Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chocolate cake with brown sugar caramel pastry cream, whipped cream, and toffee

The main focus of this post is to capture my cake recipe, but I thought I would also share my menu.  This year I wanted to do a mainly “dark” menu.  It started with the Sinister Spread from Martha Stewart.  I’ve used this before at a Halloween party, but I like it so much - it’s just a perfect “halloween” cheese spread, plus it uses (mostly) in season fruits which makes me happy.  Most of the recipes were made straight from the original source (links below).  But I created the beet bruschetta, combined 2 recipes to make the pumpkin donuts and created the cake combination.


Beet caprese bruschetta
For the beet bruschetta, I just roasted some beets and diced them. Then combined them with diced parmesan and purple basil and tossed them in some really good balsamic vinegar.  We toasted some yummy dark, Russian rye bread and topped it with the beet mixture and a good drizzle of olive oil.  It was good, but I made way too much!  I will be eating beets all week.  :)

This was the the flop of the night.  The radicchio was just WAY too bitter.  It was nice and creepy looking though.  I didn’t take a stand alone photo of it, but you can see it in the overall shot below.

This came out super yummy!  I was nervous because wild rice can be tricky - too chewy or too nutty - but it thankfully cooked perfectly and all the flavor married well together.  Also, I replaced the chicken stock with mushroom to keep it vegetarian - I highly recommend doing that, I think the added mushroom flavor was part of why it tasted so good.  And the whole dish was a great base for the short ribs.

This recipe is fantastic!  The ribs are cooked slowly and they get so tender.  And with all the veggies and the wine, the sauce it very flavorful.  Plus, it’s better if you cook it a day before so that saves some time on party day.


Chocolate cake with brown sugar caramel pastry cream, whipped cream, and toffee
For the cake… I had something in my head that I wanted and I wasn’t finding it.  I thought about this recipe, but I was afraid the molasses would be too strong.  Then I saw this cake and this cake and I liked the look of them, but I still wanted a darker cake.  And I still wanted a little of the molasses flavor.  So, I used this chocolate cake recipe - which really is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.  It’s a pretty easy cake to make, despite it’s numerous ingredients.  It is SO moist and SO flavorful!  I then decided on a brown sugar. molasses caramel pastry cream for the center and a little on top.  And I wanted the “piled high” look, so I did just a basic, stabilized, vanilla whipped cream.  I also added toffee pieces and drizzled chocolate on top, which gave it a nice crunch.  I was really pleased with how it came out.  The flavors were exactly what I wanted.

Chocolate cake with brown sugar caramel pastry cream, whipped cream, and toffee

Serves: 8-12

- Brown Sugar Molasses Caramel Pastry Cream
-- 1 1/2 cups Half And Half
-- 1/2 cup Sugar
-- 1/4 cup Flour
-- 1/4 tsp Salt
-- 4 large Egg Yolks, room temp
-- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract, or vanilla paste or almond paste
-- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-- 1/4 cup half-and-half
-- 2 tablespoons butter
-- Pinch salt
-- 1 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
-- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Stabilized whipped cream
-- 16 oz heavy cream
-- ¼ cup powdered sugar
-- 2 teaspoons gelatin or vegetarian gelatin
--8 teaspoons water
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Other Ingredients
-- Toffee pieces
-- ½ cup dark chocolate chips

Make cake according to cake recipe
Make pastry cream:
- Make caramel by mixing the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the molasses and vanilla and cook another couple of minutes to dissolve molasses and thicken further.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Warm the half and half in the saucepan until you start to see wisps of steam. It should not actually be boiling.
- Make the Egg-Sugar Base: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk them into the dry ingredients.
- Once combined, pour a little of the hot half and half into the eggs and whisk to combine. Continue pouring the half and half  slowly into the eggs, whisking continuously.  NOTE: be sure not to let the egg/sugar mix sit too long before pouring in the half and half.
- When all the half and half has been added to the eggs, pour everything back into the saucepan.
- Set the pan back over medium heat. Whisk constantly. At first, the pastry cream will look very thin and frothy, but it will start to thicken after a few minutes. When it has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, pause whisking every few seconds to see if the cream has come to a boil. If you see large bubbles popping on the surface, whisk for a few more seconds and then remove the pan from heat.
- Stir the vanilla and caramel into the pastry cream.  Make sure the caramel is cooled first.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.  NOTE: cover with plastic wrap that is touching the top of the pastry cream to avoid a skin forming.
Make whipped cream:
- Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of plain gelatin into 8 teaspoons of cold water. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to absorb the water.
- Microwave 5-10 seconds and allow to cool.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, but not get completely cold. The gelatin mixture should still be in liquid form.
- In a bowl, whip 2 cups heavy cream until it is barely stiff. Add the powdered sugar and whisk a little more to combine.  Add cooled gelatin to the cream in a steady stream, while continuously stirring.
- Whip the gelatin into the cream until soft peaks are formed
Assemble Cake:
- Take one cake layer and spread ¾ of the pastry cream on top
- Spread over cake layer but leave about an inch around outside because top layer will squish pastry cream out
- Sprinkle with toffee pieces
- Top with second cake layer
- Spread the remaining ¼ of pastry cream in a thin layer over top
- Pile on whipped cream and swirl to make a nice, peaked whipped cream mound
- Top with more toffee pieces
- Melt chocolate chips in microwave in 30 second intervals until melted.  Be careful not to heat too much - I did 30 seconds and then 15 and that was enough.  I had a few chunky pieces left and just stirring it melted them.
- Drizzle chocolate over whole cake and allow to run down side

Halloween Food Spread


  1. Brown Sugar Caramel Pastry Cream is there anything any better?? Sounds to great!

    1. thanks! i will definitely be making it again!

    2. There is no molasses in it correct? I think you are using the brown sugar mixture? Wanted to make sure. Thanks!

    3. About the molasses? I already hit publish. Sorry.

    4. hi bea - that's what i get for not having someone review my post. there is a tablespoon and a 1/2 of molasses in the pastry cream. i have updated the recipe above. thanks for catching that! ;)