Saturday, February 18, 2012

One Mahvelous Cake

This is a photo of a cake I baked for my Orthopedist and her crew on Friday; it's called The Arlene Dahl cake, and of course it has a story! 
 About 10 years ago, a friend had rented her home to Lorenzo Llamas and his production company to film an episode of his show Renegade at her house.  It happened to be her sons' birthday, and the family was told it could not use the kitchen, and so I made this chocolate cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting, and brought it over.  Lorenzo's mother, Arlene Dahl was standing  in the kitchen when I arrived and swooned over the cake.  She asked if she could have a piece, and I said we'd have to ask the birthday boy, who was happy to oblige after we lit a few candles, and sang happy birthday.  
Arlene Dahl pronounced the cake, "mahvelous".  This chocolate cake is simple, but absolute addictive.  It was the cake we'd bake for my daughters' birthdays and I've adapted it to lots of different iterations, including a caramelized banana chocolate cake that I taught to the students in my class on Thursday.  I hope you'll try it, it's worth waiting for!

The Arlene Dahl Cake
Makes two 9-inch round cakes, or 1 13-by-9-inch cake
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup Ghirardelli ground chocolate
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk (or a scant cup of whole milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir whisk together the flour, sugar, chocolate, and baking soda. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, eggs, water, and vanilla, then, using. 
  3. With an electric mixer, blend on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. 
  4. Place the cake on a rack and let cool completely, then remove from the pan.
  5. Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze for 2 months.   Defrost before continuing. 
  6.  Frost the cake or serve plain with vanilla ice cream and the hot fudge sauce. Variations:
  7.  This cake can also be prepared in two-9-inch round pans, and baked for 30 to 35 minutes. If you are baking it in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, allow it to cool completely in the pan before frosting. If you prepared two 9-inch round pans, let them the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove transfer from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely.  
  8. Cooks' Note:  Ghirardelli ground chocolate is NOT cocoa powder; it can be found in the baking section of your supermarket, or here.    Vanilla paste is vanilla beans chopped in an emulsion, giving you a great punch of vanilla flavor.  It is available at gourmet retailers, or here.   
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
5  to 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract
Milk, as needed

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter in a medium-size bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until the mixture is of spreadable consistency.  If the frosting is too thick, beat in some milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months. I recommend you soften it at room temperature after it’s been refrigerated, so it’s easy to spread.
 On Thursday I made this caramelized banana upside down cake and it was a winner!  This is the remains of the day.  I'll post the recipe in a few days.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend. 

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