Simple, homey desserts become sublime with the addition of herbs.
This layer buttermilk chocolate cake is fudgey and moist with a nice hint of peppermint. The mint chocolate buttercream is a light chocolate with refreshing mint flavor. I like peppermint here because it is stronger in flavor, but spearmint also can be used. My family likes this cake on the day after it has been made, when the mint has permeated the entire cake. I usually refrigerate it and take it out of the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes before serving so that it is at cool room temperature. It can be garnished with a circle of fresh or candied mint leaves arranged on the top. SERVES 10 TO 12
• 1 cup milk scalded with 1 cup packed peppermint leaves
• 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 3/4 cup sugar
• 4 extra-large eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooked
• 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
• 1/2 cup fresh chopped peppermint leaves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9-inch layer cake pans, line the bottoms with a circle of wax paper, and dust lightly with flour. Scald milk and mint, then set aside to cool.
2. In a bowl, sift flour with cocoa, baking soda, baking powder; salt and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whip butter with an electric mixer for a minute or so. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and chocolate and blend well, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Remove mint from scalded and cooled milk and add 1/2 cup milk to the buttermilk, reserving the other 1/2 cup for the buttercream. Alternately add flour mixture in three parts with milk mixture in two parts to chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add chopped mint and blend well.
5. Divide batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes until a tester comes out clean and cake starts to pull away slightly from sides of the pan. Cool pans on a baking rack for 5 to 10 minutes, remove cakes from pans and remove wax paper. Turn cakes right-side-up to cool.
Chocolate Mint Buttercream
• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
• 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar
• Reserved 1/2 cup mint-flavored milk
1. In a large bowl, whip butter with an electric mixer for a minute or so. Add chocolate and blend well. Add confectioners’ sugar, about a cup at a time, and alternate with milk, about 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Blend well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally so buttercream will mix evenly. You probably will need about 4 to 6 tablespoons of the milk — you will not use all of it. The buttercream should be a nice spreading consistency.
2. Assemble the cake with the buttercream spread between each layer, and over the sides and top of the cake.
Susan Belsinger is the author of Not Just Desserts: Sweet Herbal Recipes (Paul’s Printing, 2005).
Click here for the main article, Sweet & Easy Desserts with Herbs.
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