Now with a fresh chocolate rat:
Have I every told you that I work in a chocolate shop? Well, I do and I can say that after twelve months the aroma of chocolate lacks none of its original splendor. Of course, it is more of a lingering eau de chocolat to me now than a knock your socks off bouquet. Regardless, I consider myself somewhat impervious to the charms of chocolate, having worked so intimately with it for so long. That all changed the minute I encountered this "Chocolate Brownie Cake" batter; I vigorously inhaled glutenous, needy breathes of the stuff with my nose mere inches from the bowl. Of course, I've always been a proponent of the brownie. Freshman year my suite gave me a cookbook all about cookies and brownies; a month later their generous, if premeditated, efforts were rewarded with a big platter of double chocolate brownies. A few months after that I found one of my all-time favorite cookbooks on the discount table at the campus bookstore, "How to be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson. Three years and six months later I discovered the hands down best brownie recipe known to mankind inside that very book. Seriously, you don't want me to post it. For starters, you won't eat just one and just one will satisfy an entire day's worth of calories. Secondly, it requires about fifteen dollars worth of chocolate-more if you intend on buying the good stuff. And trust me, you want the good stuff.
With that in mind I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon ravaging websites for affordable brownie recipes, preferably something that I could convert into mini-muffin brownie bites. After dinner, with failure looming, it hit me: Rich Chocolate Brownie Cake from "Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining"(2007). It was exactly the recipe I was looking for: it is a great dessert for almost any occasion. The batter is very simple to make and it bakes up in only 30 minutes. The "cake" comes out of the pan very easily, thanks to the buttered tin foil (genius), with a shiny flaky top. My only complaint is that my cake fell slightly after baking. At first, I thought it was my fault; I am human, after all. But, upon inverting the cake I realized that although the recipe says to place the cake "right side up" on the serving dish those sneaky foodies decorated the cake when it was inverted to portray a robust and perfectly level cake! Tricksters, thieves and sell-outs! Then again, maybe they just used magic... Although I do feel a sense of betrayal now when I look at that beautiful cookbook cover, I am proud to display my homely, crest-fallen brownie cake and its resplendent, if possibly plague ridden, chocolate rat. He tastes better than any photograph possibly could.
Notes on decorating:
I imagined decorating this cake with a fudge icing and about a hundred candy corn pieces but, in the end, I decided to stick with the stenciling effect prompted in the book. Stores like Crate and Barrell have a variety of cake and cupcake stencils but you don't need anything fancy to stencil like a pro. Use cookie cutters to trace shapes, or free-hand whatever design you'd like, on card stock or waxed paper. Add a dusting of powdered sugar and then remove your stencil. Viola! For an even more impressive presentation try decorating this cake with fresh raspberries for a romantic twist, a smooth veil of ganache for a rich finish or cheeky rosettes of cream cheese frosting. For more creepy Halloween ideas try:
- Spider Webs: Fill a ziplock bag with 2 oz melted white chocolate, cutting off one corner (don't make the cut too large). Pipe three concentric circles onto the cake, starting in the center. Then, starting at one side of the cake, drag a knife through each of the circles without lifting it. Repeat to create a web design.
- Chocolate Rat: Create a rat stencil using card stock or waxed paper. Using the rat cut out, place it in the center of your cake. Dust powdered sugar over the entire cake and then remove the cut out. Outline your rat in melted chocolate or chocolate icing, fill it in and then smooth any bubbles. Add a red hot, a red sprinkle or even a red M & M for an eye.
Rich Chocolate Brownie Cake from "Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining"(2007)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour, sifted
4 oz good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1. Preheat your oven to 350. Press a single sheet of tin foil into an 8" round cake pan, pressing to make it fit snugly. Let the extra foil hang out over the sides. Butter the tin foil with shortening, butter or cooking spray.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and your eggs, lightly beaten. Beat the mixture together.
3. Melt your chocolate in a double boiler, or according to the package directions in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. Sift your dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition.
5. Add the chocolate to the batter, mixing well.
6. Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan, patting gently on the bottom to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
7. To remove the cake from the pan: run a knife around the edge of the cake, then place your serving dish on top of the cake. Invert the pan and the cake should wiggle free of its own accord onto the cake dish (it will be upside down). If this doesn't happen right away you can gently coax the cake out by patting on the bottom of the pan to help loosen it. Remove the tin foil. Placing another plate on the top of the cake (or you hand) flip the cake over and slide it onto your serving dish right side up.
Quibble: I can't move my photos around within the post. How do I, a less than HTML savy bandita, sandwich photos between big blocks of text?