The Brazilian Chocolate Cake from the Greens cookbook: we've been making it for so long that the page is like some sort of archaeological artifact from our history--each stain and bloop of batter and penciled-in note evidence of some or other birthday or celebration from the past twenty years. We've been making it for so long that we don't remember when we started slicing the cake open and spooning jam inside, or when we started using what is technically the filling as a kind of spooned-on glaze or when we stopped wondering why it was named that. We've made it a brazillion times. And so we were surprised when we made it just now and someone made a lewd joke about Brazilian, in the waxing sense. "Then why is it called that?" he asked, and I really had no idea.
But I do know that this is our go-to adult-birthday cake (God, there I go again, like I'm incapable of anything but amorphously crass innuendo) and it is, to my mind, perfect: tender and chocolaty, moist and a gorgeous deep red-brown when you cut into it, but not obscenely rich. There's a little back note of coffee here (use decaf if you're worried about your kids), a little sweetness and tang from the jam, a luxurious coat of buttery glaze, although I, of course, also like the cake in its very plain and unadulterated form, with just a sifting of powdered sugar over the top, but that's just me, I know. Michael makes this cake as often as I do, if not more often, and it's not hard, but you really have to follow the directions, and you really have to not over-bake it. That said, though, one of the things I love is that the ingredients list is so modest: it's not pounds and pounds of chocolate and butter or anything, and yet the resulting cake is so lovely and complex. If you're Brazilian, then you can explain to me how that's a classic Brazilian thing. I hope you will, because I'm all ears.
Brazilian Chocolate Cake
Makes 1 cake, serving 8-12
Active time: 45 minutes; total time 1 ½ hours
Adapted from Greens. The jam is ours, as is the glazing of the top.
3 ounces semisweet chocolate (this is about ½ cup of chips)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot strong coffee
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (I actually use unsalted for this, since I'm already buying it for the glaze and want to use it up)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
½ cup very flavorful raspberry or cherry jam (or some other kind you like)
Chocolate glaze (below)
Whipped cream and berries or jam for serving
Heat the oven to 350 and grease and flour a bundt pan or a tube pan (I spray mine with that horrible icky Pam baking spray that I am secretly devoted to.) Make sure your pan is one piece, since the batter is thin and will flow through the seams of a two-piece pan.
In the top of a double boiler over low heat, melt the chocolate with 2 tablespoons of the coffee, stirring constantly until it is melted and smooth. Remove it from the heat and set it aside.
Sift the flour, then measure two cups. Even though I don't usually sift anything, I do in this case. But then you're supposed to resift it with the soda and salt, but I just whisk those in. Set the flour mixture aside.
Cream the butter, then add the sugar gradually and beat until the mixture is very light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well, then stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla. (I do this with my stand mixer on "stir.") Stir in the flour, alternating it with the rest of the coffee (this looks like flour, coffee, flour, coffee, flour). The batter will slop around and be kind of messy; don't overmix it, but try to mix it just the right amount (said Goldilocks the baker).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it until it is just pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean or almost clean, around 45 minutes. It's the kind of cake that often has a damp, sticky top--even when it's done--so don't stick the toothpick into that part or you'll end up thinking it's not done when really it is. Cool the cake 5 minutes in the pan, then finish cooling it completely on a rack.
Cut the cake in half using a sharp, serrated knife, then spoon the jam onto the bottom layer. Drizzle about half or a third of the glaze over the jam, then sandwich the top layer over it and drizzle the rest of the glaze over the cake decoratively, letting it run down the side in ways that are more attractive than gross. Serve with whipped cream and, if you like, a few fresh raspberries or a spoonful of jam.
3 ounces semisweet chocolate (about ½ cup chips, in case you already forgot)
3 tablespoons water or strong coffee (I use water for the glaze)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate together with the water or coffee, stirring until smooth. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla, then stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all smooth and incorporated. The glaze will be thin at first, but will thicken as it cools. This part is a little tricky, honestly. When Michael makes it, he cools the glaze by stirring the pot over a bowl of ice, and it thickens too much and he ends up spackling it onto the cake, which is really not good treatment of the bundt. I just kind of stir it while it cools, doing some other stuff nearby for a while and waiting patiently for the moment when it seems about as thick as cake batter, and therefore perfect for attractive drizzling. It will set up somewhat afterwards, but softly. (What light from yonder window breaks?)
|These are most of the ingredients, except for the coffee and vanilla.|
|But here's the coffee! It looks like a product placement situation for Allegro, but that's just what I happened to have.|
|And here's a little more information about the chocolate. It's not that much, right? But it's perfect.|
|The making of the batter.|
|The batter poured into a bundt pan that was Michael's mother's and is more or less a family heirloom.|
|Birdy licking a spatula, in 2007. Seriously. That's when I first photographed this cake. But the rest of the pictures are from now.|
|The baked cake--see how it looks a little sticky still on top? That's just fine.|
|Cake sold "as is." Seriously--I can't resist showing you the part where I don't seem to have mixed the batter very well.|
|The cake is halved and ready for fun.|
|This is raspberry jam from a recipe I was just developing for FamilyFun! Handy. But you can *buy* some. I know. I'm flexible.|
|Then a bit of the glaze goes over it. Doesn't that look so good?|
|Getting lit. Also, the cake with its candles. Ha ha.|
|The beautiful birthday girl, aka (for long-time readers) "Ava's mom." I gave her a hanky that I'd cornily embroidered with the words "bless you." Useful, no? No?|
|Because she loves me, she said, not, "This cake again?" but "Oh, I always love this cake!"|
|Mr. Dimples likes this cake too.|