Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Hi there, chickadees!

It's election season and the polls are in full swing. Let's take one of our own, shall we?

Stand up if you've ever had chocolate frosting.

(Yay! The whole room is standing!)

Now stay standing if you've ever had cinnamon cake, or a cinnamon muffin, or some other kind of fluffy cinnamon cake-y thing.  If not, take a seat.

(Yay again! Most of you are still standing!)

Now, stay standing if you've ever had cinnamon cake paired with chocolate frosting.  If not, sit your bum down.

(Aw, bummer. You all sat down. I liked it better when you were standing. We could've had a dance party if you were all standing.)

The results of this poll: You should all make this cake so we can have a dance party.

Nowhere near as flashy as in-your-face cupcakes with their fancy wrappers, mile-high frosting, and sparkly sprinkles, this cake is quietly bold in its pairing of cinnamon and chocolate, and that's exactly what makes it so appealing. If it were a kid in school it would be that quiet, quirky girl who wears her hair in different braids every day and maybe doesn't raise her hand all the time, but who does have something interesting to say when the teacher calls on her, and who everyone--even the popular girls--secretly admires.

(Not that I have any experience with that sort of thing...)

As the results of our poll show, the pairing of cinnamon and chocolate doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves. And while it seems like this cake would be more at home at a tea party than a dance party, I like to think it's happy just being itself and making an impression where it can--be it at breakfast, snack time, or dessert. And who knows--if it's like that quirky girl, it has preferred dance parties to tea parties the whole time.

Happy baking and dancing!


Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Makes 9-12 servings

Cake Filling
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional – you can’t taste it, but it amps up the chocolate flavor)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used semisweet chocolate chips ground in the food processor)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk (I used skim milk and it worked just fine)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (again, I used semisweet chocolate chips)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Center rack in oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Place pan on a baking sheet.

2. Make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder. Have your chopped chocolate ready to go as well.

3. Make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using a rubber spatula, fold in butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, shiny batter.

4. Scrape half of batter into pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chocolate over batter and dust with cinnamon-sugar-espresso mixture. Cover with rest of batter and smooth top again.

5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of pan; a thin knife inserted into center will come out clean. Transfer cake to a cooling rack and let rest for 15 minutes before unmolding onto another rack. Peel off paper, invert onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.

6. Make the frosting: Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.) (Note: I had to add a little extra butter to my frosting for it to thin out.)

7. Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of cake. Allow frosting to set at room temperature, then cut cake into 9-12 squares.

Storing: Wrapped in plastic, cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months, but it's best to put cake in the freezer unwrapped and then, when the frosting is firm, to wrap it airtight; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.