Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Singles Awareness Day! Here's some cake.

(A note: this is a somewhat hacked-together post (with not many pictures, as I forgot to take many). I'm still working on formatting and what I even want this thing to be, so bear with me and my messy recipe directions.)

Well, okay, I didn't make this specifically for Valentine's Day, it just happened to end up that way.

Don't tell me you don't want any.
 So, a couple of weeks ago my brother Tyler sent me a recipe for Chocolate Mint Torte he had just made.

A little history on our family will be helpful here. We kids all seem to be at least a little bit culinarily inclined, undoubtedly due to the influence of our mother. Each child had a duty for dinner each night, but the rotation of these assignments was controlled by the dreaded chart on our fridge. Each day as I'd get home from school, the chart would determine my mood. "Dinner helper?" Screwed. You were stuck with the most responsibility out of anyone! It meant less outside play time and more time in the kitchen.

Of course, I now recognize what a blessing it was, and you can bet I'm going to do the same thing to my kids. Preparing food changed from a chore to a habit, even a hobby. So, when one of the siblings finds a good recipe, successfully bakes something, tries a new technique, or buys a new piece of kitchenware, we usually tell the others of our endeavors. It's this spirit of sharing that most often compels me to try new things (and that drives us to do things like make a Turducken when we're together over the holidays).

So, all of this is to say that when Tyler showed me the link, I knew that I would have to try making it myself. Lauren was kind enough to help me out with this one. So without further ado, I present:

Chocolate Mint Torte, or: 
"I am drowning my sorrows in chocolately goodness."
Adapted with thanks from King Arthur Flour

Show/Hide Ingredients

Chocolate Cake Batter
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons buttermilk

Mint Filling
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3 to 4 drops peppermint oil (or 1/2 teaspoon extract)
1 to 2 drops green food coloring
A little shy of 1 tablespoon corn starch

Ganache filling and topping
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream

Part 1: Make a Sheet Cake (Show/Hide)

Step one: Make a sheet cake

Oh wait. No. First, don't forget to turn the oven on. 350°. Grab a jelly roll pan (10x15; you can use a 9x13 or a half sheet pan, but your cake will be a little more thick or thin, respectively) and cut some parchment paper to fit the bottom. Grease the pan, lay the paper in, and grease the paper itself.

(Note: I actually used enough parchment paper so that a good inch was sticking up from either long side. This makes it SO much easier to transfer to a table or cooling rack after baking because you can just use them as handles. Just be sure to crease the parchment paper with your fingernail so that it lays flat on the bottom.)

In a separate bowl, mix your sugar, salt, and vanilla. In yet another bowl, mix your flour, cocoa, and baking powder. (You can wait and use the same bowl as the sugar, if you want - personally, I like having everything ready to go. It just depends on how many dishes you feel like doing.) You'll want to sift these as much as possible, using a fine-wire sieve or a food processor (on pulse) if you don't have either of these. Clumps are no bueno. Lastly, in a cup or smaller bowl, mix your buttermilk and oil. Keep all of these nearby.

Take your eggs (room temperature is best - no worries, leaving them out for a few hours won't hurt anything) and mix the ever-loving crap out of them in a fairly large bowl. They should become pretty foamy.

Pour the sugar mixture into the foamy eggs and continue to beat until it forms a thick foam. It should drip in a fairly thick stream and leave trails in the mix.

Now, fold in the flour mixture into the egg/sugar mixture. Remember to fold and not just mix vigorously, because you don't want to deflate the airiness of the eggs you just spent so much time on.

Lastly, whisk together the oil and buttermilk and add it to the bowl. Mix together gently, then pour in your pan and spread to the edges. Bake for 10-12 minutes, though it may very well take a bit longer. Watch for it to pull away from the edges of the pan and to spring back a bit after being lightly pressed. Be sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking. When done, let it cool for a couple of minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack or table.

(Being somewhat of a foodie can be difficult in college because you're bound to working with what you have. Sure, you learn to be resourceful, but crappy bake ware can also just mess up your food. So after the first sheet cake was done baking, I realized - the stupid jelly roll pan had bowed, and I was stuck with a very uneven sheet of cake. I tried to compensate on the second one, but even that was a bit lopsided. Oh well. They get quartered up and stacked on top of each other anyhow. Just don't forget to rotate!)

Part 2: Make Ganache/Creme (Show/Hide)

Step two: Make the ganache and mint creme

While the cake is cooling, you'll want to make both of these. I would highly recommend doing the ganache first (easy enough, just combine broken-up chocolate and cream, then microwave until it melts, stirring all the while) because after making it, you'll then need to stick it in the freezer to let it harden up. Depending on how hot it got in the microwave, this could take upwards of 45 minutes. Pull it out when it reaches a little thicker than Nutella-like consistency.

Now that that's cooling, it's time for the mint creme! It's pretty much like making regular whipped cream, except you use some corn starch to keep it from weeping.

This is best achieved by heating up just a bit (maybe half a cup) of the cream and the cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring it barely to a boil and immediately pull it off. This will help the cornstarch thicken up the cream (and you'll notice very quickly). While that is cooling, begin beating the remainder of the cream in a medium bowl, adding in the sugar, extract, and coloring as you go (I added slightly more mint in mine). When you start getting soft peaks, add in your cornstarch mixture, so long as it has substantially cooled off. Beat until peaks are stiff.

Note: It may sound very obvious, but you do NOT want to add the cornstarch mixture while it is still hot. I made this mistake when I tried to rush the making of a second batch. You end up with what looks like cottage cheese because your cream separates due to the heat. So, don't do that...unless you like minty cottage cheese.

If you've timed this fairly well, your ganache should be properly cooled, so it's time to layer. If you didn't time it well, try to keep your creme cold and then give it a short whipping just before using. Warm whipped cream is not ideal and will lead to very messy layering.

Part 3: Layering (Show/Hide)

Step three: Layering
Trim the edges of your cake and cut crosswise into even quarters. Slather about a fourth of the ganache onto three of the quarters, then using a pastry or sandwich bag, load up your creme and pipe a few thick rows on the same three. Don't be afraid to use a pretty good amount.

Then, stack 'em up, and press down gently to help them stay together. Wrap in plastic wrap and press down a little more to help distinctly show the layers. Again, be gentle. You're not trying to force out all the layers you just made.

Freeze for at least a couple of hours. When ready to serve, let it thaw for 15 minutes or so, or throw a slice in the microwave for 10 seconds. Heat up the remaining ganache and drizzle that on there. Serve and enjoy.

Numerous people from church seemed to enjoy this, so overall I'd consider it a success. Next up: poaching eggs and eggs Benedict!


  1. Um....if you ever need a know where to find one :-) I LOVE eggs benedict!!!! And, this torte was yummy!

    - ashley

  2. It was pretty much a taste of heaven in my mouth!

  3. I finally read it! Be proud :) I might just suggest to my mom that we make this :)) it sounds delicious.