The Modern Baker Challenge – Devil’s Food Cake

On April 1st a new challenge started: The Modern Baker Challenge. It’s all about baking bread, cakes, pastries and pies from “The Modern Baker” by Nick Malgieri. The first 3 months will be devoted to quick breads (I’ve made cocoa banana muffins and fennel fig & almond bread so far), which devil’s food cake is obviously not a part of. Why did I make it then? Well, when the book arrived in the mail, my oldest daughter watched me opening the package, and as soon as she saw the cover of the book she started begging for the cake that is on the cover – a devil’s food cake.

I encountered 4 problems:

  1. I have NO idea where to get unsweetened chocolate.
  2. It’s not easy to find American brown sugar. We do have brown sugar, but that’s raw cane sugar and not at all moist.
  3. There’s no corn syrup in Germany.
  4. I don’t have two 9-inch pans. I always thought 9 inches were about 26 cm (and I have a 26 cm springform), but from the book I learned that 9 inches were about 23 cm.

How did I solve these problems?

  • Problem #1: I found a formula how to make unsweetened chocolate here, i.e. you use 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of butter or oil to replace 1 ounce of chocolate. The recipe calls for 3 ounces of chocolate, thus I used 9 tablespoons of cocoa and 3 tablespoons of oil (see picture below). BUT: you have to remove the extra fat from the recipe. For each ounce of unsweetened chocolate you omit 1 tablespoon of whatever fat is called for elsewhere in the recipe. Thus, I had to omit 3 tablespoons of the 8 tablespoons of butter the recipe called for, which left me with 5 tablespoons of butter.
  • Problem #2: I found a lot of recipes (here‘s one of them) on the internet how to make American brown sugar from scratch. For dark brown sugar, which is what I needed for this recipe,  per 1 cup of white sugar you take 2 tablespoons of molasses. Then you mix the sugar and the molasses with a fork or an electric hand mixer. I found that a fork doesn’t work at all because the molasses was really thick (see picture below). If you want a light brown sugar you add only 1 tablespoon of molasses instead of 2.

  • Problem #3: I couldn’t decide whether to make a simple syrup from scratch or to use agave syrup which is a syrup relatively light in color. But as I had the latter one on hand, I opted for that one.
  • Problem #4: No real solution, I just used my 10-inch springform. We do have layer cakes in Germany, but usually we don’t make them by baking layers in different pans, but by baking all of the batter in one pan and then using a cake slicer to make 2 or 3 layers. When you click on the middle photo you can see my cake slicer in action.

Now, a couple of days after I have made this cake, I found an online source for all kinds of American or British  food -related things, like brown sugar, corn syrup, suet… (e.g. here and here). Unfortunately, no butterscotch chips!

Anyway, so I baked the cake, sliced it into 2 layers and started making the icing. The recipe calls for 4 large egg whites (yay, there are only 2 egg whites left in my freezer), a large pinch of salt, 1 1/4 cups sugar (yes, the “1.” is a typo and is supposed to mean 1 1/4) and 1/2 cup light corn syrup (I used agave syrup). Be aware, that this makes an incredibly HUGE amount of icing! I didn’t even need half of it, and I even added those little curls on top. So, if you own the book make a side note to make a half batch of the icing only, because it’s sooo sweet that you can’t even eat it like that. I really hate discarding things, but there was no way around it.

All in all, this was a very nice cake that absolutely met my daughter’s expectations. I found it too sweet, though – Germans aren’t really used to such thick layers of icing. Will I make it again? Probably not. This devil’s food cake does NOT beat my traditional devil’s food which is very chocolaty and even more moist due to the sour cream that is added to the batter. And for that one, I don’t even have to go through all the substitution problems…


2 responses to “The Modern Baker Challenge – Devil’s Food Cake

  1. Wow, talk about being ahead! When we get to the cake section (in mid-2011, or whenever that is), you should claim the devil’s food cake recipe and repost this.

    Your cake looks great. I’m glad your daughter liked it.

  2. Pingback: The Modern Baker Challenge: Quick Breads – Blueberry Crumb Muffins « Family & Food

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