Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dulce de Leche Decadence

About a month ago it was Mountain Man's birthday so instead of sending him something in the mail (knowing it would take at least a week to make it to GA) I decided to wait till he was coming to visit to make him his birthday cake. Last year I set the bar pretty high as far as birthday cakes go when I made a cake for/of him and his brother climbing a mountain- complete with little fondant replicas of themselves. I was very happy with the way it turned out and I think Mountain Man and his brother were pretty satisfied as well :) 

Of course, this year I knew I had to make something good, but instead of going with something eye catching I decided to make something super tummy worthy (not that the other cake didn't taste good as well). Mountain Man definitely likes his fair share of Mexican food and goodies, so when I came across the recipe for a Mexican Chocolate Cake (thank you Betty) I knew it was going to be a winner. It also went perfectly with my new obsession of Dulce de Leche which I've been trying to incorporate into something since returning from Miami. When all was said in done I had figured it out.. Mountain Man would be getting surprised with a Dulce de Leche filled Mexican Chocolate Cake covered in Chocolate Ganache, which we later went on to call Dulce de Leche Decadence. So let's break this down..

First off, you might be thinking, well what exactly makes a chocolate cake a Mexican chocolate cake? It's not like Mexico is really known for their chocolate?? but what they are known for is adding a little cinnamon to their chocolate. The first time I actually ever had this glorious combination was when I was much younger. My best friend at the time was part Mexican and her mother made the best hot chocolate- which of course contained cinnamon. I can still remember coming in for snacks one cold afternoon and watching her mother make us hot chocolate on the stove top with warm smell of cinnamon and chocolate simmering in the sauce pan. The next time I was really reminded of this wonderful combo was at Mountain Man's house one afternoon as I searched for something to pour over my ice cream- courtesy of a little bottle of Nestle's Abuelita's Chocolate Sauce.

Dulce de Leche, or the creamiest, most wonderful caramel ever, is also one of the easiest things ever to make. It also has the shortest ingredient list of all time- one can of condensed milk. That's it.. I never knew dulce de leche was that easy!? And it's just so good... I'm thinking about just having it on hand from now on to pour over top ice cream or anything for that matter.

And what better to cover an already amazingly rich cake than with chocolate ganache?

Mexican Chocolate Cake
recipe from none other than Ms. Betty Crocker
Oven: 350 Bake time: 35 minutes
Yields 2 round cake pans*

3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Prepare cake pans- grease and flour.
Beat coffee, cocoa and cinnamon with a wire whisk until smooth-set aside until mixture cools a little bit.
In another bowl mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
In a large bowl (love my kitchen aid) beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. 
Stir buttermilk and vanilla into coffee mixture.
Starting and ending with flour mixture alternate with coffee mixture into butter mixture. Beat until all ingredients are combined and batter is smooth.
Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them and leaving to cool completely.
 *I actually used a loaf pan for this cake because I was tired to making only round cakes. It still turned out, but if you want to do this you need to increase your baking time about 20 minutes more or so.

While the cakes are cooling, its time to make the filling.

Dulce de Leche
Increase oven temperature to 425. Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass baking pan and cover with foil. Place the filled baking pan in a larger pan and fill the larger pan with water just till about halfway up the pan that is filled with the milk. You're creating a water bath for the milk so that it doesn't burn. Place the two pans in the oven and bake for at least an hour. You might want to check on it about half way through to see if more water needs to be added to the outside pan- you don't want your milk to burn! After about an hour, check to make sure your condensed milk has become a golden amber or browned a bit (if it hasn't give it a few more minutes) and remove from oven. Once it's cooled, mix with a whisk until smooth.

Chocolate Ganache
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 TBS butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream *add more to make thinner/pourable

In a saucepan, heat heavy cream until hot and mix in chocolate and butter, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat.
*Don't start to make your ganache until you're just about ready to pour it over your cake.

1. No matter how many layers you choose to use, round or rectangle or square, always remember to level off your layers!
2. Place your first layer on a cooling rack (I should have done this, but instead ended up with a mess) and spread a good amount of dulce de leche over top. Don't worry if it starts to ooze out a little bit. Repeat process with other layers.


3. Once you last layer of cake is placed on top.. get your warm ganache and pour it over top your cake, letting the ganache fall over the edges of the cake. When you feel like you've got a good layer, smooth out the sides with the flat end of a butter knife or spatula. If you're not satisfied with the smoothness (I never am) wait for this layer of ganache to cool and then pour another layer on.. I mean who doesn't want double the chocolate anyway!?
Let the ganache cool and harden over the cake before serving.

The aroma of cinnamon and chocolate baking in the oven is unlike any other and you will most definitely not be disappointed with this cake. Just to show you what I'm talking about, I'll share this story with you: MM's parents came to visit this early this week. Before we went out to dinner Tuesday night his mom and I indulged in a small piece of cake (as an appetizer of course) and she loved it. When we got back from dinner she asked for another to take on the road with them as they made their way back down the road. Then, when his brother came into town last night he informed me that she asked for another piece upon his return :)

Happy Baking!