Brown-Butter Cake with Rich Chocolate Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling

I made this cake about three weeks ago for the hubby’s birthday.  I only had one slice before our first snowstorm of the year took away our power for a few days.  I love this cake, but not so much the frosting which was like mousse so you could never leave it out in a room too long.  I’d like to try it again with a different frosting.

Brown-Butter Cake (adapted from Tom Douglas’s recipe on Food & Wine)

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Note: original recipe used vanilla bean seeds)
  • 3 large egg yolks (Note: save egg whites for buttercream frosting below)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 8 or 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 sticks of butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until foamy, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the milk solids turn brown and the butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes longer. Scrape the melted butter and browned bits into a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in an ice water bath until the butter begins to set around the edge, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the 2  1/4 cups of all-purpose flour with the baking powder and salt.
  4. Remove the bowl from the ice water and scrape up the hardened butter. Transfer the butter to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle and beat until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla  and beat at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks followed by the whole eggs. Beat in the dry ingredients and milk in 3 alternating additions, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert them onto a rack to let them cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
  6. Set one cake layer on a platter. Spread the mousse filling on top and cover with the second cake layer. Frost the cake all over with a thin layer of buttercream and refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes. Frost the cake with the remaining buttercream. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm, at least 15 minutes, before serving.

Rich Chocolate Buttercream (adapted from Tom Douglas’s recipe on Food & Wine)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (9 ounces), cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (Note: I substituted this with about 2-3 tablespoons of the melted chocolate ganache below so prepare that first)
  1. Put sugar a medium heatproof bowl and whisk in the egg whites and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is completely dissolved, 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the warm egg-white mixture to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat at medium-high speed until stiff and glossy, about 8 minutes. Beat in the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure it is fully incorporated before adding more. The buttercream should be light and fluffy; if it appears runny at any time, transfer the bowl to the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, then return it to the mixer and continue. (Note: Before beating in the butter I make sure the mixture is cool first.  Otherwise it’ll melt the butter!)
  3. Beat in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl. Remove the bowl from the mixer and beat with a wooden spoon to remove any air bubbles.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling

  • 8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua liquor (optional)
  1. Place chocolate in a medium sized heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring it to a boil and then immediately pour boiling cream over the chocolate.  You can also microwave the cream and buttercream.
  3. Allow the boiling cream and chocolate to stand for a few minutes without stirring.
  4. Stir gently with a spoon or whisk until smooth.  Do not stir fast and hard no matter how tempting it is to combine the cream and chocolate, because you don’t want air to get incorporated into the ganache.  Stir in liquor if desired.
  5. Put in refrigerator to harden until ready to fill cake.

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February 12, 2012

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