Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Almond Joy German Chocolate Cake

My grandma's birthday is Christmas day. As a child, her family made it a big deal. Her mom would have her open her presents first and celebrate it as a separate event from Christmas. The rest of the kids had to wait to open Christmas presents until my grandma was able to have her birthday celebrated. Since I can remember, we've still carried on that tradition. If we've been with her on Christmas, or Christmas eve, we have always had her open birthday presents first, and we have always had a cake for her too. Apparently as kids, me and my cousins would be hustling the presents to her to open them quicker to be able to get to Christmas, but I don't remember that detail. It sounds cute though. My grandma is a wonderful person, and she always goes all out for all of her kids and grandkids, so of course we must make sure she knows she is loved and celebrated.

This Christmas, it was my turn to fetch a cake. We typically always buy one, but I wanted to make one. My grandparents were coming up on Christmas day, and I wanted to have a fresh cake, so I was planning on baking the day of. The only unforeseen problem was that I didn't have coconut. Unforeseen in that, wasn't Fry's or even Walmart open last year? Well, they definitely were not open this year. In a last minute panic, my dad went to Walgreens, apparently the only store open on Christmas. He couldn't find coconut even with his desperate prayers (this is his mom's birthday by the way). He went up to the register to check out, and as he gazed down the Almond Joy candy bar appeared like a "what the heck" substitute. The minute my dad walked in with those Almond Joy candy bars, I felt like I was being pranked, or at least on one of those cooking shows like "Chopped." You got to cook what's in the basket. ...It was pretty fun too though I have to admit.

So if you're in a last minute pinch without coconut, in need of a German Chocolate Cake, Almond Joy's are a great substitute. I also only had half and half, so I subbed that in for heavy cream, but that turned out fine too. This recipe was adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, via David Lebovitz. A delicious moist cake, including rum syrup and a rich chocolate ganache, not too sweet. (I chose to include this last photo because my backyard looks so pretty behind the cake!)

RECIPE
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Almond Joy German Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker via David Lebovitz
yield: 6 inch cake, serves approximately 7-10 people
time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Baker's Notes: I cut the original recipe in half because my family doesn't eat that much dessert, and I have these cute 6 inch round cake pans I love to use. For the original measurements please refer to either original sources! Also, make sure to taste the rum syrup, and ganache for sweetness. I ended up adding more sugar to both of these, but you may like them as they are. Also, I am not a fan of corn syrup, so I just used water and sugar in the ganache, feel free to use corn syrup though if you're not opposed! You would have a smoother ganache consistency. 

Ingredients:
Cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup, and 1/8 cup unrefined sugar, divided
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 ounces baker's bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 Almond Joy bars (or 6 individual pieces), roughly chopped

Rum Syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dark rum

Chocolate Ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoon sugar (or more if needed to taste)
2 tablespoons water (or more if needed, up to 4 tbsp)
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

Process:
Cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Butter two 6-inch cake pans (I used spring loaded pans), sprinkle about 2 tablespoons cocoa powder into the bottom of the pans, and tap until sticks to all butter on bottom and sides of pans.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3) In another large bowl beat butter until light and fluffy. Add 3/4 cup sugar to the butter and continue beating for five minutes.

4) In a microwave safe bowl, melt chopped chocolate and 3 tablespoons of water for 20 seconds. Stir until fully melted and smooth. If needed microwave for another 10-20 seconds, but be careful not to burn chocolate. (You may melt the chocolate using a double broiler if you're not a microwave fan.) Add chocolate to butter mixture, and fold into butter using a spatula. Add in egg yolks and mix until smooth.

5) Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Once combined add buttermilk and vanilla extract. After the liquid is incorporated, mix in the rest of the flour.

6) In a medium bowl, well cleaned and dried, add egg whites. Beat until peaks begin to form, about five minutes. Once peaks have formed, add the remainder 1/8 cup sugar. Beat until well incorporated. Gently pour egg whites into the cake batter. Fold into batter gently by hand. Continue to fold until no more marbling.

7) Pour the finished batter into the two prepared pans. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. If the cake is still too moist, bake up to 45 minutes, checking every 5 -7 minutes.

8) Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 5 - 10 minutes. Invert onto cooling racks. Let cakes completely cool for 2 - 3 hours, or chill in the freezer for 30 minutes before frosting.

Coconut Filling:
1) In a medium saucepan, heat cream, sugar, and egg yolks. In another bowl add butter and Almond Joy pieces. Heat the cream for 5-10 minutes over medium to medium-low heat, constantly stirring so that the cream does not burn. Let mixture simmer and gradually thicken. Once it is thickened, pour the cream mixture over the butter and candy pieces. Stir until everything is dissolved. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Rum Syrup:
1) In a small saucepan over medium heat, add water and sugar. Let mixture simmer until sugar is melted. Once it has melted, turn off heat, and add in the rum. Set aside.

Chocolate Ganache:
1) Add chopped chocolate, sugar, water, and butter into a medium bowl. In a saucepan heat up cream over medium heat, stirring constantly so that it doesn't burn. After 3 - 5 minutes, or when cream is hot, pour over the chopped chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth. Taste it at this point, I added more sugar because it was a little bitter for me. Set aside. Before frosting, if the ganache has hardened too much, you may add a tablespoon of water or cream and microwave for 10 - 15 seconds, stir well and frost.

Putting it all together:
1) On a serving platter, dollop a small amount of the filling into the middle of the plate. This holds the cake in place. Set first cake upside down so that the flat bottom becomes the top surface of the bottom layer. Using a pastry brush, brush on rum syrup to top of bottom layer. After rum syrup, dollop more than half of the coconut filling onto the first layer. Spread to be even.

2) Set the second cake on top of the first layer, with the flat bottom side down. Brush the rum syrup onto the top of the cake. Now pour over the rest of the filling onto the top of the cake. Chill cake for 10 - 15 minutes to easily frost.

3) Frost the cake with the ganache. Using a flat long spatula, gently spread the ganache over the cake sealing the bottom to the cake platter. For finishing touches, I used an upward stroke to simulate a tree trunk. I liked the finished modern version of this cake, but you may choose to pipe a border.

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