December, despite being born in this month, there’s not much I really look forward to in it except for my birthday, Christmas, and the closing of another year and the beginning of another year alive. It can be a depressing month, mainly due to the scenery and the weather. It gets quite windy where I am located and the house is surrounded by a forest of trees so everything becomes quite dull and lifeless looking blowing in the wind. The grass turns brittle and the trees gray and spiritless without their coat of leaves. Winter reminds me just how quickly the other seasons fade, as it always seems the longest. It also makes me appreciate the other seasons a lot more.
When it comes to my creativity, it usually relies on the mood of the day. I’m somewhat one with the weather, all it takes is a cold, cloudy day to bring me into the depths of despair. For photography, especially food, December light can be difficult to work with. By the time I’m back from work and done test baking, the light is practically gone and I hadn’t even decided what backdrop to use.. and it’s only four o’clock in the afternoon.
Anyway, I could honestly go on about the depressing things about December and just the season of winter in general, but let’s skip that because I’m sure you probably share the same if you’re not a winter person; if you happen to be a winter person, well, good for you! I won’t understand why, but that’s okay. I once was, but I honestly don’t know why I enjoyed it. I think it was because I was a child, born and raised without knowing what cold actually felt like. Up until I moved to Virginia, wearing a sundress and flip flops to my Grandmother’s Christmas dinner was normal. Now, I actually have to wear pants.
Now, let’s talk chocolate cake. My birthday was just last week and I decided to bake my own cake for the occasion for the very first time. I think it’s a tradition I should start doing every year. My youngest sister insisted I wasn’t allowed to do such a thing, but by who’s authority, I persisted! I did most everything the night before to save time, but really, I don’t think I saved much time at all. I still found myself with this cake four hours later while the rest of the family anxiously awaited its arrival onto the kitchen counter top so they could eat it.
A little while ago I began adding a fruit jam to my cakes. It adds an exceptionally moist and tender crumb when you do so! The frosting includes chocolate pudding, then once it is on the cake, more chocolate in the form of ganache. As you probably know if you take a brisk scroll through my blog, I am chocolate obsessed. I also happen to love cake, so I have quite a few chocolate cake variations on this site. I’ve learned so much about baking cake in the year that has passed since I’ve started this blog journey- so much so, that I look back to a few of the cakes I’ve made and think to myself, “why the heck did I make it that way?”. You live and you learn, as C.S. Lewis so truthfully wrote,
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
DARK CHOCOLATE POMEGRANATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
100 grams dark cocoa powder ( 1 1/4 cups )
1 cup boiling water
175g unsalted butter, room temp.
500g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
4 large eggs, room temp.
250g cake flour ( 2 cups + 2 tablespoons )
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
300g milk, room temp.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Chocolate frosting and Ganache:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa powdered
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
for the jam:
- Scrape the seeds out from the pomegranate and place them in a small saucepan along with the 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring the mixer often, until the sugar dissolves; reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the fruit is soft and has broken down some. Remove from heat and press the jam through a fine mesh sieve with a bowl underneath. Discard the seeds from the sieve and bring the jam to room temperature.
- In a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl, add the cocoa powder; pour the boiling water over the cocoa and let it sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth; set aside and bring to room temperature.
Once all the ingredients have reached room temperature, begin on the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three, 8-inch round cake pans in the usual way: grease, parchment paper, then a light coat of grease over the paper.
- Using an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy- about 7-8 minutes on medium-high speed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, set aside. Once the butter and sugar have been creamed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition as well as scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters with a spatula.
- Add the cooled cocoa mixture, pomegranate jam, a third of the flour, and a third of the milk to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour on medium speed while streaming in the rest of the milk, beat until combined. Pour batter equally amongst the three prepared pans and evenly spread around. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes quickly spring back up when lightly touched.
- Cool the cakes 10 minutes in their pans then gently use a knife to loosen the cakes from around the edges of the pan and invert onto cooling racks to cool completely for about 1-2 hours.
for the frosting and ganache:
- Place a medium-sized heatproof bowl in the freezer so it will be chilled for later use.
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla, and cocoa powder to a simmer over medium-low heat then turn off the heat.
- Heat a double boiler over medium heat and add the egg yolks and sugar. Stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale yellow. Continue to whisk the mixture and slowly stream in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir constantly until thickened. Once, thickened, remove from heat and immediately pour the pudding into the chilled bowl and whisk briskly till the pudding is cool to the touch.
- Now, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and cooled pudding(be sure it doesn’t have the slightest warmth to it or else the butter will melt) on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of extra cocoa powder and a pinch of salt; beat on medium-high speed till the mixture is fluffy and becomes slightly pale in color(about 4 minutes or so).
- For the ganache: finely chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for five minutes undisturbed then stir until smooth. Let the mixture cool so it can reach a spreadable consistency.
Assemble the cake:
Place the first layer on a cake board/cake stand/plate and spoon about 3/4 cup of frosting onto the top. Evenly spread around then place the second layer, top-side down onto the first layer. Spread another 3/4 cup of frosting and place the third and final layer on top, again, top-side of the layer facing down onto the previous layer. Add the remaining frosting to the top and sides of the cake. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes so the frosting can firm up some. Once the frosting is somewhat firm to the touch, add the ganache and spread around the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with edible flowers and greenery(optional).