Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter chocolate extravaganza

Each year, I start my Easter baking with such high hopes, such determination, so much positive thinking that I am absolutely convinced that nothing can go wrong.






I am confident that there will be no glitch in my plans and that I'm going to produce a flawless tsoureki (a brioche-like Greek Easter bread), one that will make my grandmother proud and declare me her worthy successor as the family's tsoureki baker, and that I'm going to whip up the most beautiful and aromatic Greek Easter cookies that ever came out of a little expat kitchen.






And then reality strikes. Something always seems to go wrong. My tsoureki either does not rise, like last year, or the flavor is sub par because I decide on a whim to experiment with some of the ingredients and add a number of twists to the recipe, like this year. When will I learn not to mess with a good thing?





S says that I'm intentionally sabotaging myself because deep down I want to break free of tradition and prepare something completely different for Easter, like last year, when I made a honey bee chocolate cake.






Well, I believe that S, who incidentally hates tsoureki (and who is obviously nuts), will find any excuse to avoid eating it. These little disasters are exactly what he needs in order to support his case of a tsoureki-free Easter. He's always trying to persuade me to make anything with chocolate instead. Not that my arm needs any twisting with that.






So, the traditional Greek cookies have been substituted by chocolate truffle eggs and the tsoureki by a rich, two layered, chocolate cake. And you know what? I think I'm gonna start a new tradition (even if that is an oxymoron). Every Easter from now on, I will be baking a chocolate cake. And a tsoureki. And cookies. Sorry, I can't help it.






I'm sure I've told you this before but I'm a hard-core chocoholic—it's sickening, I can't live without the stuff—and this cake is my dream come true. It has dark chocolate and milk chocolate and white chocolate and blue chocolate and speckled blue chocolate. Well, the last two kinds are my own doing. What a little food coloring can do-ooh-ooh.






Making this cake was admittedly kind of hard. Not so much technique-wise but time-wise. It was a two-day affair for me. The first day I made the chocolate egg truffles and the second day I made the actual cake. Why it took me two days, you ask? Well, that's what happens when you have a small kitchen, one very small counter top, and a small fridge. No place to chill, cool, refrigerate, rest, store, put stuff.






The egg truffles are pretty straightforward. You make a ganache with butter, chill it and then shape it with your hands into small eggs. You melt the white chocolate, add blue food coloring, dip the glorious truffles in it and voilà—blue and speckled blue chocolate truffle eggs.






The actual cake has three components. The baked chocolate cake, the whipped ganache frosting and filling, and the chocolate glaze. Triple chocolate attack. And then, because all this chocolate cannot possibly be enough and because this is an egg-nest cake, milk chocolate shavings are added on top to form the nest and the pretty little eggs are placed inside. Ah, the chocolate extravaganza!






Needless to say that when I finished preparing the cake, I was covered in chocolate from head to toe. That will teach me for being smug and always refusing to wear an apron. When S came home from work that day, the first thing he did when he laid eyes on me, was laugh. He was mocking me, people. Well, in a good way. He knew there was chocolate cake at stake.






When I was done, I knew I had accomplished something good. It was gorgeous. I loved it; not only its appearance but also its flavor. The cake was so moist and had an incredibly rich texture, and the frosting was so light and chocolaty. The glaze was sweet and shiny and the truffle eggs were dense and utterly delicious; the perfect two-bite chocolate truffle. Without being overly sweet, without giving you the feeling that you overdosed on chocolate (although some chocolate-haters might disagree with me on that), my own little Easter-egg nest cake was a complete success. Now you go and make your own!













Two-layered Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake with Truffle Eggs
Adapted from Martha Stewart

This cake might look complicated but it is not. I mean, if I can do it, you can do it. And you know what else? I made this whole cake, plus the truffle eggs, without using any kind of electric mixer. Yes, you heard me right. I used just a simple wire whisk. You gotta love wire whisks. They're the perfect tool. That and offset spatulas. If you have those two tools, you're set.

This cake need not only be for Easter. Exchange the truffle eggs on top of the cake for simple, round truffles, or use only chocolate shavings, and make this a birthday cake or any other kind of celebration cake you like.






Yield: 1 cake/ 8-10 servings

Ingredients

for the cake
230 g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing the pans
45 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder plus extra for sprinkling the inside of the pans
2.5 g (about 1 Tbsp) instant espresso powder
60 ml water
420 g sugar
2 large eggs
30 ml pure vanilla extract
120 ml full-fat, fresh buttermilk
310 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

for the ganache frosting
230 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
120 ml cream, full-fat

for the chocolate glaze
230 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
120 ml cream, full-fat
30 ml Lyle's Golden Syrup or mild-flavored runny honey

for decorating the cake
250 g good quality milk chocolate
Chocolate truffle eggs (see recipe below)

Special equipment: 2 round spring form pans, 18 cm in diameter and 7-8 cm deep, baking paper, wire whisk, small offset spatula (optional)


Preparation

Make the cake
Butter both pans well and line the bottom with baking paper. Butter the baking paper and sprinkle the bottom and sides of the pans with cocoa powder. Tap out excess.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.


