Very few dessert cookbooks really up the ante on technique like Stella Parks’ Bravetart has in recent times. The groundbreaking dessert tome has paved the way for a new age of fantastic baked goods and candy being pulled out of our ovens and into the dining room. The last time I was this excited about a dessert book was Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s Sweet-another fantastic addition to the world of dessert that gave confections that very Ottolenghi spin. Stella’s recipes take recipes that are good, yes, but make them better with sharp technique, tips that you didn’t know you needed, and the end result is something far superior to what you set out to make.
This devil’s chocolate cake for example, doubly approved by Edd Kimber, The Boy Who Bakes and I, is perhaps the chocolate cake to top all chocolate cakes. It’s doubly chocolatey from both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, and does not compromise on texture, which both looks and feels beautifully moist when cut into. This seasonal take on the devil’s chocolate cake uses cherry juice in place of coffee in the original recipe with the addition of kirsch in both cake as well as buttercream to really amp up the cherry flavour, which tends to be a bit muted otherwise.
The buttercream I pair this with, another Bravetart wonder, was a Cherry and Kirsch marshmallow buttercream made by whipping together gelatine and sugar syrup, as you would if you were making marshmallow. The buttercream is eggless, but still has the incredible lightness of a Swiss Meringue buttercream. This really amazes me as an amateur baker. The fact that I could get it right at home goes to show that anyone who puts their head to it can do the same. The recipes are really THAT good.
Special equipment: You will need a pen-type kitchen thermometer for the buttercream. It’s important to invest in one for the long run and it costs next to nothing (less than 300 INR) last I checked.
Devil’s Cherry Cake With Cherry Marshmallow Buttercream
Yield 6-8 servings
A riff on Stella Parks’ unbeatable Devil’s chocolate cake, this one uses cherry juice instead of coffee and twice as much chocolate to make this a fluffy but dark chocolate cake that’s moist down to its last crumb. The marshmallow buttercream frosting is eggless and simple enough to make if you follow the precise instructions. You will need to invest in a kitchen thermometer for it though, which costs next to nothing.
For the cake layers
Cherry juice 3/4 cups, freshly squeezed
Cocoa powder 1/2 cup
Dark chocolate 85g, finely chopped
Demerara sugar 1 cup, blitzed
Kirsch liqueur 1/2 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Eggs 3, straight out of the refrigerator
Egg yolks 2
All-purpose flour 1 cup or 128g
Baking soda 1/2 tbsp
For The Bravetart Signature Buttercream
Gelatine powder 1 1/8 tsp or 3.5g
Cherry juice 30g or 2 tbsp water for blooming the gelatine
Kirsch liqueur 30g or 2 tbsp
Cherry juice 85g (1/3 cup plus 1 tsp) for the sugar syrup
Corn syrup 141g (1/2 cup, with 1 tablespoon removed)
Sugar 1 cup or 205g
A large pinch of salt
Butter 283g, soft
Cherries 1/2 box, about 200g pitted, for the filling and the top
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line, or simply grease and flour 2 6-inch round pans aluminium cake pans and set aside.
In a small saucepan, over low heat melt the butter into the cherry juice. Once all the butter has melted, take the saucepan off the heat and transfer its contents into a bowl and add the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk all of this together. Then add into this the brown sugar, kirsch and salt, followed by the eggs and egg yolks.
Run a whisk through the all-purpose flour and baking soda and add into the batter. Whisk to combine and divide between the two prepared cake tins. Level the tops of the cake with an offset spatula and transfer to the oven to bake until a cake tester inserted sideways into the centre comes out with a few crumbs still attached. Once the cakes are done, let them cool in the tins for 1 1/2 hour before transferring to a wire rack, pulling off the parchment and letting them finish cooling.
In the meantime, get on with the buttercream. In a small bowl mix the gelatin with the cherry juice for blooming. Next, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan with long sides, add the remainder of the cherry juice with the corn syrup and sugar and cook this over medium heat. Stir the mixture in the first 5 minutes to dissolve the sugar with a fork. After the initial five minutes, do not stir and increase the heat to medium-high. With the help of a candy thermometer, keep cooking this sugar syrup mixture until a candy thermometer registers a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 121 degrees Celsius.
Once the sugar syrup reaches that temperature, transfer the contents swiftly to a bowl with an electric hand-mixer or stand-mixer ready on-hand. Whip the hot sugar syrup till the temperature is 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage, add the bloomed gelatine with the cherry juice, still on low speed, then increase the speed to medium to medium-high and whip until the mixture has become double in volume, after whisking for about 10-12 minutes. At this stage, the mixture will start to ball up around the whisk so you know that the marshmallow fluff is ready. Scrape this marshmallow mixture into a greased container and let it cool for at least 2 hours.
To make the buttercream, transfer the marshmallow mixture back to a bowl and whisk with the help of a hand-mixer or stand-mixer adding the room temperature butter into the marshmallow fluff a tablespoon at a time. Start on a medium-speed, gradually increasing as you go. Once all the butter has been added, whip on high speed for a minute more till the buttercream is light and fluffy. If your buttercream stays gooey, like mine did the first time around, freezing the bowl at 10 minute intervals and whipping again on medium-high speed solved the problem. Drizzle in the kirsch liqueur and whip once more.
Torte the tops of the cakes if necessary and sandwich the cooled cake layers with the buttercream both between, and on top of the cake. Add sliced pitted cherries in the centre of the cake and whole cherries on top to finish.
Precision is very important to this buttercream and a complete troubleshooting guide to this buttercream has been included in the book. You can buy Bravetart here.