Devil’s food-tangerine choco-pies

While I was in quarantine, I wanted to continue to bake things that either hybridized two things, or touched upon my childhood nostalgia. In this case, I made something that touched upon the latter. Growing up in a Taiwanese/Chinese-American household, I have distinct memories of going to the Asian grocery stores and getting these chocolate-covered snacks(typically in a Hello Kitty or Lotte box) and eating them by the half dozen. They were called choco-pies, which consists of two small rounds of fluffy vanilla cake sandwiching a vanilla marshmallow, and the whole thing is covered in milk chocolate. I believe in America, there is a similar product called a moon pie, which is almost identical, except those use cookies, while choco-pies used a dense cake. I wanted to make something inspired by those, except not exactly identical for a handful of reasons. The first is that as an adult, I find choco-pies to be a touch too sweet for my liking. The second is that I had a ton of tangerines that I had to use, so I wanted to use them here. And the third is that I love chocolate cake, which should be pretty obvious, given my history with it. So I wanted to make sure that all of those three reasons were applied to my own rendition, just to make it truly my own.

So for my version, we are using a buttermilk devil’s food cake instead of chocolate cake, as it’ll add a nice, richer experience and that’ll pair well with the tangerine(I know there are some people who HATE citrus with chocolate, but I am not one of them, and if you are and you are reading this, you are free to stop reading the rest of this recipe), and the citrus and chocolate notes will offset the sweetness. The usage of buttermilk is to help create a denser cake batter, since I didn’t want it to just crumble and fall apart. I used a similar method to how Shari made her devil’s food cake on my season of Masterchef, actually, since I wanted the cake to have some aeration to it, just not too much. I am stuffing the choco-pie with a tangerine marshmallow, which I spiked with some togarashi to help tone down the cloyingly sugary quality of the marshmallow itself. Togarashi is a Japanese spice blend that also contains tangerine peel in it, so it’ll echo the flavor of the fruit, while that heat tempers sugar. This is important, because one of my garnishes is a togarashi-candied tangerine peel(mostly because I love that aesthetic), so the togarashi will mostly be used to cut down the sweetness of the entire dessert. I dipped half of the choco-pie into tempered dark chocolate that I seasoned with fleur de sel, a French sea salt that works beautifully with desserts and is typically used as a finishing salt. I wanted to use dark chocolate as it is less sweet than milk chocolate, while I only wanted to dip half of the pie, as true to my Milkbar pride, I don’t like completely covering up the pie. Well, that and trying to dip the entire thing sounds like an unnecessary mess. I went with a square shape on these, as opposed to the usual circular shape, as I didn’t want to waste any cake, nor do I own a whoopee pie mold. If you have one, you can totally use that as well, but my recipe will just call for a sheet pan instead.

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For 8 choco-pies:
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cups granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of togarashi
1 teaspoon tangerine zest
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tangerine juice
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add vinegar, tangerine juice, and zest into heavy cream and allow to sit at room temperature to curdle into buttermilk. Whip together your cream cheese with oil, salt, sugar, vanilla, and baking soda. Sift your cocoa powder with your flour and combine with the oil-cream cheese mixture to form a crumbly texture, almost like a biscuit dough. Heat up the buttermilk on low temperature, just until it starts to steam up a little, and pour into the center of your cake. Stir together and whisk in your eggs, one at a time. Pour onto a lined quarter sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 22 minutes. Cool completely. Cut out as many 3 inch squares as you can. Cool down.

For the marshmallow:
2 packets gelatin powder + 1/4 cup cold water
juice and zest from 4 tangerines
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
canola oil

Bloom gelatin and water in a mixing bowl. Reduce sugar, juice, zest, and salt until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is reduced by half, into essentially a syrup consistency. While still hot, pour into the gelatin and begin whipping until the mixture has doubled in volume and is light and airy. Transfer to a lightly oiled piping bag. Pipe between two squares of cake. Freeze these until they are solid, about 1-2 hours.

For the candied tangerine peel:
peels from 2 tangerine
juice from 1 tangerine
a pinch of togarashi
2/3 cups granulated sugar, in two parts
a pinch of salt
water

Boil tangerine peels in water. Drain water and boil the peels again. This will help remove any bitterness. Combine tangerine juice with 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and the togarashi and bring to a simmer. Add in the peels and stir on low heat until all of the liquid is cooked out. Pour onto a nonstick surface and freeze for 10 minutes. Toss in sugar to finish.

For the tempered chocolate:
1 cup dark chocolate
a pinch of fleur de sel

Heat up 3/4 cups of dark chocolate over a double boiler with your salt until the chocolate is just melted. Take off heat and stir for about 1-2 minutes to cool it down slightly, then add in the rest of the chocolate. Stir until that is melted in as well. Dip the frozen sandwiches halfway into the chocolate, and then garnish with the peels. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.

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