In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt with a spoon.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the espresso powder, the cocoa and the water and whisk until completely dissolved. Add the sugar and whisk until you have a smooth mixture. Remove saucepan from the heat.
Let stand for 5 minutes and add the eggs, one by one, whisking vigorously after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and buttermilk and whisk well. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until combined.

Divide the cake batter equally between the two prepared pans. Place them on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until a knife or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Place both pans on a wire rack and let cakes cool for about 20 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans, remove baking paper, and place on the wire rack to cool completely. Be careful how you unmold the cakes because they will be soft. Be careful not to break them.



Make the ganache frosting
While the cake is cooling, prepare the ganache.

Place dark chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not come in contact with the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

Transfer the ganache into a clean bowl and place it in the fridge for 40-45 minutes. Every 10 minutes, take bowl out of the fridge and stir ganache well with a rubber spatula. You will end up with a ganache that has the consistency of thick cream cheese. Take ganache out of the fridge and whisk vigorously until smooth and fluffy.

Coat the cake layers with the whipped ganache
Trim tops of cake layers level. (The pieces you cut off will serve as a perfect breakfast the following day).

Place one cake, cut side up, on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Measure ½ cup of the whipped ganache frosting and spread it over the top of the cake, smoothing it out with the help of a small offset spatula (or a regular spatula). Place carefully the second cake on top, cut side down, and coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining ganache frosting.
Place in the refrigerator until the frosting firms up, for about 20 minutes.

Make the chocolate glaze
Place dark chocolate, cream and golden syrup (or honey) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not come in contact with the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the bowl from over the pan and let glaze cool for 5 minutes.

Take the cake out of the fridge and pour the glaze over it. With the help of an offset spatula, spread the glaze around and let it drip down the sides of the cake. Smooth it out and put cake back in the fridge so the glaze can set, for about 20 minutes.

Decorate and serve the cake
In the meantime, make milk chocolate shavings or curls by using a knife and scrapping the back side of the chocolate bar. You will need approximately 1 ½ cups of chocolate curls and shavings to make the nest on top of the cake. Place curls in the fridge until ready to use.

Take the cake out of the fridge and transfer it carefully from the wire rack onto a serving dish or cake stand.

Form a nest using the chocolate shavings and place 3 small eggs in the middle.

Serve the cake. Cut thin slices because the cake is tall and fulfilling.

Keep the cake covered, at room temperature, for 2-3 days.













Chocolate Truffle Eggs
Adapted from Martha Stewart

The filling of these truffle eggs is a ganache made with butter. It has a super rich flavor that pairs beautifully with the white/blue chocolate coating.

The secret to making fingerprint-free truffle eggs is to use toothpicks or small wooden skewers to hold the truffles and dip them into the melted chocolate.






Yield: 18-22 truffle eggs (depending on the size. I made 18 ping-pong ball-sized eggs)

Ingredients
230 g good quality dark 55% chocolate, roughly chopped
115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
90 ml cream, full-fat
700 g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
Sky-blue gel paste food coloring

Special equipment: latex disposable gloves (optional), 1 packet strong toothpicks


Preparation
Place dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not come in contact with the water. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the bowl from over the pan. In the meantime, heat the cream in a small saucepan (do not boil it). Pour cream into the melted chocolate and butter, and stir until it is incorporated.

Empty the ganache in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is very cold and set but still pliable, for about 2 hours.

Using a tablespoon as a measure, scoop balls of ganache, placing each one on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Put them in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.


Using your hands (preferably wearing latex gloves to make your life easier) and working quickly, shape the balls into small eggs and place them back on the baking paper. Put the eggs in the freezer until very firm, for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the pan does not come in contact with the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth.


Divide the white chocolate equally between two medium-sized bowls. Add some drops of blue food coloring to one bowl until you have your desired shade of blue, stirring well with a spatula.

Add some drops of blue food coloring to the other bowl but don't stir with a spatula. Using a toothpick, swirl the food coloring around.



Take the eggs out of the freezer and stick a toothpick in one end of each egg. Holding the eggs by the toothpicks, dip them one by one into the blue or speckled blue chocolate. Coat the eggs well and let the excess chocolate drip off back into the bowl. Place eggs back on the baking paper and once you're done with all of them, place them in the fridge for 10 minutes. Take them out of the fridge and remove carefully the toothpick from each egg. Put eggs back in the fridge for 50 minutes to set completely.

Use the eggs to decorate the cake.

Keep the rest of the eggs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Note: if there's any blue chocolate left after you have finished coating the eggs, make small chocolates like I did, using chocolate molds.






