Last week in my Bakery Merchandising class, my fellow students and I spent hours preparing for a sale in the culinary school's retail bakery. One of my duties included piping huge swirls of fluffy vanilla buttercream onto dozens of yellow cupcakes, chilling them until firm, then suspending them upside down, one by one, and dipping them into a deep bowl of warm chocolate ganache.
At first my task progressed smoothly, but then the big white swirls started plopping off as I lifted the cold cupcakes out of the chocolate. Cursing under my breath with each failed attempt, I nervously fished out big globs of buttercream--once, twice, three times. Speed was of the essence that day and, not wanting to gum up the works, I took immediate steps to remedy the problem. Soldiering on, I carefully refrosted some of the cupcakes, chilled them longer, rewarmed the ganache, and crossed my fingers.
Meanwhile, directly across from me a much younger student, who told me she'd been working in a bakery since high school, was deftly enrobing iced layer cakes in ganache. I kept glancing over as she ladled the fluid chocolate atop each cake, letting it move languidly down the sides before picking up a small offset spatula to cover any bare spots. Her sense of calm bordered on the meditative, and her technique produced beautiful results.
It made me want to do the same thing at home. Damn the cupcakes, I said to myself, full speed ahead with a big round layer cake in my own kitchen.
Thus was the inspiration for today's cake. (A cake that would, I believe, make a sensational Valentine's Day dessert!)
About this recipe . . .
From the book Welcome to Junior's! Remembering Brooklyn with Recipes and Memories from its Favorite Restaurant, this fudge cake is moist and densely textured. The recipe actually produces three hefty layers, but they were each so tall and obviously substantive, I decided to save and freeze the third one. If I'd actually used all three layers the iced and coated cake would probably have been 10" tall. (If you need a truly lofty layer cake, go ahead and use all three.) The vanilla buttercream recipe is also adapted from Junior's. The decision to apply a luxurious dark-chocolate ganache over the whole thing was, as you know, quite my own.
I bought this book last April in Junior's Restaurant (the one in Times Square) during a trip to NYC, and I have to admit I'm pretty fond of it (the book, yes, and also the restaurant!). My family and I visited Junior's twice while we were there, one night just for dessert (that famous cheesecake, of course), and again on our last morning in town before heading to the airport. We'd finished breakfast and were getting up to leave when it hit me that I could not exit Manhattan without my own copy, bright stacks of which were displayed near the entrance. Along with solid recipes, this volume offers an honest and deeply affectionate homage to Brooklyn--as it was decades ago, and as it is now. It's full of historical tidbits that are pretty engrossing for anyone who's interested in the evolution of a classic, family-owned, American restaurant. I began reading it at the airport, while awaiting our flight, and hardly put it down until our plane landed back in Detroit. I used one of Junior's cute paper coasters as my bookmarksource here