April 16, 2009

Chocolate Easter Cloud Cake {Naptime Entertaining}

I am a dessert person through and through. I have a sweet tooth that would make Willy Wonka’s head spin, and the grocery bill, denoting bags and bags of Domino sugar, to prove it. Since a young age I have been a firm believer that the end goal of every meal is dessert. As a child I was known to speed-eat my way through many family dinners, so I could get to whatever sugary treats my mom had on hand, as soon as possible. Naturally, being a dessert lover, I would then spend several minutes eating one single cookie or brownie, taking my time to savor every crumb. The pace of my eating – spending a minute on a large plate of food and several minutes on one bite of cookie – greatly perplexed my parents. But, since I never got cavities or indigestion, they let me have my sweets after dinner, not wanting to pick a fight they could never win. The love of all sweet things has never left me, I proudly carried my sweet tooth straight through high school, college and into the present day. I will always be a dessert lover and, now that I have my own kitchen, I can bake sweet treats just about any time I want.


When I plan my meals, for holidays or otherwise, I always make sure I plan for a decadent dessert to cap off the meal. I like to make things that are scrumptious and tasty, calories be damned, the kind of sweet dish that sticks in your memory as being out of this world. I know I’ve achieved my goal when someone can’t quite recall the whole dinner menu, but can describe what was served for dessert in great detail. I have to say I’ve made a few extraordinary desserts in my life, most of which I’ve been able to duplicate. And, thankfully, in making these beautiful things I have been good about keeping a record of most of them, stashing them in my recipe box with a flag that the recipe is definitely worth making again. The cake I made this Easter is one of those recipes that has stood the test of time. After all, chocolate cake is a classic dessert, there is nothing fussy, trendy or frilly about it. I’ve made this cake many times before and have never once been disappointed. Judging by the way my friend’s often ask me to make it, I don’t think they have been disappointed, either.


This cake is much lighter and sweeter than the one I shared with you in February. I prefer to serve it for spring and summer events, the light flavor and color seems more appropriate for the seasons then something dark and dense. And, as with all my favorite baked goods, it is a cinch to prepare during naptime. Combining the ingredients takes very little time and, because it is so light, the baking time is quite short. The lightness of this cake comes from the generous heap of whipped egg whites that are folded into the batter before baking. When it is in the oven they cause the whole cake to rise up in a great poof, which slowly collapses as it cools. The end result, when the cake is fully cooled, is that a shallow crater, about one inch deep, forms on the top. Some might find this ugly and unappetizing, but don’t let the imperfection deceive you – this cake is delicious. To add to the lightness of the cake I like to drop dollops of whipped cream into the crater, along with a scattering of chocolate candies. To me it looks like a cloud of sweet vanilla has landed on top of my rich chocolate pillow. Whenever I eat this cake, which is often, I am always struck by the wonderful rich chocolate taste and light texture. It is really a wonderful standby for someone like me with my sweet tooth. In fact, the details from Easter Dinner last Sunday are already slipping away, but I can still tell you about the cake.

Recipe

Chocolate Easter Cake with Sweet Vanilla Whipped Cream

adapted slightly from Feast by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
stick unsalted butter
1 t. pure vanilla extract
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
1/3 c. sugar for the egg yolk mixture
½ c. sugar for the egg whites mixture
2 c. heavy cream
4 t. confectioners sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Do NOT grease the sides.
2. In a large bowl, break the chocolate up into squares and melt it with the butter in a double-boiler or the microwave.
3. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment whip the four egg whites until firm, then add the sugar as you whisk, until the white hold their shape and are shiny white. Do not let them get too stiff.
4. In a separate bowl add the two whole eggs and four egg yolks. To this add the 1/3 c. sugar and vanilla extract. Stir the ingredients together until completely combined.
5. Add this egg yolk mixture into the melted butter and chocolate. Stir until completely combined.
6. Finally, fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture, careful not the beat it too much, you don’t want to deflate the egg whites.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. You will know it is done with the center has risen and cracked a little bit.

8. Cool the pan on a wire rack. As it cools the top will collapse into a shallow crater. When it is completely cool remove the sides of the springform pan carefully.

9. Fill the crater with whipped cream and serve.

10. Whip all three ingredients together for the whipped cream in an electric mixer. Do not make whipped cream ahead of time, or, if you do, put it in the fridge, covered for no more than 4 hours before you use it.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

This cake is unfailingly simple and delicious. It works well at almost any table and for almost every holiday. At Christmas I’ve scattered the top with red and green candies, and last summer I filled it with cinnamon whipped cream for a friend’s baby shower. Have fun with the look of it, the taste is so delicious you could top it with just about anything.

Naptime Stopwatch

The preparation for this cake is quite easy, just be careful when folding in the egg whites not to overbeat the batter and deflate it. The batter takes about 15 minutes to prepare and then baking is about 40 minutes. It is easy to make it during naptime, then let it cool during the afternoon and serve it at dinner.

Naptime Reviews

I have never met one person who does not love this cake. The chocolate flavor is rich, but not overpowering. Also, we think the flavor improves after a day or two, so feel free to make the cake ahead of time and add the whipped cream right before serving it.

More Naptime Recipes