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Monday, September 13, 2010

Gale Gand's Chocoblock Chocolate Cake with Warm Macademia Nut Caramel

Yup, you read that right. In fact, take a second and re-read the title of this heartdroppingly FABULOUS dessert. Are you salivating yet? Now go buy yourself some topshelf cocoa powder and make this cake for your loved ones! If you want to see a better picture of it, cut into cute little rounds, check out the cover of her cook book, Just A Bite.

So nine years ago, on a momentous and gorgeous evening in July downtown Chicago, Scott joined me for a work dinner at the unbelievable restaurant, Tru, where Gale was/is the pastry chef and partner. It was our first "date," of sorts, and we both had nervous tingles and sparks that were difficult to suppress in front of my two male clients that sat with us. I can remember not wanting the evening to end, and we headed out into the night together after a mindblowing meal, not to return home until close to 4 in the morning. As Nate, one of Scott's four roommates and a close friend said, "I don't know what exactly is going on here, but I highly condone it."

Six months later we were engaged. Eight years later we have two kids and I am still obessessed with Gale Gand. She is my favorite pastry chef, and after meeting her twice at two cooking classes, I can attest that she is a lovely person as well.

Here to date, is my favorite recipe, the only change being a few grinds of sea salt into the caramel sauce.

For the Cake:
3 cups sugar
2 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 & 1/8 cups cocoa powder, preferably Dutch (Valhrona is pretty much the best, Penzey's is great too)
2 & 1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 & 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 & 1/2 tsp. table salt
3 large eggs
1 & 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 TB. pure vanilla extract (Niesen-Massey is awesome, you can buy a massive bottle of it for cheap here.)
1 & 1/2 cups very hot water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a half sheet pan (also called a jelly roll pan) and line the bottom with parchement or wax paper.

In your mixing bowl, add together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Blend briefly.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add them to the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 5 minutes. GRADUALLY trickle the hot water in, mixing at low speed, just until combined. The batter will be very thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, (a few crumbs are fine) and the center feels firm to the touch, 25-35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan, then chill it, covered, until you are ready to cut it. I made this a day (or even two!) before I cut and used it. Totally fine. Great make-ahead dessert.

For the Caramel:
1 & 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (or a bit more) salted macadamia nuts, roasted in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, then roughly chopped
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted in the same manner as the nuts

Pour the sugar into the center of a deep saucepan. Carefully pour 1/3 cup water around the edges of the pan, trying not to splash any sugar on the wells. Don't stir it, just make a cross twice with your index finger to wet the sugar evenly. Over high heat, bring sugar and water to a full boil and cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, until mixture is medium caramel in color, about 5-10 minutes. Don't walk away, this happens very quickly and I've burned the sugar too dark of brown more then once. Take it off the heat as soon it starts to turn a rich gold and smells toasted.

Next use a wooden spoon to slowly and carefully stir in the cream, the mixture will bubble and may splatter so head's up! Stir in the nuts and coconut and set aside until cool. This sauce can also be refrigerated, covered, until ready to use. Reheat over low heat until softened, or in a microwave.

When you are ready to serve, cut rounds (or squares if you don't care about being fancy and don't want waste) of the chilled cake with a 2 inch biscuit cutter. Place one or two cakes on a plate and drizzle liberally with caramel sauce. It's up to you if you want to sandwich some Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream in there too.

This one cake fed many people, beginning with a dinner at our house with a dear high school friend. Next it fed 11 women who came over for drinks to kick off our Bible Study one cozy Tuesday night. Then, frozen after I cut it and defrosted, six adults consumed it at a lakehouse in Indiana. Finally, the previously frozen leftovers were served to my inlaws and Scott for dessert last Sunday. Heralded by rave reviews at every serving, this is a very durable, delicious cake.

I don't kid around about my desserts. Make this now. Keep it in your arsenal folks.

Love and great respect back to Gale, thanks for writing in my cookbook five years ago. :)


Kristin M. said...

ummm....this is ALMOST worth risking an attack over. . . .remind me to make this in JANUARY!!!! YUMM!

Mrs Wooga said...

This pregnant woman is salivating over this....without the energy or determination to spend this much time in the kitchen. Forget my baby meal - you can just make this for me and I'll freeze it and re-serve it 3 times like you did!