Sunday, March 9, 2008

One-Pan Mocha Cake with Coffee Bean Brittle.

Mocha Cake w/ Coffee Bean Brittle

Mocha Cake w/ Coffee Bean Brittle

I am fortunate to have friends who enjoy good food and, perhaps more importantly, good hospitality. They RSVP. They invite people out for brunch or veggie dogs and a screening of North by Northwest. They say thank you. They take pictures and share them. Sometimes they pick up the tab. They bring not one bottle of wine, but two (or three!)

Kim asked, "do all library students like to cook? They seem like a type." I'm not sure if we're a type, or if I just gravitate towards foodies. This is the first year i've had so many friends who cook well, and adventurously.

I've hosted and attended several incarnations of dinner parties. There's the small dinner party: four or five people, a pre-planned menu, and cohesive conversation. Maybe a movie. There's the 8-12 person potluck or formal dinner party with wine and sometimes clear course progressions. That sort of party is usually dependent on whose apartment has the most space.

And then there's the party.

20-30 people scattered throughout a living room, dining room, and eat-in kitchen. Piles of food that comes in waves. Some of it gets eaten and some of it gets ignored. Someone makes cocktails. People dance. Believe me, it is something to see when every person brings food to a party that size.

Last night there was a party. We had onion tarts, curry with squash and brussels sprouts, two kinds of challah, bread from Wood Street Bakery, wheatberry salad with ginger and scallions, 5-6 kinds of cheese, olive tapenade, baba ghanoush, pita, mashed potatoes, some sort of cream cheese dip/salsa, peanutty noodles, rice noodles with chickpeas and spinach, red beans and rice, rice salad with pine nuts and raisins, endive salad with pecans, roasted potatoes and green beans, lasagna, chips, espresso, key lime tartlets, vegan chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes, sachertorte, and this one-pan mocha cake with coffee bean brittle.

I am probably forgetting a few things. I took home a huge tupperware of lasagna. Every dinner party has its place. While I prefer smaller gatherings, an occasional party can be fun.

This mocha cake was a big hit. It's very easy to prepare and looks very dramatic (though I think it would taste better and be easier to slice if you crushed the brittle instead). People started calling it "the broken bottle cake," to my amusement.

One-Pan Mocha Cake w/ Coffee Bean Brittle
adapted from Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake

1/3 cup (35g) dutch process cocoa powder
75g unsalted butter (about 6 tbsp)
1/3 cup (80ml) light olive oil
2/3 cup strong black coffee, cooled (or 3 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 2/3 cup boiling water)
90g (about 3 ounces) good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
250g castor sugar (about 1 cup + 2 tbsp)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (185g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup (80ml) buttermilk (or sour cream or yogurt, in a pinch)

350ml heavy cream, lightly whipped
coffee bean brittle, coarsely crushed, or shards of dark chocolate, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 150C/300F. Butter a 23cm/9in round cake pan (preferably 3 inches high). Line the base with buttered parchment paper, then dust the pan with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set aside.

2. Put the cocoa, butter, oil, and coffee into a largish saucepan. Bring them to the boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture is silky, then take it off the heat. Add the chocolate and sugar and whisk them in until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

3. Once the mixture has cooled, add the egg and vanilla extract, whisking them in thoroughly. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir them in until they're just combined. Whisk in the buttermilk.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake to level it out. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, remove the paper and leave it to cool completely.

5. When you're ready to serve, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Just before serving, spread the cream on top, then use the back of a spoon to swirl it a bit. To finish off, sprinkle some of the coffee bean brittle (see below) or chocolate shavings over the cream. This cake keeps well in the fridge for a few days (ungarnished) and freezes well without the topping for about 3 weeks.

Coffee Bean Brittle
1 cup (220g) sugar
1/2 (125ml) water
1 tbsp roasted coffee beans, coarsely chopped

1. Line a large, shallow baking tray with parchment, foil, or a silpat and sit it on a chopping board or thick tea towel.

2. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan over high heat. Stir it constantly until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. As it boils, wash down the sides occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals. The mixture will slowly change from being quite liquid to a thicker syrup, with lazy bubbles on the surface.

3. As soon as it turns a light amber color, add the chopped coffee beans and swirl the pan to mix them in. Continue to cook until the syrup is a deep golden brown, then immediately take it off the heat and carefully pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray. Hold the tray with a thick cloth or potholders and tilt it gently to spread the syrup evenly. Leave the brittle to cool and set, then carefully peel away the paper and break it into large shards.

4. To store the brittle, layer the shards in an airtight container between sheets of parchment to stop them sticking together, then freeze. When you need it, take out as much as you want, crush it coarsely (or leave it in bigger pieces) and return the rest to the freezer. It will keep in the freezer for 12 months.


Cannelle Et Vanille said...

That menu that you had at the dinner party looks amazing and so does the cake. Great job!

Ginny said...

Beautiful! I love the presentation! Bet it tastes great!

Anonymous said...

My friends could learn a lot about parties from your friends. Their idea of a "dinner"party would be a takeout pizza with cheap beer. I doubt that my baked goods would ever find a grateful audience haha :)

Patricia Scarpin said...

I love how the caramel brittle looks like pieces of glass. The cake is beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I LOVED THAT CAKE!!! Hahaha. I want to try it sometime. And yeah, the potluck was very fun but slightly overwhelming - I'm a fan of gatherings, but more than 15 people and I start getting claustrophobic, hehe. Which is perfect, because a lot of good parties happen in waves :) All of your desserts were tasty, thanks for going to the effort to make so much yummy food!

Anonymous said...

this is a very scary, although i'm sure very delicious, cake. that brittle could slice an artery wide open!

Stef said...

I like the idea of coffee bean brittle. Sounds perfect for a coffee lover. The whole broken bottle cake cracks me up!

Anonymous said...

That cake is so beautiful! Love the dramatic shards of brittle on top.

Evelin said...

I REALLY like the idea of the coffee bean brittle - I'd love to try it!

Anonymous said...

This cake looks like it would be sold in some high end restaurant or bakery. Just beautiful!!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I'm a six-pack and sandwich guy; but I can learn. I guess.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the whipped heavy cream frosting, does it sweat or seperate after a while?

Pittsburgh Needs Eated said...

I added the whipped cream right before serving. The brittle also starts to lose its crispness once you assemble the cake. If you wanted to add the whipped cream ahead of time, I would stabilize it with some gelatin, then add the brittle at the last minute.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for the perfect cake for my daughters 19th birthday - and thanks to you I finally found it!

She loves all thing coffee - the coffee brittle is a show stopper!