Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chocolate Charge

There's something about an individually baked cake that is especially endearing. As a gift, it says that someone baked this whole thing just for you. Not for you to share--this little cake is yours alone for you to enjoy where and when you like. Wrapped in clear cellophane bags and tied with a ribbon, a miniature cake is an ideal way to say 'thank you,' 'I'm sorry', or 'congratulations.' It's amazing how something so simple will generate such a heartfelt reaction in its recipients. These chocolate cakes are the ultimate little gifts. They're packed with chocolate. A good amount of cocoa powder gives them a deep chocolate flavor, while slivers of bittersweet chocolate ratchet up the chocolate intensity. Sometimes I serve them with just a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar, other times I coat them with a rich chocolate glaze. Either way, they're simply delicious.

Individual Chocolate Buttermilk Cakes

Makes 6 individual cakes
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Special Equipment: one 6-cake Bundt-lette pan

1 cup (4 oz/114 g) cake flour
1/2 cup (1.6 oz/46 g) Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/6 oz/170 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (8.8 oz/250 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Kahlua (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces (113 g) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or 3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate morsels Bittersweet

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease the interior of a 6-cake Bundt-lette pan (it's best to use shortening here). Dust the molds with flour and tap out the excess.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for 2 minutes, until very creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes, until the mixture is well blended and light. At medium speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, Kahlua, and vanilla extract. If your mixer has a splatter shield attachment, attach it now. At low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating it with the buttermilk cream mixture in two additions, and mixing just until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the finely chopped chocolate or miniature semisweet morsels. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake molds, dividing it evenly and smoothing the tops.
5. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
6. Invert the cakes onto the rack and cool completely.