My daughter Julia claims that she does not like chocolate and was a little upset that I had picked a chocolate cake for our Valentine’s day dessert, but she quickly got over it when she saw that it involved brigadeiro filling, caramel crunch and a giant heart-shaped cookie cutter.
I made a regular round version of this cake for New Years’ Eve after having just arrived from Brazil, as a sort of last goodbye. I sent leftovers to Romas’ office with my usual suggestion to heat up slices for a few seconds in the microwave before eating. The cake was devoured and Romas came home with a request for the recipe, so I thought it was a good one to share (here you go, Nicole et al).
I’ve been going back to Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake: it is rich, moist and has a hint of coffee, a perfect match for a brigadeiro filling. The cake is light and airy and brigadeiro filing is thick, but if you frost it slowly and carefully it works out beautifully. You could also put the cake in the freezer for a few minutes before frosting it.
For the filling I doubled the traditional brigadeiro recipe and thinned it out a bit by adding heavy cream by the tablespoons, until reaching the desired spreadable consistency. In Brazil, we usually use creme de leite, a thick unsweetened cream that can be found in Latin American supermarkets or amazon.com, but I wanted to use an ingredient more readily available elsewhere.
For this batch of cashew caramel crunch I used less cashews and ended up with more of a plain caramel crunch, which was more like our kids’ preference, but equal parts of nuts and sugar definitely makes for the best crunch.
We (my assistant Julia and I) cut the cake with a giant heart-shaped cookie cutter and combined all unused cake pieces in another two layers, frosted and covered the cake with brigadeiro and caramel crunch for the office crowd. They work hard at eating the leftovers for us!
Happy Valentines’ Day, however you celebrate it. This chocolate cake pretty much guarantees great company. Just saying.
BETTY’S CHOCOLATE CAKE (Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)
Butter for greasing the pans
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
BRIGADEIRO FILLING AND FROSTING
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
8 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3-5 tablespoons of heavy cream (I used 4), until spreadable consistency is reached
Pour sweetened condensed milk on medium heavy bottom pan. Add cocoa powder and butter and heat over medium/low heat, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes slightly thicker and you can see the bottom of the pan when stirring, approximately 10 minutes. Add tablespoons of heavy cream one by one until and cook for another 3 minutes until desired spreadable consistency is reached. Pour on a greased bowl and let it cool a bit before spreading on cake.
CASHEW CARAMEL CRUNCH (Pralinê de Castanha-de-Caju)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of cashew nuts
1/2 tablespoon of butter
Combine sugar, butter and cashew nuts on a medium heavy bottom pan over medium/high heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until caramel is slightly darker. Watch it carefully or it will burn! Spread on the countertop or baking sheet lined with wax paper and let it cool. Cover with more wax paper and break into small pieces using a rolling pin or cut it with a knife. Use it on top of cakes or with ice cream.
To assemble the cake:
Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with brigadeiro. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the brigadeiro evenly on the top and sides of the cake, or leave the sides naked. Sprinkle with the cashew caramel crunch on top.