Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy Day Oreo Cake

My baby is 2! She's a whole lotta personality and spunk crammed into a little body. A body that still toddles quite a bit. She'll eventually learn to walk normal, right? I wanted to make her a birthday cake that she would absolutely love.

Last year when I made her a vanilla birthday cake with sprinkles, piped with enticing pink rosettes, she cried and pushed the cake to the edge of her high-chair tray. I was envisioning her sticking her face in her own little cake (as her mother had done at that age....and is constantly reminded of....), but she just wanted it out of her sight. I guess it was the first time she had had cake, and everyone staring at her and singing to her might have been a little overwhelming.

Since cake is no longer a novelty for her, we had better luck this year.....except she tried to touch the lit candle. But she smiled through being sung to and ate a piece of cake like a pro this year. And used a fork to boot.

Now, the Bean (her nickname) has recently been introduced to Oreo cookies, and she loves them. She takes her time eating them, and I am at awe since I can eat many a cookie to her 1. So in thinking about what cake to make, an Oreo cake seemed like a great idea.

There are lots of recipes for an Oreo cake on the internet, and Oreo frosting. And many look very appetizing. But I decided to make a recipe from "The Joy of Cooking;" that book has never steered me wrong. Now, there isn't an Oreo cake recipe in there, so I adapted the recipe for their basic chocolate cake, with delicious results. There are Oreo cookie crumbs in the batter, and a whopping 6 oz. of chocolate in this cake, because you can almost never have too much chocolate.The cake is moist and chocolate-y and there are little bits of Oreo goodness inside.

I cut the cake into four layers, and frosted the inside with 3 layers of decadent Oreo butter-cream frosting. And when I say butter-cream, I mean the real butter-cream. The kind which requires a candy thermometer and a stove (don't be intimidated; not as hard as you think; just more time). Not that I mind mixing butter and powdered sugar together with cream and vanilla. That is delicious too, but I wanted to go for something different this time, and I was not disappointed.

For some reason on birthday cakes, I go all out. The outside of the cake is covered in chocolate fudge frosting (yes, stove-cooked fudge envelopes this entire cake). So yeah, it's rich. And nestled in the fudge is some more Oreo cookie crumble magic. Hey; you only turn 2 once.

If you love chocolate and Oreos, this cake will definitely satisfy, and well, if you don't....there might be something wrong with you. Seriously. I'm just saying...

So make this for a celebration, or just because. But if you make this cake, it will be a special day. In the words of my 2-year old little Bean, "Happy Day!"

It might be important to tell you here that I did not make this cake all in one day. That would be toooooo much work on the birthday. I split up the days and times I made each of the components. That made the whole process much less daunting and it didn't seem like too much work for such a delectable, from-scratch cake.

I made the cake a few days ahead of time and after it cooled, I wrapped it well with plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer. Then before frosting the layers of the cake, I pulled it out about an hour before, unwrapped it, and sliced it. Freezing it has an added bonus of improving the texture/moisture of the cake, and makes it easier to slice. Score!

I also did the frostings at different times. When I was ready to frost the cut cakes, I made the Oreo buttercream frosting, frosted the middle layers, covered the cake with plastic wrap again and placed it in the fridge until I was ready to make the fudge frosting. You could probably do this step a day ahead of time if you have the space to spare in your fridge.

Lastly, I made the fudge frosting. Most of the time involved in making this frosting is waiting for the fudge to come back down to 110 degrees F after it has been cooked. So make sure to give yourself time to make this well in advance (a few hours) of any gathering the cake might be involved in. Then you can frost the cake, place it back in the fridge and pull it out when needed.

When you pull the cake out in front of guests, you will feel like the super baking star that you are. You will hear oooh's and ahhhh's and "did you make that?!"

And the work you put in to this cake will most definitely be worth it. Because there's almost nothing worse than spending a lot of time and effort into making a cake and then after tasting it thinking: "eh....I might as well have used a box cake." No, you will not think that at all. My sister says this cake tastes "amazeballs." That's an honorific title. So now....the recipe:

Happy Day Oreo Cake

One 9-inch layer cake

You want all ingredients at room temperature, or about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg yolk

2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks

13 crushed Oreo's (I put them in a freezer bag and took a rolling pin to those babies)
2 Tbsp.flour

