Winter is once again showing us just who is in control. Not only is it laughing at us, winter is flipping us the bird, repeatedly. While I shouldn’t complain too loudly, it’s not like I live in the Boston area (sorry sis!), but as I sit here typing this, the weather forecast is calling for up to 15″ of snow to fall in the next 24 hours. My complaint isn’t that it will snow but that 15″ is three times our average annual snowfall of 5 inches!
With the temperatures well below freezing with the wind chill, I was glad to be in my kitchen baking a chocolate cake. And if there is one thing I am sure we can all agree on, chocolate cake fixes just about everything, especially if you serve it with a generous drizzle of drunken caramel sauce! The cake, as the recipe is written in Baking with Julia, is supposed to be served with fresh raspberries soaked in liqueur and rich creme anglaise sauce that gets bruleed with a torch. Well, I did not have raspberries or a torch and I did not want to make the creme anglaise sauce because it is just too rich for me. But I did think a drizzle of caramel sauce would be nice and then I saw the bottle of Pennington’s and I couldn’t help myself…
The cake itself is a typical chiffon cake; spongy and light and completely dependent upon the cocoa powder for flavor. Because the cocoa powder is practically the sole component of the flavor profile, I suggest you use a high quality cocoa powder, I used Valrhona cocoa powder because I wanted that chocolate punch I knew Valrhona would give to the cake. If I had used a cocoa powder typically found in the grocery store, I might have gotten decent results but the lack of raspberries and the creme anglaise would have been really obvious and I am not sure that a few dollops of my drunken caramel would have worked as well. That caramel sauce packs a punch especially with the use of Pennington’s. If you are not familiar with Pennington’s, let me tell you that you should get your hands on a bottle if you can. It is distilled in Nashville and they use real strawberry flavor-not the fake stuff so it tastes like ripe juicy berries, the perfect companion for a chocolate cake.
Drunken Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/4 cups
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
1″ piece of a vanilla bean, split open
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup booze-dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey (I highly recommend Pennington’s Strawberry Rye Whiskey)
Pour the cream into a small pot with the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (the seeds scraped out and added to the pot) and the butter and place it over very low heat to warm it. Place the sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy bottom pot with 1/4 cup of water. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to melt the sugar. Wash the sides of the pot with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Allow the sugar to boil until it turns amber in color. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in the warm cream mixture, stirring to combine. It will boil up violently so take caution when stirring. Return the pot to the stove over low heat and stir gently to dissolve the caramelized sugar at the bottom and sides of the pot. Do not boil the mixture, just stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is combined. Remove from the heat again and carefully stir in the booze. Pour the caramel through a mesh strainer remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod and into a heat proof serving pitcher or a bowl. Allow it to cool to about 100 degrees before serving, store in the fridge and reheat as needed.
To see how the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers did with this recipe, check out the “LYL” page on the website. If you would like to join us as we bake our way through Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi, get your hands on the books and get to work-the more the merrier!