Frosting the Devil in a Winter Wonderland

It snowed in pellets last night...a proverbial sea of white...more like dip n' dots than flakes of snow. The mini snowballs fell from the skies, creating a winter wonderland....and a hell of a commute home.

Taking a cue from the weather, this devil's food cake with fluffy white frosting called to me....

Believe it or not, this is the first cake I've made since my Easy Bake Oven days.

Sure, I bake a lot, but cakes are not my thing. My sweet tooth has leanings towards the more dense...and preferably naked...cookies and brownies. I'm all for gilding the lily, but not with cookies. I'll take mine unadorned...and unfrosted, thank you.

There lies my problem with's the frosting.

The American standard often includes a cloyingly sweet frosting that, for me, is downright inedible. Whenever I do eat cake...weddings, birthdays, or other causes for celebration, I'll often bypass the frosting altogether. An unattractive heap lies at the side of my plate, validating my usual dessert motto: ABC or, Anything But Cake.

But this is the New Year, and I'm branching out. I'm taking my own culinary road less traveled.

Destination: C-A-K-E.

First stop...Devil's Food Cake with a Cloud of White Frosting:

This is based on a Godiva recipe featured in Chocolatier magazine. The layers are built with moist devil's food cake and a mortar of bittersweet ganache. Topped with an egg white-based frosting that is heated and whipped, this is my kind of cake!

Sitting in front of a blazing fire with the snow falling softly outside...this frosting brought back a flood of childhood memories. Something about it was strangely familiar...and I couldn't get that sense of nostalgia out of my head.

Then it hit me: Marshmallows!

The next morning, I broke out my torch and toasted the frosting. Bruleeing adds a delicious kiss of caramel.

This cake will have you yearning for a blazing fire...and a tall glass of milk!

Devil's Food Cake with a Cloud of White Frosting

Adapted from Godiva

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 1/4 cups Dutch processed cocoa powder

2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large whole eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon of instant espresso mixed with 3/4 cup warm water, then cooled


For the Chocolate Filling:

2 bars (8 oz, total) Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate bars, broken in 1/2" pieces

1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Frosting:

5 large egg whites (room temperature)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust pans with cocoa powder and tap out excess.

In large mixing bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together whole eggs and egg yolk until combined. Whisk in vanilla extract and melted butter. Whisk in buttermilk and coffee. Pour buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients and whisk just until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing it equally.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until edges of cakes pull away from sides of pans and a toothpick inserted into center of each cake comes out clean. Cool cakes on wire racks for 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely.


For the filling:
Place chocolate in medium bowl. In medium saucepan, heat cream until it comes to gentle boil. Pour hot cream over chopped chocolate. Allow mixture to stand for 5 minutes to allow chocolate to melt. Stir mixture until it is smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Stir in vanilla extract.

Set bowl containing chocolate mixture into larger bowl of ice water and stir mixture constantly for about 5 minutes or until it is a spreadable consistency. Remove bowl of filling from ice water and set aside until ready to fill cake.


For the frosting:
In large, deep bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar. With hand-held electric mixer, beat mixture until foamy, about 1 minute.

Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water, making sure that bottom of bowl does not touch water. Beat constantly at low speed until mixture reaches 160°F., about 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat, add vanilla, and beat frosting at high speed until it holds stiff peaks, about 7 minutes.


Assemble the cake:
Using long serrated knife, cut each cake layer in half horizontally to make 2 layers. Place one layer cut-side up on serving plate and spread with generous 1/2 cup rich chocolate filling (I used less...). Repeat twice and top with last cake layer.

Using large offset metal spatula, spread the frosting first around sides, then over top of cake, piling it in dramatic swirls. Serve immediately or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.


To brulee the frosted cake:

Use a kitchen torch or a plumber's blow torch. The sugar in the frosting will caramelize much more quickly than you might expect. Start with the flame about 6" away from the frosting and proceed to brown. Go for patches of brown instead of an all over color to avoid burning.


Note: For the cake pictured above, I did not use all the frosting or the filling. I had about 1 1/2 cups frosting left and 3/4 cup of the filling.

To use up the frosting: Spread thickly on a Silpat and toast with your kitchen torch or plumber's blow torch. It's a softer, more moist alternative to marshmallows. Toasted or not, this is a perfect topper for hot chocolate.

For the left over filling: Make truffles out of it. Roll portions of chocolate in small balls (I prefer mine the size of large grapes), then roll again in your choice of cocoa powder, coconut, or crushed nuts.