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.

Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

 Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

It was about to rain and the temperature quite hot that day, but I came home with eight pounds of scrumptious peaches. Peaches are one of my favorite aspects of early summer; they’re one of those fruits I could eat morning, noon, to dusk and never grow tired. And they’re absolutely delicious and juicy when you find them local.Per my usual, I set aside one day out of the week and drove eighty minutes to one of my favorite orchards, just twenty miles west of the quaint city that is Charlottesville, Virginia. The orchard is nestled amongst rolling mountains and the drive there and back is always so peaceful.

Per my usual, I set aside one day out of the week and drove eighty minutes to one of my favorite orchards- just twenty miles west of the quaint city that is Charlottesville, Virginia. The orchard is nestled amongst rolling mountains, making the drive there a scenic and enjoyable one, which is why I love it so.

Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

This recipe makes the first time I have baked an olive oil cake or eaten one for that matter. It took me quite a few times to get it to my liking. At least my chickens were happy with the first few tries. Olive oil cake is on the lighter side when it comes to sweetness, but it’s nevertheless moist, rich, and airy in texture due to the olive oil. The oil flavor is noticeable, but not in an overpowering way. To make it even more delicious, I added freshly cut peaches which are speckled about in each slice of cake. It’s usually eaten with an addition of fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or with some sort of glaze; I thought it best with a pillowy layer of crème Chantilly (whipped cream), sweetened and flavored with honey and a bit of vanilla. 

Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly


Olive Oil Peach Cake with Vanilla Honey Crème Chantilly

  ingredients:

240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, { 2 cups } 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

150 grams raw cane sugar, { 3/4 cups }

3 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cups good quality olive oil { extra-virgin }

3/4 cups milk, room temperature

3 large ripe peaches

1/4 cup raw cane sugar

   crème chantilly:

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons good quality honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   method:

  1. Chop the three ripe peaches into small cubes and place them in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, gently stirring often. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the peaches are soft, but not mushy(make sure to stir every few seconds or so so it doesn’t burn) and there seems to be a lot of liquid. Remove from heat and pour the peaches over a sieve to drain the sugary juice*. Cool the peaches before adding to the cake batter. You can cool them quickly by placing them in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF / 177ºC. Grease and line with parchment paper one, 8-inch cake pan (or two 6-inch pans) and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric hand mixer until pale, fluffy, and thick (3-4 minutes on high speed). Add the oil and beat on low until just combined. Add the flour and milk and stir gently with a wooden spoon or spatula for three turns, then add half of the peaches and stir (gently) until all the ingredients are combined, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl for flour. Do not over-mix.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and sprinkle in the remaining peaches. Bake for 40 minutes, but check for doneness at 35 minutes. It’s done when lightly golden in color and a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted into the center. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then gently invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Place a medium sized bowl and a whisk in the freezer for 3 minutes to chill. Add the cream, honey, and vanilla and whisk by hand until stiff peaks form. This may take up to five minutes. You can also use an electric mixer if you’d like. 
  6. Place the cooled cake on a plate and dollop on the whipped cream. Top with fresh fruit and more honey if you’d like. Store -covered- in the refrigerator for up to three days.

*You can re-use this sugary peach juice in iced tea for a sweet, peachy flavor; or, you could stir it into plain, unsweetened yogurt. Even better, you could pour it all over this cake! 

Blackberry Nectarine Cake with Vanilla Sage German Buttercream

  It’s been well over two months since I last made a cake, even eaten a slice of one!  For most people that may be normal, but me?  I love baking cakes, so I usually make them on a monthly basis.  So, two months cake-free was a new record for me, hehe.  

  I like getting creative with fresh, seasonal fruits when it comes to baking.  It can get a little difficult at times, especially with layer cakes.  I really wanted to make a cake with nectarines and also use what little bit of wild blackberries I spent hours scavenging for(thanks, Japanese beetles!).  With this particular cake, I put a lot of brain effort into getting it to come out.  I was working with some pretty juicy fruit.  So, I sat down and did the math for what seemed like hours.  I weighed out every ingredient to the gram and then put the recipe to the test.  Many times the recipes I create take at least two to three(sometimes four)tries before getting my “blog-worthy” stamp, especially when it’s a cake.  My only fear when making this cake was that the nectarines would make the cakes sink in the center, even though I boiled most the juices out before adding the pulp to the batter and that it would make it really heavy.  I was wrong.  For the first time ever, my cake turned out just as I wanted and on the first try! The layers were light in weight and extremely moist(in a good way); the texture was tender and not too sweet. 

