Monday, April 13, 2009

No Blonde in this Rich Ode to Johnette Napolitano.

Concrete Blonde is one of the all-time best altrock bands, and how they ever stayed under the radar for so long baffles me. It may be a little outdated for me to praise them, but it's my prerogative I suppose. Their songs are rich and indulgent. I can't get enough.

Johnette plays the Napolitano!

You can go straight to my recipe below for Chocolate Espresso Napolitano Cake, or take a few minutes to watch an old SNL performance first.

I sure hope she likes chocolate and espresso. I never thought to ask. Cooks and bakers are strongly encouraged to listen to Concrete Blonde while following the recipe and eating the cake. Pair with Beaujolais, Champagne (or other sparkling wine), dry Sauternes, dry Gewurztraminer,
dry Rosé, dry Reisling, or Sauvignon Blanc (not a robust red, but not an overly sweet wine; I personally might go for a crisp white for contrast).

Chocolate Espresso "Napolitano" Cake:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound (4 cups/8sticks) butter, unsalted, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 6-8 shots of espresso, or more depending on cake consistency, see below

Milk Chocolate Frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks/3 cups) butter, unsalted, cut into thumb-sized pieces, softened
  • 1 pound milk chocolate, gently melted
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, gently melted
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 4 9x2-inch cake pans, 3 10x2-inch cake pans, or 2 12x2-inch cake pans. Optionally, line with parchment rounds to minimize risk of sticking.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whip butter and sugar in large bowl. Most people use an electric mixer for this, but I use a whisk and whip thoroughly, 3-5 minutes, until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing each one into the batter before adding the next egg. Add chocolate and vanilla and mix until just combined. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately: flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour.

Pour batter into cake pans, about 3/4 full, and bake 25-35 minutes, depending how thick, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove cakes from oven and cool 15 minutes. Slide a narrow knife around edges of each one, then flip them out onto racks to finish cooling.

Heat milk in medium saucepan over medium heat. Beat together yolks, flour, 2/3 cup of the confectioners sugar and pinch of salt in medium bowl. Add milk in a stream while whisking. Transfer mixture to saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat while whisking. Reduce heat and simmer while whisking for approximately 2 minutes while the custard thickens, then use a rubber spatula to pour it into large bowl. Cover the surface of custard with plastic to prevent it from developing a skin, and allow to cool completely. You can stir it occasionally and put it into the fridge to cool it faster.

Add vanilla and remaining confectioners sugar to custard mixture and whisk together until well-combined. Continue mixing while adding the butter in small portions, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup at a time. Add melted chocolate and continue mixing until well-combined.

Cut the rounded tops off the cakes with a long knife. Pour the espresso evenly across the cakes, until there is a little espresso in ever bite. Be careful not to over-soak any of the cake or it will turn to mush. Frost the cake. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

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