirely of fudge and tastes even better. You know what I’m talking about? Dense, rich, and ultra chocolatey. I’ve yet to accomplish this, but it’s my ultimate goal in baking to make a four-layered cake just like that. It may weigh about ten pounds afterward, but I’m sure it will taste amazing. This chocolate cake is nothing like that of course, but it’s a bit on the heavier side, with a moist, tight crumb and rich chocolatey flavor. Oh, and the plum basil jam! So good with this cake. I went a little overboard with the jam on the first bottom layer(as you can see in some of the photos), so don’t do as I did- you want some of that liquid goodness to soak into the cake, but not too much. Now, onto that chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. It’s my first time using it and I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I will admit, I thought it was a fail at first because I added too soft of butter, so the buttercream just ran off the spatula- not good. But, this problem is easily fixed, so if you happen to have this same problem, pop the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes and then whip the mixture until it’s velvety smooth.


Chocolate Cake with Basil Plum Jam and Swiss Meringue Buttercream

   ingredients for the cake:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour { 240 grams }

2 cups raw cane sugar { 380 grams } 

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cups cocoa powder { 60 grams }

3/4 cups boiling water { 6 oz }

1 cup buttermilk, room temp.  { 8 oz }

3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted { 6 oz }

2 large eggs, room temp.

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    for the swiss meringue buttercream

4-ounces egg whites (3-4 large eggs)

8-ounces raw cane sugar (1 cup)

12-ounces butter, room temp. (1 1/4 cup)

10-ounces fine dark chocolate, melted (80% cocoa)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   for the plum basil jam:

1 pound red plums (or pluot plums)

1 1/4 cups raw cane sugar

3 medium-sized basil leaves

   Method:

   for the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Grease and line with parchment paper two, 6-inch cake pans.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the boiling water and cocoa powder until combined. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl, then whisk in the sugar, baking powder/soda, and salt- set aside. In another bowl, melt the butter, then stir in the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until they’re mixed in well. Combine the liquid ingredients to the dry, including the cocoa. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined and there are no more flour streaks. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 35-43 minutes. Check for doneness at 35 minutes. It’s ready when the cake springs back quickly after lightly touching it, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

  for the jam:

  1. Pit the plums and cut into small chunks. Add to a saucepan with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture breaks down and most of the liquids have come out of the fruit. Add the basil leaves and remaining sugar and boil on medium-low heat, stirring and mashing the fruit occasionally for 10 minutes.  It will be done when some of the jam is placed on a cool surface and becomes thick as it cools. Drain most the liquid from the jam, leaving just a few tablespoons. Pour the fruit into a rimmed pan and remove the basil. Cool the jam completely before using.

   for the swiss meringue buttercream:

  1. Chop the chocolate and heat in the microwave safe bowl until smooth and melted, set aside to cool.
  2. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place a heatproof bowl over the top(do not let it touch the water!); add the egg whites and sugar and whisk to combine. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture and heat, stirring often, until it reads 160°F / 70°C and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer with whisks attached. Beat on medium-high speed for 8-10 minutes until the bowl is cool to touch and the meringue is thick and glossy. Turn the mixer on low and begin to add the cubed butter, one cube at a time, making sure each cube is incorporated before adding the next. This will take a few minutes. The end result should be a thick, velvety smooth buttercream. If your buttercream didn’t whip well and is a bit runny, place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes until somewhat firm(but not hard). Return to the mixer and beat on low until smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and cooled melted chocolate. Beat on low until combined.

 assemble the cake:

  1. Once the cakes have cooled completely, cut each one into two, even layers, giving you a total of four layers (two bottoms, two tops).  Always start a layer cake with the bottom part of the cake on the bottom, the two tops in the center, and end with the other bottom part of the cake facing up. This ensures your cake is standing upright and the top will be flat and easier to frost.
  2. Spread a bit of frosting in the center of your cake plate/cake stand. Add your bottom layer on top of this spot so it stays in place.  Spread a very thin layer of frosting on the first layer, then pipe a small wall around the edge of the cake (so the jam doesn’t ooze out if it wants to). Spread about 1/3 cup of the jam in the center, then add the second layer. This layer will have only frosting and no jam, so spread about 2/3 cups of frosting on. Place the third layer on top, and repeat step 1: spread a thin layer of frosting, pipe a wall, then slather 1/3 cup of jam in the center. Place the fourth and final layer, flat side facing up, and spread 2/3 cups of frosting on top. Use the remaining frosting on the sides of the cake. Cut and serve.

