“Between my sleeping and dreaming, Between me and the one in me who I suppose I am, A river flows without end.” – Fernando Pessoa, from ‘A Little Larger Than The Entire Universe: Selected Poems.’
A Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake with Earl Grey Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Valentine’s Day. As much as I love to create sweet things for the aforementioned date, I have never been one to celebrate the exhausted tradition. Probably because my beliefs on love and intimacy are so far removed from the ideals that the corporate world stemmed. But, here I am. Once again. The same fragmented girl as the one several moons ago, white-hot with exuberant gilded swan song. Like the most precious thing, untainted thing. Again, smoking with desire. But a desire no longer for the bitterness of exterior flesh, rather an endless hunger for eternal understanding of the human heart.
I lose my mind in the maladies of self. In the simultaneous deification of the rose and poplar tree. How roses bloom then fade, how leaves fall then wither, the point of temporal existence and everlasting reincarnation – being death. It’s Apotheosis. Glorification on divine level. Surely, if Angels chose to recreate the world in their likeness, a singular rose would be the prevailed image. Scarlet stained wounds wide open, an elixir of sweet aroma and symphony to the naked eye. Every part just as vestigial and fragile as the bloom. I think that’s why I have an unwavering desire to incorporate all things floral and herbaceous into my work. Mine is elaborate. Mine is intense. Mine is seduction. Mine is unadulterated awe. When you’re vulnerable, you cannot appear to be thornless.
To be vulnerable is not a monster. It’s a word, singular. And sometimes it aches. And twists. And turns. The trick is to not let it consume you. Easier said than. And just like the ephemerality of season, it flows into new feeling just as elaborate and intense as the ones that came before. Oh, to be both hot and cold! To not be crushed by the weight of the past. I’ve always had the worst luck with love. And it gets louder before it gets quieter. And suddenly I shift into a sullen sculpture by a still lake. The last of the dying light is warm and radiant. The air is crisp. And this stone-cold marble body is coated in raxeric light, more mysteriously coated than ever. Every perception of colour and time is an illusion though no more illusory than the current. Siren. Is that enough to tempt you here? The moment has yet to pass. Hurry. And words become superfluous. Just as superfluous as pale water.
So, to cake. Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cake with Earl Grey Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I won’t dare understate its delicious nature. The chocolate cake is my go-to. It’s easy. As easy as breathing. It yields a cake that’s utterly soft, moist and rich in deep, dark, chocolate. I can’t proclaim my love for it enough. I’m projecting, perhaps. Those store-bought four dollar cakes that frequented my youth. A stroke to midnight, a dulcet slice, half-naked, leaning over the kitchen sink. The taste reminds me of that. I’d be happy with either, actually. There’s raspberry coulis smothered between the cake layers too. And a thick coating of the sweetest Earl Grey Swiss Meringue Buttercream dyed the palest shade of pure pink. Roses, of course. Macarons too. So, here’s to Valentine’s Day and to prose of scars past. But more importantly, here’s to cake.
DARK CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY CAKE WITH EARL GREY SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
the dark chocolate cake:
335 grams cake flour
100 grams dutch processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
450 grams granulated sugar
230 millilitres whole milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
180 grams butter, melted
195 millilitres boiling water
Pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Grease and line three x 15 cm (6 inch) cake tins with parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift the cake flour, dutch processed cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar. Add in the milk, eggs and vanilla bean extract. Whisk to combine until smooth. Pour in the melted butter and whisk until just combined, then, pour in the boiling water and whisk until smooth. The batter should be fairly liquid.
Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until risen and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. A cake skewer inserted into the middles should not come out clean but with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in their tins for 15 minutes, before turning out and onto a wire rack to let cool completely. Once cooled, level off any domed tops with a serrated knife or cake leveller then set aside for assembly.
the raspberry coulis:
220 grams frozen raspberries
100 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until the raspberries are beginning to release their juices and the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a light rolling boil. Let the raspberries boil out for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the coulis into a medium sized bowl. Set it in the refrigerator to chill until completely cold.
the earl grey swiss meringue buttercream: (adapted from Layered)
180 grams unsalted butter
2 teaspoons earl grey tea leaves
120 grams egg whites
200 grams granulated sugar
340 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature (see * below)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
¼ teaspoon raspberry oil, optional
3 – 4 drops of gel pink food colouring
Place 180 grams of the unsalted butter and the earl grey tea leaves in a medium sized saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium and bring the butter to a light simmer. Let the mixture simmer for 3 minutes then remove it from the heat. Set the mixture aside to steep for an hour. Use a strainer to remove and discard the tea leaves from the butter. Place the infused butter into the refrigerator to chill until soft and malleable.
Place the egg whites and granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk by hand to combine. Put the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water set on medium-low heat . Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Heat, whisking often, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 70 c (160 f) on a candy thermometer. The sugar should be completely dissolved and the mixture hot to the touch. Once at temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the base of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Whisk, on medium-high speed, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture holds stiff peaks. The bowl should no longer be hot to the touch and the meringue should be glossy and cool. Pause mixing and swap the whisk attachment for the beater attachment.
*Re-weigh the butter. Place all of the earl grey infused butter into a bowl. Add in the other unsalted butter so that you reach a total of 340 grams of butter all together. You will likely not need all the unsalted butter, just enough to make up the difference in weight.
Add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated. Add in the vanilla bean extract, raspberry oil (if using) and a few drops of food colouring. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until the buttercream is thick and silky smooth, 6 more minutes. Stop mixing and set aside for assembly.
the dark chocolate glaze:
100 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
50 grams unsalted butter
Place the dark chocolate and butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature (about 30 c) before using on the cake.
Place the first levelled cake layer, cut side facing up, on a cake stand or serving platter. Place about ¼ cup of the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe a ring of the buttercream around the edge of the cake. Fill the centre of the ring with a few tablespoons of the chilled raspberry coulis. Gently press on the next cake layer and repeat the piping and filling process. Top with the final cake layer, cut side facing down. Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of the buttercream over the entire cake to crumb coat it. Set the cake in the refrigerator so that the buttercream can set, about 20 to 30 minutes. Once the buttercream has set, spread another thin layer of the buttercream over the entire cake to form a ‘naked’ look. Place in the refrigerator to chill until set, 30 more minutes.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and pour the dark chocolate glaze over the top of the cake. Use a clean offset spatula to help spread the dark chocolate over the edges to form a ‘drip’ effect. Place the cake again in the refrigerator to set the glaze before topping with fresh, pesticide free flowers and a handful of macarons, if desired. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.