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Milk Street Chocolate (Ep 512)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream Cake
Start to finish: 13⁄4 hours, plus cooling and chilling
Servings: 12

This impressive and sumptuous special-occasion dessert, composed of two “go-to” recipes from Dominique Ansel’s book “Everyone Can Bake,” is easier to make than you might think. We did modify both his chocolate cake and the mascarpone whipped ganache, and we also added a coffee syrup for moistening the cake before assembly. We fold a chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) into half of the whipped ganache to sandwich between the cake layers; the remaining whipped ganache is spread on top, creating a unique striped effect. The cake itself has the deepest, richest flavor and color when made with a good-quality dark Dutch- processed cocoa powder—we had the best results with Valrhona. Part of the beauty of this dessert is that the cake and filling can be made ahead; even after assembly, the dessert will hold nicely for up to 24 hours. We recommend making the ganache base and the cake a day in advance and refrigerating them separately. The following day, whip the ganache, assemble the dessert and refrigerate for at least two hours or for up to an entire day. For neat slices, cut the
cake with a serrated knife that’s been warmed in hot water and wiped dry. To store leftovers, press plastic wrap directly against the cakes’ cut sides and refrigerate for up to two days.

Don’t whip the ganache before the mixture is completely cold and set. If whipped too soon, it won’t attain the proper light, fluffy volume. When spreading the whipped ganache on the top layer of cake, the less you manipulate it, the better. Overworking may cause the ganache to become grainy and lose its velvety smoothness.
Finally, don’t allow the cake to stand for more than about 30 minutes before serving; if it loses too much of its chill, the filling softens and the layers may begin to slide apart.

For the whipped ganache:
170 grams (6 ounces) white chocolate, finely chopped
1 packet (7 grams) unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons honey

For the cake:
40 grams (1⁄2 cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder (see headnote), plus more for the pan
216 grams (12⁄3 cups) all-purpose flour
321 grams (11⁄2 cups) white sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, preferably low-fat
2⁄3 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the soaking syrup:
71 grams (1⁄3 cup) white sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

For assembly:
95 grams (1⁄3 cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
35 grams (1⁄4 cup) toasted skinned hazelnuts, half roughly chopped, half
very finely chopped, reserved separately

To make the ganache, put the white chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and 2 tablespoons water; set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the cream, mascarpone and honey. Cook, stirring often, until the mascarpone is fully melted and the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and whisk until completely dissolved. Immediately pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate, then let stand for about 1 minute.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until completely smooth. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled and fully set, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist the bottom and sides of a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment, then mist the parchment. Using a paper towel, evenly spread the oil. Dust the pan evenly with cocoa and knock out any excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla until homogeneous. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and, using a large silicone spatula, fold until the batter is completely smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then rap the pan 4 or 5 times against the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then invert it onto the rack and lift off the pan. Remove and discard the parchment, then carefully re-invert the cake and let cool completely. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and set on a large, flat plate. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

When ready to assemble, make the soaking syrup. In a 1-cup liquid measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the sugar and 1⁄4 cup water. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir until the sugar is fully melted and the syrup is clear. Add the instant espresso and whisk until dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Unwrap the chilled cake and set it on a cutting board or other flat surface. Using a pastry brush, brush the sides of the cake evenly with 11⁄2 tablespoons of the syrup. Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully slice off and remove the domed surface of the cake, creating a level top. Now slice the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.
Carefully lift off the top layer and set aside; transfer the bottom layer to a cake platter. Brush the surface of both cake layers with all of the remaining syrup, dividing it evenly; the layers should be well moistened but not soggy.

Transfer the chilled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on high until lightened and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl once. Meanwhile, put the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl and stir to smooth and soften. Scoop half (about 440 grams/3 cups) of the whipped ganache into the bowl containing the chocolate-hazelnut spread, and, using a silicone spatula, gently fold until homogeneous. Scoop the chocolate-hazelnut ganache onto the center of the bottom cake layer, then use an offset icing spatula to spread it in an even layer, all the way to the edges of the cake.

Using a wide metal spatula, lift the top cake layer and gently center it on the chocolate-hazelnut ganache layer; do not press on the cake. Using the whisk attachment, re-whip the remaining ganache on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scoop it onto the center of the top layer of the cake and spread it in an even layer or, if desired, create swirls in the surface. Scatter the finely chopped nuts over the top, followed by the roughly chopped nuts. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Before serving, let the cake stand at room temperature.

Swedish “Sticky” Chocolate Cake
Start to finish: 45 minutes (20 minutes active), plus cooling
Servings: 10 to 12

This gooey-centered chocolate cake, a popular sweet in Sweden, is called
kladdkaka, which translates as “sticky cake.” With only seven ingredients and an easy
dump-and-stir mixing method, it’s easy to love. For our version, we brown the butter
to add a subtle nuttiness, and we use brown sugar for its molasses notes. The cake can be
served warm or at room temperature. Top slices with whipped cream, ice cream or gelato.

Don’t whisk the eggs into the cocoa-sugar mixture while the mixture is still hot or the
eggs may begin to cook on contact.

12 tablespoons (11⁄2 sticks) salted butter, cut into 12 pieces
40 grams (1⁄2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more to serve
249 grams (11⁄4 cups) packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
98 grams (3⁄4 cup) all-purpose flour
75 grams (1⁄2 cup) chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, cook the butter, stirring, until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan are browned and the butter has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar; transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let cool until barely warm to the touch.

One at a time, whisk the eggs into the cocoa-sugar mixture, followed by the salt. Whisk in the flour, add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until the edges of the cake spring back when lightly pressed, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove the pan sides. Serve dusted with cocoa powder.

Flavored Whipped Cream
Plain whipped cream is fine, but a cake this rich begs for a topping spiked with bright balancing flavors. And making those tweaks to your typical whipped topping is easy. Try a TANGY DAIRY variation by mixing 1 cup heavy cream, 1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream and 11⁄2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar until uniform and frothy, then whip until soft peaks form. ALTERNATIVE SUGARS also are an option. Mix 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon light brown sugar until uniform and frothy, then whip until soft peaks form. Or better yet, something BOOZY: Mix 1 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon kirsch or triple sec until uniform.

You can watch  past episodes of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on WSKG Passport.

For more information about WSKG Passport, please visit our  support page.

To see other recipes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street and other shows, visit  Cooking with WSKG.