June 3, 2013

Bear Essentials:
Mitten Noms - Michigan Classics

( + Bumpy Cake )

"Bumpy Cake" is the theory of "frosting is the point of cake" made manifest.  It's the brainchild of the Detroit-based Sanders Candy Company, a devil's food cake topped with inch-thick logs of buttercream and then doused with an icing that is somewhere between a chocolate saucepan icing and caramel ice cream topping.  It is decadent, it is genius, and it is magic.

It is also my new favorite dessert, if "dessert" is code for "breakfast," and "It's my favorite" is code for "Please don't judge me for eating this for...."

Bumpy cake played an important part in birthday culture when I was growing up, and I'd assumed that this was a fact unique to my family.  I did, that is, until Mr. Bear walked past the kitchen counter and saw this recipe lying out.

"Bumpy Cake?!?" he squealed, in a pitch I would have associated with a prostate exam if his expression hadn't been so rapturous.  "You're making BUUUUMPY CAAAAAAKE?????"

Apparently my family wasn't the only one.

So last week, when Being a Bear turned one year old, I pulled out that Michigan special-occasion classic and celebrated the birth of something that started off as an experiment and has grown into something that has changed my life just a teensy bit in a thousand different ways.

Thank you for coming along for the ride.  The trip is always nicer with someone in the passenger's seat.  Are you ready for the next year?  

Don't worry - I packed treats.

Bumpy Cake
 barely adapted from Serious Eats

Unsalted Butter  [ 1 tablespoon ]
Unsweetened Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder  [ 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ]
Hot Black Coffee  [ 1/2 cup ]
Vegetable Oil  [ 1/2 cup ]
Buttermilk  [ 1 cup ]
Baking Soda  [ 1 1/2 teaspoons ]
Salt  [ 1/2 teaspoon ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 tablespoon ]
Eggs  [ 2, lightly beaten ]
Dark Brown Sugar  [ firmly packed, 3/4 cup ]
White Sugar  [ 3/4 cup ]
Flour  [ 2 cups ]

Unsalted Butter  [ 1/4 cup ]
Vegetable Shortening  [ 1/4 cup ]
Powdered Sugar  [ 2 1/2 cups ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 teaspoon ]

Buttermilk  [ 1/2 cup, room temperature ]
Powdered Sugar  [ 2 1/2 cups ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 teaspoon ]
White Sugar  [ 1 cup ]
Unsweetened Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder  [ 1/3 cup ]
Dark Corn Syrup  [ 1/3 cup ]
Salt  [ 1/4 teaspoon ]
Unsalted Butter  [ 1 cup, cut into 16 pieces ]

Make Cake:
1.   Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2.   Grease 9x13-inch baking pan.
3.   In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together Cocoa Powder and Coffee.  Mix on Medium for 30 seconds.
4.   Add the following ingredients, mixing on Medium for 30 seconds between each ingredient: Oil,  
         Buttermilk, Baking Soda, Salt, Vanilla, Eggs, and then Brown and White Sugars.
5.   Stir in Flour and mix for 5 minutes.  Mixture may become bubbly.
6.   Spread Batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a spatula.
7.   Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean [ about 35 minutes ].
8.   Cool in pan on rack at least 30 minutes.
9.  Place cake in freezer for at least an hour.  Overnight is even better.

Make Buttercream:
10.   In bowl of stand mixer, mix Butter and Shortening until fluffy  [ about 3 minutes ].
11.   Add Powdered Sugar and mix until completely blended.
12.   Add Vanilla and mix 1 minute.
13.   Set up a piping bag with a large round tip [or, if your round tip has disappeared, as mine had, snip a
           corner off of a sturdy freezer bag ].
14.   Place Buttercream in bag and refrigerate at least 15 minutes so that it is firm but still pipe-able.
15.  Pipe 7  1-inch-wide lines of Buttercream width-wise across the Cake, about 1 inch apart.
16.   Place Cake in freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes to set Buttercream  [ I froze overnight ].

Make Icing:
17.   In a bowl, whisk together Buttermilk, Powdered Sugar, and Vanilla.
18.   In a medium pot, melt together Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Corn Syrup, Salt, and 1/2 cup of the 
19.      Raise heat to Medium-High and bring Mixture to a boil.
20.   Clip candy thermometer to pan and cook Mixture until it reaches 240 degrees F. 
21.   Whisking constantly, pour Hot Mixture through a seive into Buttermilk Mixture.
22.   Add remaining 1/2 cup of the Butter; whisk until Butter has fully melted and Icing has cooled to just
            above room temperature.
23.   Remove Cake from freezer and pour Icing over cake.  The Icing will roll off of the Buttercream
             bumps, so try to pour directly on top of the them.  The excess will gather thickly between the bumps
             for the most hedonistically fudgy experience you've ever had.
24.   Place cake in freezer to allow Icing to set up.

Makes 1  9x13-inch cake.  Serve chilled or even frozen.

[ Notes: this cake is a lovely example of why you don't pop a cake in the oven and then go take a shower, jumping out at right about the time the cake is supposed to be done.  I ended up with a cake which, while delicious, sloped like a ski hill with almost 2 inches difference between heights at left and right ends of the pan.  It was fascinating, yet not quite what I had been going for.  Had I been vigilant, I would have noticed this and turned the pan halfway through, probably eliminating the problem.  If this makes you nervous, I offer a solution: at the risk of upsetting people, I might suggest that what makes a bumpy cake a bumpy cake is the frosting, not the cake, and this would probably turn out amazing with your favorite sturdy chocolate cake recipe in place of the one offered here.]

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