Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

When I first read through Rose's Heavenly Cakes and saw this cake I was pretty skeptical, but after reading some people's comments online prior to making the cake I figured it would probably turn out well. I definitely happy to have a quick and easy cake this week because I spent Saturday biking 72 miles at a charity ride and just needed something easy and relaxing to bake.

I planned ahead relatively well this time and made the ganache right after lunch so that I could ice it later in the evening. My plan was to take the cake to work for our monthly birthday celebration so it just had to be done by the end of the day. I was tempted to substitute some semi-sweet chocolate for some of the bittersweet because I tend to like my icing sweeter, but then I remembered reading that you should always try making the recipe as is first before making substitutions.

I guess I missed the part that said the chocolate was supposed to be chopped because I just put it in the food processor in big pieces. It was loud, but it worked.

You definitely can't tell that there is any tomato in this ganache.

So, after taking a break to do some other chores and watch some TV I started getting everything out to make the cake. I weigh most of my dry ingredients, and there have been a few places where the measuring method mentions sifting before measuring. I was trying to figure out if I should also be sifting to get rid of clumps before weighing so yesterday I decided to sift the cocoa while weighing and ended up getting it all over my scale. Instead being smart and wiping it off with a paper towel I ran the platform under water and guess what it stopped working. At first I thought maybe the battery needed to be replaced. When that didn't work I took it to my husband who noticed the water, and I pretty much decided it was ruined. Instead of just going to the measuring cups I drove to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and got a new scale. I was hoping that maybe they had one with 1/10 ounce measurements, but they didn't. So, after less than 30 minutes I was back on track and got all of the ingredients ready to go. My husband was able to revive the old scale so I'm hoping I can return the new one and wait to get a better one.

By this time it was getting close to dinner time, and I just wanted to get the cake in the oven so I could get dinner started so the step by step pictures were the first thing to go. This recipe is really pretty simple. I got it everything mixed and in the pans with the bake even strips around them.

I think I was a little distracted towards the end of baking time. When I first tested the cakes at 30 minutes they definitely weren't done. The centers didn't spring back at all when pressed lightly so I put them in for another 5 minutes, and the same thing happened the after that 5 minutes. I probably should have put them in for a shorter time the second time around because they looked a little dry around the edges. But, I've learned that I can fix a slightly dry cake with a simple sugar syrup - 1 part sugar, 1 part water. You stir and boil the mixture until the sugar dissolves and then brush over the cake. It's super easy, and although it would be better if it hadn't dried out in the first place that seems to help.

Next up was the construction and icing of the cake. I enlisted my husband to capture some pictures of this part. I love the cake lifter I got for setting one layer on another. It makes that so much easier and less messy.

Here I am trying to make it smooth until I realized that I was going to cover up the sides anyway so it didn't really matter how smooth they were.

And, then I did my best to imitate the wavy lines from the picture in the book.

At this point I wished I had just purchased a tube of red buttercream at the grocery store instead of making my own. I just used the recipe from the Wilton cake decorating class (cut in half) because it's really quick and I knew it would give me the consistency I needed for piping the stars. I ended up using all of my red food coloring to get this shade of red.

Then I started measuring and cutting the cookies to go around the cake. I used the chocolate fudge pirouettes because I didn't really pay attention to which ones the recipe used, and when I went to the store I figured chocolate would go well with a chocolate cake. I alternated between 4, 4.25, and 4.5 inches. I knew I hadn't really let the ganache dry enough, but I also knew I wouldn't have any time in the morning to complete it. Looking back I should have let it sit and sacrifice a little sleep to keep from having soggy cookies.

Once all the cookies were on the cake I piped the stars. I tried using piping gel and a paint brush to go back over them later, but there just wasn't enough time to get the look I wanted so I stuck with the stars. I think it still looked pretty good. And, somehow I managed to take this picture while holding the piping bag as if I was actually piping.

I took the cake to work with me today, and I told everyone there was a mystery ingredient while they were eating and let them guess until they had mostly finished their pieces. I got guesses like coffee, chile pepper, and sour cream. Everyone loved the cake and were very surprised to hear there was tomato soup in it. At least a couple people said it was very moist and light. I made sure to cut my slice and get a picture before the cake got demolished by everyone. This picture almost makes the cookies look like they weren't the chocolate ones.

This cake was interesting, but it probably won't go on my list to make again. Next week's cake the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes with Homemade Brioche has me a little nervous. I've never made bread with yeast before, and I won't have a lot of time to spend on it this week. I've been told that brioche is fairly easy to make, but it's still a big unknown for me so we'll see how that goes.


  1. Andrea, you did a GREAT job with that! I'm amazed. My cakes generally taste fine, but they never look as good as yours do.

    For what it's worth, sifting before or after only matters if you're measuring by volume because it will be fluffier/airier after sifting. It takes up less room in the measuring cup before it's sifted and takes up more room in the measuring cup after it's sifted. That can really affect how much of the ingredient you end up using!

    The weight of the ingredient won't change either way. That's one of the main reasons that weight is used by so many bakers.

    My scale (Salter) shows grams or ounces, and I mostly use grams.

  2. Andrea, your cake looks just like the book! That 1st photo is beautiful.
    And also, great step by step picture.

    I also measure by weight, and use grams.

  3. It turned out really nice! Your stars look great.

  4. Thanks!

    Amy - That's what I had always thought sifting was needed for, but then I started second guessing myself. Thanks for the confirmation. My scale does have grams so I'll probably try that next time.

  5. Great looking cake, and I'm envious of your cake lifter!

  6. Fantastico! Although I don't know if I'm more impressed by your cake or your biking 72 miles! Great work :)