Mocha Chocolate Cake + Mocha Macarons

Welcome to 2017! I know it’s a little late and I haven’t posted anything in over a month, but over the past few weeks I’ve been busy travelling with my family. So we just came back from Whistler last week, and being Australian, it’s not everyday you find yourself putting on two layers of thermals, a thick ski jacket, gloves and a beanie just to go outside. From -17°C to temperatures of over 30°C, the climate really can’t get any more extreme.cake7.jpgThat leads me to my first piece of exciting news…I finally started a YouTube Channel! My first and only video for the time being is actually about our trip to Whistler!!! You can find it HERE!macaron.jpgSo today we’re talking macarons. Over 3 years ago I was obsessed with them. I made passionfruit and chocolate macarons using Ann Reardon’s recipe from How To Cook That – and they actually worked. But between then and now, there was almost like this void, because the macaron trend seemed to die out for a while and is currently reborn again. So I tried to make them last year, using different methods, and not even going to lie – I probably made over 5 attempts which failed. Yep, they are pretty challenging.

So let’s break it down. There are two main methods of making macarons – both involving the basic meringue, almond meal and icing sugar components. But the meringue is where the two methods differ and their names are derived from.

ITALIAN VS. FRENCH METHOD
Italian Method:

  • Requires two separate portions of egg whites – one for the meringue and one for a paste.
  • The paste is made by combining egg whites, almond meal and icing sugar
  • This method also involves a sugar syrup (water + sugar) and heating it to 118°C/244°F
  • Then it is slowly drizzled into the egg whites to form glossy, stiff peaks.
  • The meringue is then folded into the paste to form a “lava-like” consistency

French Method:

  • Egg whites are beaten to soft peaks and sugar is gradually added. It is then beaten to form glossy, stiff peaks.
  • Almond meal and icing sugar are sifted, and folded into the egg whites.
  • The folding between the meringue and dry ingredients is the macaronage, where a “lava-like” consistency also needs to be achieved

macaron18.jpg

WHICH METHOD?
From personal experience, the Italian method has never worked for me. The part that causes me the most trouble is the sugar syrup. I don’t know if my candy thernometer is accurate or not, but there is something wrong with my technique and I haven’t quite figured out what it is yet. I think that this method is actually the better option however, since a lot of pastry chefs use it and seems to be more consistent for most people (except me!).

So after many failed attempts last year, I then tried the French method. I had one attempt before this one which didn’t work at all, and I didn’t even bother piping them onto the baking tray because I knew the consistency wasn’t right. But this made me more determined the next attempt. I made sure I had everything prepared/measured properly, took me time…and it finally worked! I know they aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough.

So I recommend the French method since it does not require working with a hot sugar syrup and is a lot simpler. But you don’t have to listen to me since I am no expert! You learn the most from your own personal experience! macaron11.jpg

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS VS. THE TRUTH (+ troubleshooting)

1) Egg whites:

*Ageing and room temperature egg whites: Do your eggs have to be separated and left in the fridge for a couple days to liquefy? NO – they simply need to be at room temperature. Eggs are best separated when they are cold – so separate them straight from the fridge and leave the whites at room temperature for 3-4 hours (time will vary depending on the climate. It is very hot where I live so if in colder weather – leave them out for longer). Room temperature eggs mean that the meringue will whip to its full volume. I do not recommend taking shortcuts by microwaving egg whites.

*Clean bowl and no egg yolk: There must be absolutely no grease in your stand mixer bowl, otherwise the egg whites will not whip. So using half a lemon/vinegar, wipe the whisk attachment and bowl thoroughly, and then clean with a paper towel to remove any residueAlso, if there is a tiny bit of egg yolk in the egg whites, it will also not whip.cake46.jpg

2) Ingredients:

*Almond meal/almond flour/ground almonds: Can you substitute one for the other? YES. Are they all the same thing? No. Almond meal is generally coarser and is grinded up almonds with their skin on; hence the flecks of brown. Almond flour is a finer grind made with blanched almonds. Ground almonds are a bit coarser than almond meal. Although they are all different, each one is interchangeable (confusing I know). I do believe that if you have access to almond meal (which can be very expensive), always use it for macarons.

* Icing sugar vs. icing mixture: What’s the difference? Icing sugar is simply very finely ground sugar which reaches a powdery state. Whilst icing mixture usually contains sugar PLUS other ingredients like cornflour or tapioca starch. Many believe that the two are interchangeable, however, I don’t think they are. I find that icing mixture tends to give macarons a chewy texture, so icing sugar is most preferred.

* Sieving and processing: Both almond meal and icing sugar can be very lumpy. Is sieving 3 times required? YES. Can you use a food processor instead of sieving? YES. I find that a food processor is the better method as it is mess-free and a lot quicker, but if you do not have one – sieving will do the job just as well. cake5-2.jpg

3) Consistency:

*”Lava-like”: Why do people say that and what does it mean? To be honest, I don’t see the resemblance to lava…but the meaning behind is that the batter should be flowing off your spatula. When FOLDING the dry ingredients into the meringue, this stage is called the macaronage. The success of your macarons is dependent on this process, and I stress the technique folding because it is absolutely pivotal. Folding is different to stirring. So you know your batter is the right consistency when you lift up your spatula and the batter drops down on itself then disappears after 10 seconds. I think that’s the best test. Visit here for more info.

