Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My First Wedding Cake: Chocolate Truffle with Vanilla Buttercream

The past few weeks have been filled with... life.

Life can be completely devastating, full of grief and sadness and loss. You can have those moments that continuously break you down. Negativity can completely rule you. Just a single minute alone can make you cry.

And then there are moments of complete elation. The joining of two friends in a picture perfect wedding. Being reunited with such incredible people from so many countries in a space filled with nothing but hope and love. Reunions of family and reminders of my heritage and a deep sense of gratitude for who I know and where I am from.

And sometimes all of this happens in the span of a few days.

That was my life the last week. A wedding and a funeral. Saying goodbye to the ultimate hero. Watching the strongest man in my life draw his last breaths and begging God to take him in his suffering. And a few short days later, dusting myself off to celebrate a new life and union in the marriage of my friends while having the privilege to make their wedding cake.

This may be a bit heavy for a food blog - but I suppose this is where the living portion of my blog plays out, because you see, in both of these circumstances at opposite ends of the spectrum, there's still food. Whether we celebrate or mourn, we eat to live, we eat to feel. And sometimes in our deepest moments of desperation and hopelessness, we pray and cook, or at least I do. And I did. The trial wedding cake was made the day I knew my Popop was leaving us. After one of my shifts at the nursing home, instead of sleeping, I got out Mom's Kitchen Aid. And it helped more than sleep could have. Mixing up batter, following the precision of a well-tested recipe, allowed for my mind to hang onto something that was concrete, something that was certain, and took me to a place of sweet memories of food around my Grandmother's table and the way in which Milton Parks so enjoyed every meal. My love for food has grown in many ways but it started with family and that's something I can be so proud of. He was a farmer and a tomato canner. He was strong and firm but exuded kindness and the most incredible smile. He was my hero.

So, I cried and celebrated him in making a recipe that now holds so many wonderful memories for me that I was able to share with family. And then I made it again a few days later on a bigger scale with the help of dear friends and was so very happy to contribute even something small to one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been to.

Life is ugly. Life is beautiful. Life is what you make of it.

When you feel out of control, bake. That's my new motto. One I've been guilty of since avoiding finals during college and now one that I admit consciously.

And when you're given the opportunity, bake a wedding cake. It provides a unique perspective on life.

This cake recipe is for a three layer cake. it is absolutely fudgy and delicious. The cakes turn out perfectly with no need for leveling and it is one I will be making for years to come.

Chocolate Truffle Cake
16 servings - begin three hours before serving or day ahead

2 8 oz packages unsweetened chocolate (16 1-oz squares like Baker's)
1 cup plus 6 tbs unsalted butter at room temp
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 and 2/3 c all purpose flour
2 c sugar
1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 and 1/2 c powdered sugar
1/4 c heavy whipping cream

(for the buttercream)
2 sticks of butter unsalted, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
3 c powdered sugar
1 tbs heavy cream

- Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and preheat the oven to 325.
- In a medium sized sauce pan, heat 12 squares of unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Add in the cup of butter to incorporate and then 2 and 1/2 c of water. Stir until smooth, remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract. Beat a little bit of the chocolate mixture in, whisking vigorously to avoid scrambling, then add the remaining chocolate mixture. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt with a fork. Then gently stir this into the chocolate bowl until well blended.
- Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes in their pans on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and complete cooling.
- At this point, prepare the truffle mixture. In another medium sized saucepan, heat the remaining four squares of chocolate over low heat as before, stirring often. Stir in the remaining 6 tbs butter, powdered sugar and whipping cream until blended. It may look lumpy and impossible for a little while, keep stirring!
- Once your cakes are cool, place the bottom layer on your cake plate. Spread half of the truffle mixture on top, put the middle layer down and top with the remaining truffle mixture and put the final layer on. At this point, tightly cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or even overnight before frosting.
- To mix up the buttercream, beat the two room temp sticks of butter until smooth, add in the sugar, vanilla and cream until fluffy and spread evenly onto your cake!
- If assembling right out of the fridge, allow an hour or so for the core of the cake not to be chilled.

*Recipe adapted from All Recipes

He Comes Bearing Na'an

Welcome to June's Tuesdays with Dorie post, where I test out many of the recipes in Baking with Julia with dozens of other bloggers! I've been rather behind in blogging after the death of my sweet Grandfather and many other life events which I will share with you in a second post later tonight (nothing like catching up!) but for now, here's a look at Oasis Na'an straight from the book!

If you're looking for a simple na'an that requires few steps and is super easy to work with, look no further. I made this in our little garage apartment which is our residence for the next week while we play the Bach Festival in Victoria, TX. Greg even took some to our hosts in the big house! With just a few ingredients and utensils, you'll end up with quite a tasty treat.

You can find the link to the recipe here! Tune in later tonight for the wedding cake post!