Driftwood cake: a chocolate and caramel layer cake

The inspiration for the cake came from an accident: I was attempting to make tarte tatin, but I kept screwing it up. So instead, I took my leftover shortbread dough, kneaded in some cacao powder, and formed it into branches to go onto a chocolate cake. When in doubt, make a chocolate cake. That’s my motto in life. Chocolate cake is life. You can make so many different recipes for it, and each one can satisfy a different kind of craving. For the chocolate cake for this recipe, I went with more of my standard chocolate cake, which is made with baking soda, malt vinegar, and canola oil to make it airy, but moist, and not too light on the chocolate flavor, since I’m layering in so many different kinds of fillings, and a denser chocolate cake would just result in immediate chocolate wasted-ness.

When I baked off the branches, they really did gain a texture similar to driftwood, hence the name of the cake. It is also highly fitting that I used sea salt in the salted caramel layer as well, as a subtle nod to the inspiration for the cake’s presentation. For the actual layers, we have the chocolate cake, sea salt-caramel Bavarian cream, spiced chocolate-mascarpone mousse, and the chocolate shortbread twigs. I also decorated the cake with edible flowers and pearls, just to add a little bit of femininity and color, since the cake would otherwise be brown on brown on brown, and we do eat with our eyes first, at least, to some degree.

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

For the chocolate cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup Ovaltine
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Whisk miso into Ovaltine until fully dissolved. Combine your ingredients together and pour onto a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Cool completely.

For the salted caramel Bavarian cream:
2 egg yolks
2/3 cups heavy cream; whipped stiff
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon gelatin powder + 1 tablespoon cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cook down sugar and salt until it forms a dry caramel. Add in the soy milk, a little at a time at first, off heat, and slowly stir so that the sugar can melt into the milk mixture. Dissolve your gelatin and salt into that mixture. Temper your eggs with that and whisk on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pass through a sieve to remove lumps and any undissolved sugar crystals, and allow the mixture to cool fully. Fold in the cream and keep at room temperature until it is time to assemble.

For the spiced chocolate mousse:
3/4 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup soy milk
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed pink peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Melt down the soy milk with butter, salt, chocolate, and spices. In a bowl, cream your mascarpone. Fold the melted ganache into the mascarpone until fully combined. Keep at room temperature until it is time for assembly.

For the shortbread:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cacao powder
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients except for the cacao powder. Gently knead half of the dough with the cacao, and then swirl into the other half. Roll out to a 1/8th an inch thick log, then cut and wrap around the back of either a muffin tin, or a silicone sphere mold. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely before gently removing. Crumble up any short or broken pieces for the actual cake filling, reserving the longer pieces to garnish the cake with.

For assembly:
Use a square ring mold (it sound oxymoronic, but you know what I mean) to cut out two clean layers of cake, and make the third using scraps. That will be your bottom layer. Spread the chocolate mousse on first, then the crushed shortbread, then the Bavarian. Repeat with the second layer. With the third, combine whatever is left of your fillings to form a marbled wood effect and spread that evenly onto your top layer. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set. Garnish with shortbread sticks, edible flowers, and edible pearls.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

 

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