Musings from a Seattle personal chef
I’m not much of a baker, but I enjoy experimenting. However, given there’s only two of us in our household, I limit my experiments to large holiday gatherings where I don’t have to worry about leftovers tempting me with their siren call.
We always spend Easter at my darling’s dad’s house, which presents the perfect opportunity to ply my decadent offerings. Three years ago I made my first layer cake — a coconut concoction from the pages of “Cook’s Illustrated.” Since my father-in-law is not a cake enthusiast, the next year I prepared his favorite — blackberry pie. Last year I thought I’d lighten things up and made mini cheesecakes adapted from a recipe by CI’s “The Best Light Recipe.” I normally don’t tinker with desserts — I’d rather just have a small piece than resort to using ingredients deemed “diet friendly” — but you’d never know these were lower in fat and calories.
This year I contemplated baking another layer cake, and when I saw that Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie was hosting an Easter Cake Bake, the deal was sealed. But what type of cake should I prepare? I found a piÃ±a colada one that looked promising, but I also considered carrot cake as that’s my darling’s favorite. Then the imp in me took over: Devil’s Food cake; what could be more perfect for Easter? (Okay, so perhaps it’s a bit blasphemous).
I once again turned to “Cook’s Illustrated” for the cake recipe, but was eager to put my mark on the cake somehow. I love the combination of raspberry and chocolate, so I began mulling over how to incorporate those flavors. That’s when the imp once again arose. What else goes well with raspberry? Chipotle, of course! And doesn’t chipotle ALSO go well with chocolate? Why yes, it does.
I wanted the cake to look somewhat Eastery, so pink raspberry buttercream frosting was in order. However, I wanted something different between the layers. Chocolate ganache seemed a natural choice, and to bump up the raspberry flavor I decided to also include a layer of raspberry jam.
Now, how to incorporate the chipotle? For the buttercream, I perused both CI and the new “Joy of Cooking” for techniques. The CI recipe seemed much more straight-forward, but Joy mentioned adding in liqueur at the end, if desired. I happen to have a huge bottle of raspberry liqueur languishing in my pantry (used in a long-forgotten recipe), so I figured I’d pull that into service (I also figured it would help provide the pink color I sought). I cut up a dried chipotle and let it steep in the liqueur for a couple of hours (I figured dried chipotle would be best as chipotle en adobo would add an unwanted vinegary flavor).
For the ganache, I steeped two chipotles in the whipping cream for an hour in the fridge, then brought the mixture to a boil and strained it over the chocolate. I also added a couple of chipotles to a jar of seedless raspberry jam, which I simmered for about 20 minutes (considering you have to strain out the chipotles anyway, you could use jam with seeds).
The liqueur became quite fiery, but once added to the buttercream it mellowed out considerably. However, as you can see I didn’t get the pink color I was hoping for, despite adding a bit of the raspberry jam as well (it’s more of a taupe). You could certainly add red food coloring, but I was out and didn’t feel like running to the store. I actually think the taupe looks kinda cool!
The cake and its secret ingredient was a huge hit (although the spice was a bit much for the 4-year-old niece and 90-year-old grandmother). My cake-hating father-in-law even enjoyed it!
Devil’s Food Cake with Chipotle-Raspberry Buttercream
(Note: since I didn’t make any changes to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Devil’s Food Cake, I’m not including it here. Use your favorite recipe!)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
1-2 dried chipotle chiles
Cut up chiles and let steep in cream for about an hour. Bring mixture to a boil and strain over chocolate; discard chiles. Whisk chocolate until smooth and place in refrigerator until it thickens.
1 12-ounce jar raspberry jam
2-3 dried chipotle chiles
Cut up chiles and simmer in raspberry jam for about 20 minutes. Strain and set aside.
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
2-3 dried chipotle chiles
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each stick cut into quarters
Cut up chiles and let steep in liqueur for at least 1 hour. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, 2 teaspoons of the liqueur and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Whisk mixture gently until it is thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Beat the egg mixture at medium-high until light, airy and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add the butter, one piece at a time. Once the butter has been added, add the remaining raspberry liqueur. Increase speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy and thoroughly combined.
Place one layer of cake on a cake board and spread half of the ganache on top. Spread a layer of raspberry jam on top of the ganache. Place the second layer of devil’s food on top and spread with ganache and jam. Add the third and final layer of devil’s food on top. Frost with the chipotle-raspberry buttercream.
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