Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Henna cake

Ever known someone who seems just absolutely perfect?  That would be my sis-in-law, Pume.  Always smiling.  Never gets angry or agitated.  Sweet as pie to everyone she meets.  Giving?  Check.  Compassionate?  Resoundingly, yes!  Hard-working?  Absolutely.

We could stop there & be fine, but alas, there is more.  Pume is one of those girls that we would love to hate, but it's just impossible.  She is also tall & gorgeous.  Prom queen?  Yup, that's her.  Modeling?  Yeah, she did that too.

And then there are her talents.  Dancer.  Artist.  Organizer extraordinaire.  Which leads me to this post.

She is active in her church & very involved with their India outreach.  She's been there twice.  Deep into the heart of India, to the remote villages.  I don't know the specifics, but I know they contribute clothes, medical supplies/care, and even got the ball rolling to get a school set up.
She always comes back with goodies-food, spices, saris.  But this last time, she came back with henna.  She practiced her henna art on all the family.  Beautiful designs on our feet, wrists, hands, shoulders, etc.

And then it hit me!!!!  The way she held the henna dye was just like holding a piping bag.  This was going to be a marriage made in heaven.  My baking and her designs.

I would love to tell you all our cakes are perfect & beautiful.  Well, actually our finished products always are, but our trial runs...oh the trial runs.

We are both self-taught.  So everything we do is trial-and-error.  And oh the errors....the messy, crumbly, lopsided, ooey-gooey errors.  Oh, yum.  I'm drooling just thinking about them.

It was only natural that we decided to bake a "henna cake" for this year's India fundraiser.

The cake is a rich, sturdy chocolate cake filled with my own recipe for mint chocolate ganache and frosted with mint swiss meringue buttercream.  I had a little batter leftover and made us 2 cupcakes, so I can attest to the wonderfulness of this cake.  Chocolatey, minty, yummy goodness.

I hear it was a top-seller at the silent auction.  I can't wait to see how our bidder liked it.

I hope to feature many more cakes featuring the talents of Pume.  And while I absolutely LOVE our cakes, I must tell you that I treasure the time, the conversations, the laughter & the memories we share while bonding over baking.

Yield: 2-9 inch cakes with extra batter for a couple of sample cupcakes.


For the cake:

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾ cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1¼ tsp. coarse salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2¼ cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz of semisweet chips
4 oz of creme de menthe baking chips
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 tsp. mint extract

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Butter and flour 2-9 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.

 In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-low speed, 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is cooled.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating just until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.  Bake 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache place the cream in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  In a medium mixing bowl(heatproof) place the semisweet chips and creme de menthe baking chips.  Immediately after the cream starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate.  Let stand about 1 minute.  With a whisk, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles.  When the ganache has become smooth, whisk in the butter 1 piece at a time until incorporated.  Transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator to chill and thicken the ganache a bit.  Whisk every 5-10 minutes to help it cool evenly.  Once the mixture is slightly thickened and no longer runny, you are ready to fill the cake.

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together!)  Stir in the mint extract and mix just until incorporated.


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