NYC Devil’s Food Cake

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This great recipe comes from The Dutch in New York City. I made it for my husband’s birthday, which we celebrated over the weekend so I doubled the recipe to make a 6 layer cake that really made a statement. Built upon a chocolate cookie base, this espresso and chocolate devil’s food cake sandwiches a gooey chocolate filling and is encased is a boiled meringue frosting with specks of black pepper. It’s a really sophisticate way to make a classic cake and is great for special occasions! 

(*** I doubled this recipe to make 6 layers, otherwise this makes a 3 layer cake)

For the Filling: 3 1/4 oz chopped semisweet chocolate, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 cup heavy cream (divided), 1 tsp unflavored gelatin, 2 tbsp sugar (divided), 3 large egg yolks, 1/4 cup creme fraiche

For the Cakes: 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 large egg, 1 large egg white,1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup plus 1 tspn cake flour, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar, 6 tbsp  room temperature unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk, 2 tbsp cocoa nibs, 1 tbsp ground espresso

For the Cookie Base:  1 cup plus 2 tbsp chocolate graham-cracker crumbs (from about 7 grahams), 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tbsp turbinado sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp butter (melted & cooled), 1 large egg white

For the Frosting: 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 large egg whites (room temperature), 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

First make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine chocolate and salt; set aside. Place 1 tablespoon heavy cream in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cream and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place remaining 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining tablespoon sugar. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into egg mixture. Return cream mixture to saucepan and place over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir gelatin mixture into cream mixture. Strain gelatin mixture into bowl with chocolate mixture; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in creme fraiche. Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat filling until well combined, about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill overnight.

Make the cakes the following day. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment-paper rounds; set aside. Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl; whisk in egg and egg white. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water; continue whisking until smooth. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat cocoa mixture into butter mixture. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk, and mixing well after each addition. Fold in cocoa nibs and ground espresso. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans; smooth tops. Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool completely before inverting cakes onto wire racks. At this point, cakes can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 1 day. Transfer cake layers to freezer; freeze until firm before frosting.

Next, make the cookie crumb base. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the graham crackers to make the crumbs. Place graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, turbinado sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Add melted butter and continue pulsing until well combined. Add egg whites and continue pulsing until crumbs begin to stick together. Pack the crumb mixture into the base of a 9-inch spring form or regular cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake until firm and middle appears dry, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before using.

Finally, make the icing. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon sugar and salt; set aside. Place remaining sugar in a small saucepan, along with 1/2 cup water. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to a boil; do not stir. Cook, occasionally swirling and brushing down sides of saucepan with a moistened pastry brush, until mixture registers 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium speed until frothy. With the mixer running, gradually add sugar and salt mixture. Increase mixer speed to medium-high; slowly add hot sugar mixture, allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating until whites are stiff and cooled, about 20 minutes. Add pepper; mix until well combined. Use icing immediately.

Assemble the cake by placing the cookie base on a cake turntable which will make it easier to ice. Start layering the cakes and the icing. Begin with the cookie base, place a layer of cake then spread 1/2 cup of filling over it and top with another layer of cake and continue until cake is built. Refrigerate to set, for about an hour before icing the cake. Use the icing, starting from the top of the cake moving down the sides of the cake to make a “crumb coat” (a thin layer that fills all gaps and seals in the crumbs). Then cover the entire cake with a layer of icing using an offset spatula and make a swirling pattern. Use a kitchen torch to brulee all over the icing.

Cake can be served immediately or covered with a cake dome and kept chilled for up to 1 day; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

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