Krystopf’s Chocolate Chiffon Birthday Cake

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Because we were running around on my birthday, the Pie and I broke with our tradition of making each other birthday cakes from scratch and bought one from a local bakery.  It was lemon chiffon, and we liked it so much we immediately vowed that it would be on our list of things to learn.  It was Krystopf’s birthday on Saturday (my biggest brother is 37, how scary is that?), and he requested something chocolatey for his cake.  So instead of lemon chiffon, we’re making the Joy of Baking’s chocolate chiffon cake.  While the cake has multiple steps, they’re all pretty easy.  It’s also a good cake to make the day before and store in the fridge overnight.

Start by separating 6 eggs (add an extra white to the whites pile so you have 6 egg yolks and 7 egg whites) and let those come to room temperature.

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Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F and grab your favourite tube pan.  Resist the urge to put any grease of any form into it.

Next, seize your sifter and, in a large bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup room temperature coffee, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Make a well in your flour mixture and add the egg stuff to it.

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Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you get this lovely glossiness.

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Now we can start beating up those 7 egg whites.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and use an electric mixer to whip them to soft peaks.

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While still beating, slowly add in 3/4 cup granulated sugar and keep whipping those up until you get nice stiff peaks that stand on their own.

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Gently fold the meringue into the rest of the cake batter in three separate additions.

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I found it a bit tricky to get it all properly mixed, so mine is a little marbled.

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Pour the batter into your tube pan and smooth it down.  If you think there are large air bubbles in there, cut through it a few times with a knife to break them.

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Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, and then immediately invert your tube pan to allow the cake to cool completely without collapsing under its own weight (this is why you don’t grease the pan).

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Use a bottle to prop it up if your pan doesn’t have feet.

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Now that the cake is cool we can work on the glaze and filling.  Chuck a bowl and the wire whisk from your electric mixer into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

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Chop up 6oz semisweet chocolate and heave that into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) with 1/4 cup butter and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

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Heat that over a pot of barely simmering water until it’s all melted and lovely, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

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While it’s cooling down, you can decant your cake.  Use a sharp knife around the edges and tip it upside down onto a plate.

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Use the knife again to remove the bottom part.

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Then cut the whole thing in half horizontally.

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Haul your frozen whisk and bowl out of the freezer and throw 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa, and 1 teaspoon instant coffee into the bowl.

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Pour out 1 cup cold whipping cream and add a few drops of that to the mix in the bowl.  Give it a good stirring, then beat in the rest of the whipping cream until it’s a frothy mocha masterpiece.

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Take about 3/4 cup of the mocha cream and spread it on the cut side of the bottom half of the cake.

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Put the top half back on and then drizzle the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides.  Spread it smooth with a spatula.

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Pipe the remaining mocha filling on top.

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I let the cake chill for a bit to set the glaze.

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Oh man it was good!

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Sponge Toffee

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I’ve discovered recently that there is no ambivalence regarding sponge toffee*.  Either you love it or you hate it.  There’s no in-between.  Well, I love it.  And so does Mags.  So I decided to include it in my holiday candy-making endeavours.

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While it’s a little terrifying to make (as is anything involving melted sugar), it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do (though you should read about Joy the Baker’s emotional journey through candy making, for a laugh).  Just make sure everything is just so and ready to go before you start.

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First, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Put that near your sink.

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Then, grab a whisk and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and put that next to your sink as well, but closer than the baking sheet.  Squash the baking soda around to make sure there are no lumps.

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Fill your sink with a couple inches of cold water.

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Plop a large, thick-bottomed pot on your stove.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 6 tablespoons water, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat that on medium until it starts to boil.  You don’t really need to stir it, but I like to give it a whirl every once in a while, to feel like I’m doing something.  You want the foamy stuff to reach 300°F.  I found that mine kind of stopped when it hit 225°F, so I slowly increased the heat and kept an eye on it.

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When the temperature of your sugar reaches 300°F, take the pot off the heat and gently place it in your sink full of cold water.  The pot will likely yell.  You will likely yell as your pot makes weird noises.

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Add the baking soda and start whisking like crazy.  SCIENCE WILL HAPPEN.  IT MAY BE SLIGHTLY TERRIFYING.  Keep whisking like a maniac.

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When the mixture turns slightly golden, quickly spread the stuff into your baking sheet. It’s going to set before it spreads too far, don’t fret.

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I didn’t work fast enough, so there was a lot of sugar that set in my pot, but that goes away with good soak in hot water.

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The candy will cool and set within 20 minutes.

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Break that stuff up into smaller pieces that you won’t feel terrible eating many of and plop them on some waxed paper.

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Here are some wee pieces I deemed too small to do anything with.

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Grab some chocolate (your choice as to the amount and type) and plop it in a double boiler to melt.

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Drizzle over the pieces (or dip them in the chocolate, I don’t care) and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow the chocolate to harden, and then go to town eating them.

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Or exercise self-restraint and give them away.  It is your choice to make.

*AKA sea foam, honeycomb candy, Crunchie, hokey pokey, etc.