 IMG_1465 IMG_1307 IMG_1480

  The blackberries gave it a different color than I expected, I only used a couple tablespoons of blackberry juice.  I was shooting for a purple hue, instead, I got a slight greenish tint(most likely from the baking soda and baking powder).  Some may think of that as fail and proceed to tweak the recipe more; honestly, I rather like the way it turned out.  It doesn’t look perfect and I am one of those people that like things that don’t look perfect.  It makes things more interesting!  

  For the buttercream, I wanted something more than your plain American buttercream.  I took a step forward and tried my hand at German buttercream.  I’m so glad I did as it went perfectly with this cake and tasted so good!  I used this recipe from BraveTart because it looked and sounded amazing(and it was amazing!).  It’s smooth and has the perfect amount of sweetness to it.  The vanilla and sage really complemented the nectarine flavor in the cake as well.

IMG_1462 IMG_1474  IMG_1489 IMG_1496

 

Blackberry Nectarine Cake

INGREDIENTS
175g unsalted butter, room temp.
500g granulated sugar
4 large eggs (210g)
250g cake flour (2 cups + 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
312g whole milk, room temp. (1 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons nectarine pulp (use about 3 large ripe nectarines)
2 tablespoons blackberry juice (use about a 1/3 cup fresh blackberries)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C.  Prepare three, 8-inch cake pans by greasing, lining with parchment, then lightly greasing again.
For the nectarine pulp: Peel and pit the nectarines.  Cut into quarters and add to a food processor/blender and pulse 4-5 times till the fruit is loose and clumpy.  Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, cooking for 8 minutes and stirring often(it burns easily).  Once done, pour into a wire sieve over a bowl(to catch the juices) and use a spoon to press all the juices out.  Spread the pulp out onto a clean plate and let it come to room temperature.  For the blackberry juice:  Mash a 1/3 cup of fresh blackberries with a fork and add to a small saucepan over low heat, cook, stirring gently till most the juices come out(about 4 minutes).  Pour into a sieve and press the juices out. Discard the pulp.  Add the blackberry juice to the milk and bring to room temperature before using.

For the cake:  In an electric mixer with whisks attached, add the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 8 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time(and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition).  If you’re using measuring cups, use a large spoon to fill the measuring cup with flour, then use a knife to level it off.  So, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add a third of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture, then a third of the milk, beat on medium speed till just combined. Repeat this process till the other 2/3 of the milk and flour are combined.  Using a spatula, fold in the nectarine pulp till it is distributed evenly throughout the batter.  Pour evenly amongst the three pans.  Bake for 30 minutes, then check for doneness with a toothpick.   If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done; if it’s wet, bake for 2 more minutes.
Once done, let the cakes sit in their pans for 10 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, gently loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and invert onto wire racks to cool completely(about two hours).

Vanilla Sage German Buttercream

INGREDIENTS 
Recipe slightly adapted from BraveTart

16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla bean pods, split and scraped, seeds set aside in a small bowl
2 medium-sized sage leaves, fresh
10 ounces sugar
1.5 ounces cornstarch
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD

  Slit the two vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds, place them(the seeds) in a bowl to use later.  In a medium sized saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean pods, and sage leaves.  Once the milk starts to simmer, remove from heat and let the mixture steep for about 30 minutes(or more for a more intense flavor).  Once steeped, remove vanilla bean pods and the sage leaves.  Return the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, scraped vanilla bean seeds, cornstarch, whole eggs, and egg yolks.  Stream a 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly till it is fully incorporated and the mixture is warm.  Now, pour the egg mixture into the saucepan of hot milk, stirring constantly while doing so, and turn the heat to medium.  Keep stirring the mixture till it begins to thicken and bubble very slowly.  Once it begins to bubble, continue stirring for 1 minute(use a timer). Once the timer goes off, immediately pour the custard into a large bowl.  Press a layer of plastic wrap over the custard(so it won’t form a skin)and place in the refrigerator to cool completely(at least 1 hour).
 Once the custard has cooled, remove from the fridge. Beat the butter and salt on medium speed with an electric mixer till smooth and creamy.  Begin spooning large portions of the custard into the butter while beating on medium-high speed. Beat till the mixture is smooth and is completely incorporated.

Assemble the cake:
  Place the first layer on your cake stand, cake board, or plate. Add about 1 cup of the frosting and evenly spread around. Add the second layer, bottom(flat side)facing up, and add another 1 cup of frosting; spread evenly.  Now, place the third layer evenly on top of the second, again, bottom side facing up.  Add remaining frosting.  Decorate with fresh flowers and greenery(optional).  Cut and serve.