3 large egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, with rack in the middle. Prepare your 9-inch cake pans by greasing them, and placing a parchment round on the bottom of each pan. I trace the bottom of the pan on parchment paper and then cut it out with scissors. 
2. Place the chocolate, milk, brown sugar and egg yolk in a double boiler. You can use a bowl over a pot of boiling water, as long as the bowl doesn't touch the water. Cook and stir until the chocolate mixture is smooth and slightly thickened. Take the bowl off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. 
3. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.
4. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup milk, water, and vanilla. 
5. Add the 2 Tbsp. flour to the crushed Oreo's in a bag and shake it to coat the crushed pieces. 
6. Place the 1/2 cup butter in the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on medium-high again, slowly add the sugar and mix until very light and fluffy. This takes about 4-5 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until combined. 
7. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar. When that is incorporated, add half of the liquid (milk, water, vanilla). After that is incorporated, add another third of the flour mixture, followed by the last of the liquid, and then the last portion of the flour. Mix until just combined. Over-mixing will make the cake texture tough. 
8. Stir the cooled chocolate mixture into the batter. Then stir in the Oreo crumbs into the batter. 
9. With clean beaters (I use a hand mixer on highest setting), beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff, but not dry. Fold the egg whites gently into the batter (I actually use a large wire whisk to do this. I find it works better than folding the whites in with a spatula).
10. Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs. This takes about 30 minutes. Begin testing at 25 minutes to ensure you don't over-bake the cake. 
11. Remove the pans from the oven and place the pans on a wire rack. Allow to sit in the pans for 10-15 minutes. Then run a thin knife around the edges of the cakes and remove them from the pans. Place the cakes on the wire rack to cool completely. If you are using the cake that day, place the cake in the fridge (securely wrapped) for about an hour to make slicing the layers easier. If you are not using the cake that day, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. When ready to use the cakes, pull them from the freezer and allow to thaw for about an hour. Then you can slice the layers.
12. Slice each cake horizontally in half, creating four layers. 

Oreo Buttercream Filling
Have all ingredients at room temperature (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup (or more to taste) crushed, fine Oreo cookie crumbs

1. Combine the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and while stirring,  cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Stop stirring and cover and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Uncover and wash any sugar crystals down off the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook, un-covered, until thte syrup registers 238 degrees F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer.
2. Meanwhile, fill a wide deep skillet with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer.
3. (While syrup is cooking) In a medium heat-proof bowl, place the eggs and beat with a hand mixer on high speed until thick and pale yellow. Set aside until syrup reaches 238 degrees F.
4. Just before the syrup is ready, begin beating the eggs again on medium speed. While beating, carefully pour the hot syrup into the bowl of eggs (avoiding the beaters) in a thin steady stream. Once the syrup is incorporated, set the bowl in the skillet of simmering water. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture registers 160 degrees F on the thermometer. Remove from the heat.
5. With clean beaters, beat the mixture until it cools to room temperature. This will take a couple of minutes.
6. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. If the mixture gets too soupy, refrigerate it for a few minutes, then resume beating. 
7. Add 1 tsp. vanilla and the crushed Oreo crumbs until combined. Lick the beaters. Grab a small spoon and eat another bite. Ok, now stop there so that there is some left to frost the cake with. Refrigerate until ready to use, or use immediately. 

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup

6 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or use semi-sweet chocolate chips)

2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. half-and-half + more if needed for desired consistency

1. Combine the first five ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Then stop stirring and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute without stirring it, then remove from the heat. 
2. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until it is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
3. Brush the sides of the pan down with a pastry-brush dipped in warm water. Place a warmed candy thermometer (run it under warm water for a bit) into the pan, and cook the mixture over medium heat without stirring until the mixture reaches 238 degrees F (soft-ball stage). Remove from the heat.
4. Place the butter and vanilla on top of the mixture, but don't stir it. Cool the candy to 110 degrees by placing the bottom of the pan in bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. 
5. Ween it is cool, stir the fudge in the pan with a wooden spoon until it "snaps" (meaning it begins to lose its sheen). Or do what I did and pour the fudge into the bowl of your stand-mixer and with the paddle attachment, mix on low-speed until it snaps (loses its sheen). This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.
6. Once the mixture loses its sheen, add the Tablepoon of half-and-half and mic until combined. Turn the mixer off and let the mix sit for a few minues (5-10) to thicken. Check after this point to see if you want to add more half-and-half (a teaspoon at a time if needed) to make it spreadable. You may not need to add any more at all. Use it immediately to frost the cake. If you can't use it immediately, place plastic wrap on it. You will have to soften it again (heating it) and stir it until smooth before you use it. 

Assembling the cake:
Slice each layer of cake in half horizontally, creating a total of 4 layers. Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake plate and frost with a third of the Oreo buttercream frosting. Top with another layer of cake and another third of the buttercream. Repeat with another layer of cake and the last of the buttercream frosting. Top with the top layer of cake. Frost the entire cake with the fudge frosting, saving some to pipe from a pastry bag on top later (if desired). Crush some Oreos and press the crushed pieces into the top and sides of the cake. And you're done. Yay!

Now go eat some cake!

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