April is birthday month around here. We're not usually big cake eaters, but this one is worth the exception. A few months ago, I was in San Antonio for a photo shoot. Despite living only a little over an hour away, I haven't spent that much time in the Alamo City. So I scanned the Texas Monthly restaurant reviews for some lunch suggestions. I presented a few of the choices to my partner in crime, Dennis, and lucky for me, he zoned right in on Liberty Bar. We've been there twice now and both times the food was really fresh and exceptionally well-prepared. I could go on and on talking about how good it was, but what I'm here to share with you is the chocolate cake we had for dessert.
As I said, I'm not much of a cake eater. Usually, cakes are pretty, but the taste doesn't usually live up to the promise of all the decoration. Cakes usually disappoint. Not this one. This one knocks you out of your seat. It's dense. DENSE. It's rich. It's a hefty slab of moist chocolate heaven. The kind of flavor you want to roll around in. And the icing is just as intense. They serve multiple flavors of homemade ice cream at Liberty Bar. We tried it with the Mexican Chocolate. That put it way over the top. The spicy cinnamon chocolate ice cream melting in a pool next to the cake made for the best chocolate cake experience I've ever had. D and I buzzed about it all the way home. We wished we'd gotten more to bring home. The next time we went back, we did. I was haunted by that cake.
So I did some looking around online and found the recipe. It makes a two-layer nine inch cake. I sometimes like to make little cakes, 6-inchers. There's something more fun about them. And you can use the leftover batter and icing for cupcakes. So I tried that. The only difference I noticed between this cake and the one we had at Liberty Bar, was that mine wasn't quite as moist. I think that's because I was experimenting with the cooking time since the cakes were 6 inches instead of 9. So next time, I'll pull them out a little sooner. Otherwise, they were dead on.
Now, I just need to find the perfect Mexican Chocolate ice cream recipe. Time to pull out David Lebovitz's ice cream book again and see what he has to offer. Yum.
One note: the icing has to be made at least 3-4 hours or the night before to set properly, so plan ahead. It's worth it.
Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Icing
from Liberty Bar in San Antonio
6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup sifted Dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 9-inch round cake pans (or smaller with leftovers baked in cupcake liners)
Grease and flour cake pans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sifted flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
Place sifted cocoa in a bowl and add boiling water, stirring until completely dissolved. Add baking soda, but do not stir. Just set aside.
Combine eggs and sugar in food processor and whiz for one minute.
Scrape down sides, process for another 30 seconds.
Add butter and process for another minute.
Scrape down sides again and process for another 30 seconds.
Add buttermilk to processor and pulse 3-4 times.
Scrape down sides, pulse again.
Add cocoa mixture and pulse 3 times.
Scrape down sides and pulse one more time.
Pour batter into greased and floured pans. Drop each pan on the counter a few times to release any potential air bubbles.
For 9-inch cakes, bake 30-35 minutes. For 6-inch cakes, bake 20-25 minutes. I waited longer, using the toothpick test and ended up cooking them too long. Next time I'll err on the side of them being slightly underdone rather than overdone so as to preserve the moisture. Cupcakes will take about 15-20 minutes.
Let cool in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely before icing.
2 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
11 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into shavings or small pieces
18 ounces evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix sugar and milk in a heavy, large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat slightly and boil vigorously, undisturbed, for at least 9 minutes. Do not stir or will not thicken properly.
Remove pan from heat, add chocolate, vanilla and butter. Stir together until all ingredients are melted together and combined.
Refrigerate icing for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Remove from fridge and let warm up on counter for at least 30 minutes before applying.
Apply one thin layer of "crumb coat" icing and then return cake to refrigerator. Let icing harden for 30 minutes or so. Then apply the rest of the icing. I decorated the sides of the cake with chocolate shavings.