Q: Chef, Valentine's Day is here and I have always wondered why we always give chocolate to the ones we love. This year, I want to do more than the usual chocolates. Do you have a great recipe using chocolate?
A: Chocolate has been a favorite gift for lovers for a long time—all the way back to the days of the Aztec empire of Central America. More than just food, chocolate has been described in many ways: luxurious, smooth, sumptuous, silky, heavenly, and as a vegetable. Yes, did you know that chocolate is a vegetable? It’s made from the seed pod of the Theobroma cacao tree, which, when translated, means ‘food of the gods.’ As an admitted chocoholic, I can see why so many people love the way chocolate tastes, as well as how it makes them feel.
I have a recipe for a chocolate caramel cake that truly represents the love that goes into its creation. Like water is to the body, chocolate is for the soul. It helps relieve the stress of life. Always remember: Turning ‘stressed’ around gives you ‘desserts.’
CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CAKE
For the caramel:
1 c brown sugar
4 T butter
½ c heavy cream
1/8 t vanilla extract
Mix the sugar, cream and butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook while whisking continuously for about 10 minutes. When the sauce thickens, add vanilla and cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside
For the ganache:
1 lb. chocolate pieces
1 c heavy cream
Cook chocolate in double boiler with cream until incorporated.
For the cake:
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour, sifted
2 c sugar
¾ c cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1 c heavy cream
½ c vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 c water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Combine all wet ingredients in another bowl. Bring together dry and wet ingredients, and mix well. Pour batter into cake pans and bake in oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
For the whipped cream:
1 vanilla bean
2 c heavy cream
½ c powdered sugar
Using a mixer, blend all ingredients together until stiff peaks form.
To assemble cake:
Put one layer of cake on platter, and using a circle cutter, remove a 3-inch section out of the center of the cake. Fill with caramel, and use the excess sauce to coat the top of the cake. Place the next layer on top and slowly pour the warm ganache over the cake.
Cool completely. Garnish slices with whipped cream.
Chef John Johnson is executive chef at River City Casino. For questions or recipe requests, email him at John.Johnson@rivercity.com.