HAPPY EΑSTER EVERYBODY!!!




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28 comments:

  1. Magda, the lacquer on the cake and the blue truffle eggs look so beautiful.

    Happy Easter to you and yours!

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  2. Thank you very much Nisrine!

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  3. wow...this is seriously so beautiful i want to go to the store and get ingredients to make it right now... and it's 10:30 at night... sadly I have to do some conversions first because I don't know anything about grams, milliliters, and celsius oven temps...I'm going to make those calculations though so I can make this incredibly gorgeous cake...this is literally one of the most beautiful food-related things I have ever seen on the internet...hats off to you! Happy Easter!

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  4. WONDERFUL!!....elegant and delicious....I love it!!.....Abrazotes, Marcela

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  5. What a masterpiece! I love how you used buttermilk in your recipe as well... makes for great tang. Kalo Pascha!

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  6. Stunning, as always! I think I may just "need" to make some of those truffles right now! Happy Easter! David

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  7. So lovely! Here's to "new" traditions!!!
    Happy Easter to you and S.

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  8. Your cake sounds and looks irresistible! I am impressed that you made the eggs yourself! Cool! Oh and it looks beautiful~ the brioche can wait!

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  9. Such a beautiful cake, it definitely deserves to become a new tradition.
    I carefully tried until I found one tradition I quite like for Easter: pastiera, a ricotta, orange blossom and wheat berries cake typical of Naples. It is so good, we are dreaming about it the whole year. I don't feel any urge for twisting on this occasion!

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  10. Lynn Lovejoy — hello! It's very easy to make the conversions through a conversion table found very easily on the internet. If you make the cake I would love to find out how you liked it. Happy Easter!

    Marcela, Anna, David — thank you!

    Joumana — yes, I had to make them myself. They weren't difficult at all just a bit time-consuming. Thank you!

    lacaffettierarosa — the pastiera sounds great! New traditions are the best aren't they?

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  11. That cake looks stunning and the egg pop truffle garnishes are great too. I wish I could sneak to Albert Heijn to get some karnemilk for this today!Have a great Easter

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  12. Wow. No Easter baking here. I've only shared one hot cross bun with my husband, at a bakery. All of this chocolate looks wonderful. Happy Easter!

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  13. Magda! I made it and it was delicious! It was a big success Easter dinner at my boyfriend's family's place! Thank you so so so so much! Mine didn't turn out quite as gorgeous as yours but if you want to check it out, it's on my cooking blog (don't worry I definitely gave you credit!)...You can get to it through my google account but here is the link directly to it: http://cookingtograduation.blogspot.com/2011/04/happy-easter.html

    I made the eggs out of peanut butter instead of ganache because my boyfriend loves PB. My cake and pictures aren't anything compared to yours, but I'm just a beginner so I guess I can't expect greatness right away! Thank you again... this will be my new tradition and hopefully one day mine can be as beautiful as yours!

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  14. Oz, Denise — thank you, Happy Easter!

    Lynn — I'm so happy you liked it and that everyone enjoyed it! I just saw it on your blog and it looks very pretty. Here's to new traditions! :)

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  15. yes! please start a new tradition! this cake looks sooo good!

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  16. beautiful, beautiful, Magda. Change is good--so here's to new traditions!
    I am crazy about those blue truffle eggs---fabulous in their little shaved chocolate nest!

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  17. Stunningly beautiful cake. How fun to go through each step of the way with your thoughtful descriptions. What a sight of an Easter cake.

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  18. Absolutely magnificent cake! All your hard work so well worth it. I wish I could taste it! Great photos too

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  19. wow this cake is first class and the eggs are so cute great pictures too making your own traditions

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  20. What an adorable cake, that must have really taken a lot of time, and patience! Well DONE!!!

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  21. I think such a marvelous cake is perfectly fit to start a new tradition. The moistness is so tempting and the more chocolate the better. I love the bluer eggs, they look like robin eggs. Hope you had an Easter that was as lovely as your cake.

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  22. Magda Hi! Christos Anesty!! All your sweets look so delicious, congratulations on a lovely job!

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  23. Wow Magda! Am so tickled I received a comment from a fellow blogger!! Am new at this and not too much of a computer savvy. As you've seen my blog is mess. But hey yours is soooo...elegant and lady-like. Cheers and God Bless

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  24. Lovely post and for me, a great truffle idea for the future. Happy Spring Magda.

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  25. This is the prettiest Easter cake ever! I hope you had a lovely and relaxing break x

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  26. Christos Anesti!
    I love your new tradition! :-))

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  27. Hello Anna, Alithos Anesti!

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  28. Hi, I really love your Two-layered Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake with Truffle Eggs. OMG! it's so mouth watering I also admire your creativity and talent in making this cake. I'm a chocolate fanatic and I really love to try this one at home. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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