Halloween Marble Cake! …and a “Best Baking Blog” nomination

I will talk about the joys and pains (luckily there is a happy ending) of this cake, but first I want to Thank You, for it had to be you, who nominated me for the “Best Baking Blog” award from Foodbuzz. Imagine my surprise and delight to see my name on this list of wildly talented bakers:

7. Best Baking Blog:
1. Bakerella
2. Brown Eyed Baker
3. CakeSpy
4. Joy the Baker
5. ZoeBakes

If you have not yet voted for your favorite blogs I encourage you to cast your vote. Thanks!

Before I had two boys it would never have occurred to me to put spiders on a cake.  Thank god for little boys! Of course, there are deeper things that I have learned since parenting, but seeing the world through their eyes has made me happier, younger and sillier, which is such a gift. There is always their homework, cleaning rooms, taking baths, going to bed and eating spinach to keep us aware of our duties as parents, but sometimes it is about having fun. Spiders on a cake is just plain fun.

Although this cake is very simple to make, it took me two tries to get it right. That sounds more intimidating than it really is. The reason was not my fault, really. I read the recipe and thought to myself that it was WAY too much baking powder, but went ahead anyway. I figured the additional baking powder was because of the weight of the chocolate that is folded in. I mixed it up as written and when I looked in the oven as it baked it was bubbling, not something you really want to see as a cake rises. This is a classic sign of too much baking powder. If the ratio of flour and baking powder is off the leavening agent will create bubbles that are too big and the cake will end up falling due to the lack of structure. You want nice tight small bubbles to allow the cake to rise, but not too rapidly or it will collapse. Within 10 minutes I knew I should have trusted my instincts. I remade the cake with less baking powder and it turned out perfectly, the happy ending! I’ll talk more about how to use baking powder properly as I mix up the batter below.

Marble Cake from Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts (A book I got for my 20th birthday and have used over and over again):

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon powdered instant coffee (I used a new product from Starbucks, called VIA™. They sent me a sample and I wasn’t all that excited, but I have to say I am a convert. I love it in recipes because of its intense flavor and very fine crystals.)

2 1/4  (7 1/8 ounces) cups sifted cake flour (not self rising) – this means you sift it into the measuring cup, see below.

2 teaspoons baking powder (the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, which was too much. The rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per cup of flour. Because this is sifted cake flour you can get away with just 2 teaspoons baking powder with 2 1/4 cups of the flour.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons milk

White Chocolate Coffee Icing:

3 ounces white chocolate, melted

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups (1 box) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoons powdered instant coffee, again I used VIA.

Spider body and spider web:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Spider legs:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

When a recipe, like this one, calls for sifted cake flour. You want to sift the flour into the dry measuring cup

and then sweep a knife over the top to level it out. (This is very different from the directions cake flour, sifted. In this case you would measure the cake flour by spooning the flour into the cup and then sifting it.)

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and grease.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. (I bought a piece of equipment that I originally heard about from Abby Dodge on Twitter. It is the Beater Blade, which fits on my 5-quart kitchenAid mixer (they have them to fit all models) and is a brilliant combination of the paddle attachment and a rubber spatula. The idea is that you can mix your recipe without having to stop every few minutes to scrape down the bowl. It is very light weight, which has me concerned about longevity and it squeaks when it is in an empty bowl.)

Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla, then mix well. Add the dry mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.

The batter is nice and fluffy.

Split the batter in half and add the melted chocolate and instant coffee powder to one half.

place some of the white batter in the bottoms of the two 8-inch cake pans.

Add some of the chocolate batter, then more of the white and any chocolate that is left. It will all look like blobs of batter, not like marble.

Use a spoon to swirl the batter gently together. You don’t want to over due it or you will lose the definition of both the white and chocolate in the layers.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Once baked cool on a rack.

While the cake is baking, prepare the icing:

Add the instant coffee to the milk, set aside. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, alternating with the milk until the icing is thick and smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and beat until smooth.

Unmold the cooled cakes onto a cardboard round. Cover the layer with about 1/4 of the icing.

Place the second layer on top of the icing. As you can see my two layers don’t exactly match, despite both being 8-inch pans, they are different manufacturers and so they didn’t line up well.

To make sure that they will make a smooth cake I trimmed off just a touch. It was then a nice smooth even shape.

Use another 1/4 of the icing to do a crumb coat. This is a very thin layer of the icing that essentially traps the crumbs in place so that they are glued to the cake and won’t make a mess of the exterior of the cake. Freeze the cake for about 10 minutes to set the icing. Because of all the butter, it will harden quite quickly.

Now put about 1/3 of what is left of the icing on the top of the cake and spread it flat across the top.

Put the rest of the icing on the sides of the cake. Don’t worry about what it looks like, just try to get it on as evenly as possible. You will smooth it out next.

Once the icing is on the cake hold the spatula straight up and down, at a slight angle away from the cake. Turn the cake turn table and hold the spatula steady, don’t press, just hold steady, and it will slowly scrape a thin layer off the sides and make them smooth.

Once the sides are smooth then slide the spatula gently over the top of the cake to smooth it out, again you don’t want to apply too much pressure.

To make the spider web: In a double boiler melt the chocolate and the butter together until smooth. Use a parchment bag to pipe a thin spiral around the cake.

Use a tooth pick or skewer to draw lines from the center of the spiral out to the edge to create the web. Cover the rest of the chocolate ganache and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Melt the spider legs:

Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler. Fill another paper pastry bag about 1/3 full and pipe out the chocolate in the shape of the number 7 onto a silpat or parchment paper. Make sure you do a size that will fit the size of the spider body you intend to have. Pipe several extra in case you have breakage. Place the sheet into the freezer to set the chocolate.

Once the chocolate ganache is set up, this may take an hour or two, place it in a pastry bag fit with a round tip. Pipe a large ball of the ganache to create the spider’s body.

Use the melted chocolate to draw a line down the side of the cake and pipe a smaller spiders body there. Repeat with as many spiders as you like.

Remove the spider legs from the freezer and using a small spatula, lift up the legs and

place them on the spider, 4 on each side.

I used the remaining ganache to pipe a simple border along the bottom of the cake.

Happy Halloween! Thank you again for the amazing nomination, I hope you will consider voting for ZoeBakes on Foodbuzz!