Tart Blueberry Plum Pie

  I can’t believe we’re halfway through summer already.  Most the time I don’t even want to think about that, but alas, I still find myself counting down the days.  Seasons are so fleeting when you look back on them.  Except winter, it’s the only season that feels like it never ends(to me at least), but that’s probably because I dislike the cold months so much.  I honestly love the hot, humid days where sweat pours down your back and your hair goes haywire.  But really, apart from the weather, what makes those sultry months the best is the abundance of delicious stone fruit!  It’s hard to pick a favorite from the genus, but if I had to choose five favorites, plums would be on the top, alongside peaches and cherries.  Then apart from the stone fruits are blueberries, summer just isn’t the same without them.

IMG_0504 IMG_0517

  I about hit rock bottom before I made this pie.  My brain has been in the biggest creativity rut going on three weeks now.  That’s when I ate the most delicious plum and decided that instead of brainstorming how to produce something different, I’d just relax and make a pie.  Not everything has to be different I told myself; find peace in the more mundane things.  Like pie.  It’s nothing knew, but there’s still joy in making the most ordinary of things.  It’s a classic that never goes dull.  So, I sat down and jotted down a pie crust from scratch and went from there.  It’s one of probably a thousand blueberry plum pies out there, but you know what?  That’s okay.

IMG_0540 

*How to Weave a Lattice Top for Pies

Tart Blueberry Plum Pie
Serves 8
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
50 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
50 min
CRUST
  1. 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  3. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. 1 cup unsalted butter, cold
  5. 5-8 tablespoons cold water
FILLING
  1. 1.5 pounds ripe plums
  2. 1 cup blueberries
  3. 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  6. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  7. Pinch of kosher salt
Egg Wash
  1. 1 tablespoon cold water
  2. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the flour, blend it in till the mixture is crumbly(can use a pastry cutter or pulse in blender to do this, I used a pastry cutter). Push the mixture to the side of the bowl and add 5 tablespoons of cold water and gently toss with a fork till it all comes together and forms a soft ball of dough. If it is dry, add another tablespoon of water(more if needed). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Halve and pit the plums then cut the halves into fourths. Place in a bowl with the blueberries and toss with 1/4 cup sugar, then pour fruit into a strainer and place over a bowl to let the natural juices drip for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, pinch of salt and the remaining 3/4 cups sugar; set aside.
ASSEMBLE PIE
  1. Prepare a clean flat space for rolling and sprinkle with flour.
  2. Take the dough from the fridge and cut into equal halves. Place one of the halves back in the fridge to use later. Roll the dough into a circular shape that is roughly 12-inch in diameter. Loosely roll the dough onto the rolling pin and slowly unravel from the rolling pin and into a 9- inch pie pan. Align the dough into the pan(making sure not to stretch it) then gently press along the sides and bottom of the pan to fit. Place in the refrigerator(untrimmed)till ready to use.
  3. Roll the second half of the dough out and cut out nine, 3/4-inch wide strips that are long enough to fit over the pie and hang slightly over the edge of the pan. Remove pie pan from refrigerator. Remove the fruit from strainer and place in a clean bowl. Sprinkle the flour/cornstarch/sugar mixture and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice on the fruit and gently toss with a spatula. Pour into prepared pie pan. Evenly place the five dough strips along the top of the pie and then weave in the other four (*For visual instruction I will include a helpful video from Saveur demonstrating how a latticed pie is done if you are unsure how it's done). Trim the excess dough off the pie and using a fork, gently press to seal the edges together.
  4. Whisk together the egg and water and brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with sugar and place in preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 375°F and bake an additional 40 minutes till the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let it set and cool completely for at least 2 hours. Cut and serve with vanilla ice cream.
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