*Lumpy macarons/flat macarons: Lumpy macarons – the batter is not folded enough during the macaronage. Flat macaroons – the batter is folded too much and overworked during the macaronage. cake47.jpg

4) Macaron feet:

*Letting macarons dry at room temperature: After piping the macarons onto the baking tray, most recipes say to leave it at room temperature for 30 mins – 1hr in order to form a dry skin and create “feet”. Is this a misconception or a truth? Well, it is true – this step is necessary and does require patience.

*Oven temperature: You may have noticed that my macarons created more of a “skirt” rather than feet. This is because my oven temperature was low, but don’t worry – I have corrected it in the recipe.

So basically that’s it, and remember I am no expert – this information comes from my personal experience and other info I’ve read online. The main advice I can give you is to take your time and have everything measured beforehand as well as accurately. I can’t stress that enough. When you’re rushing, you tend to skimp on the steps and even forget to add ingredients. I know you hear it all the time, but it is very true. This advice also goes for anything and everything – whether your cooking cakes or ice cream or macarons. cake15.jpgSince I explained so much about macarons, I will delve very briefly into the science behind this cake. I use butter for flavour and a bit of oil to really amp up the moisture. There is both chocolate and cocoa powder for richness and flavour. Try to use the best quality you have available. Even though cake the contains real chocolate, it is not dense due to the reaction between an acid and alkaline ingredient. Woah….what? Basically, the sour cream and baking soda react and form bubbles which equal air pockets. This results in a very delicious, moist, light and fluffy chocolate cake.cake12.jpg The cake is then covered in a swiss meringue buttercream that has a subtle coffee flavour. If you have any troubles such as a soupy looking mixture or even curdled frosting, please visit Salma’s blog The Polka Dotter for a troubleshooting guide (find her Swiss Meringue Buttercream Basics HERE). cake32.jpgThis cake was actually inspired by her Mocha Mud Cake with Coffee Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and seeing as I am returning to school soon – I thought I needed to end the holidays with a showstopper of a dessert (in my eyes that is). But in amongst all this excitement including our holiday to Whislter, baking a great cake and successful macarons, I decided to watch the very talked about movie La La Land.cake42.jpgI wish I could write about it without giving away any spoilers, but what I can say is that it made me cry and feel very happy at the same time. La La Land (even though it’s just a movie), along with many of my experiences these holidays, has shown me the importance of a good attitude and mindset; in particular the idea of”never giving up”. It used to be this quote I saw on Lorna Jane’s clothing/bags, and to be honest is very Tumblr. You would think that after the failed attempts at making macarons that I would just stop trying and tell myself I can’t to it. But you have to persevere with everything you do.

Mocha Chocolate Cake + Mocha Macarons


CHOCOLATE CAKE:
  • 250g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 200mL water
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 450g caster sugar
  • 150mL sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line 4 x 15cm cake tins with baking paper.
  2. In a medium saucepan – combine the butter, dark chocolate, water and instant coffee. Melt over medium-low heat, stirring until there are no lumps and it is completely smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl – sift together both flours, baking soda and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  4. In a separate, larger bowl – whisk together the eggs and sugar until paler in colour. Add the sour cream and oil then mix until well combined.
  5. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture while whisking thoroughly. Then add the dry ingredients and gently mix until the batter is completely smooth.
  6. Bake for 50mins – 1hr, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean and lightly springs back when you touch it.
  7. Allow to cool completely in cake tins. Then remove and transfer onto cooling rack.

COFFEE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Adapted from Call Me Cupcake.

  • 150g egg whites
  • 250g sugar
  • 300g softened butter, cubed
  • 4 tabespoons strong coffee, cooled
  1. In a heatproof bowl (either glass or stainless steal), add the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, ensuring the bottom doesn’t touch the water.
  2. Whisk the mixture constantly until the sugar has dissolved, or until it has reached 65°C.  Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers and you should feel no granules of sugar.
  3. Remove from the heat and place the bowl onto your stand mixture. Whip for about 5-10 minutes or until the bowl feels cool to the touch. It should be very white and fluffy.
  4. Once the mixture has completely cooled, add the butter a cube at a time beating on medium-high speed.
  5. When all of it has been added, pour in the coffee and whip until smooth.

MACARONS WITH MOCHA GANACHE 
Ganache:

Use whatever type of chocolate you prefer. I like a mixture of both dark and milk for a good balance of richness & sweetness. For a richer ganache, use more dark chocolate. And for a sweeter ganache, use more milk chocolate. Adjust the amount of coffee to your liking – with 1 tablespoon it provides a very subtle flavour. 

  • 120g dark chocolate chopped
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 70mL cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  1. Stove top method: Place both types of chocolate into a bowl – set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and instant coffee to a simmer (almost boiling). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Then mix gently until smooth and chocolate has melted.
  2. Microwave method: Place all ingredients into a heat proof bowl. Microwave at 30 seconds intervals, stirring well in between until everything has melted.
  3. Once you have made the ganache, allow it to thicken at room temperature for 2 hours. Then transfer into a piping bag fitted with a small-round tip and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Macaron Shells:

Read the post above if you have any concerns/questions about the ingredients or method. Make sure you be patient and measure the ingredients carefully! 

  • 180g icing sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • 3 teaspoons finely ground instant coffee (+ extra for sprinkling)
  • 100g egg whites, room temperature (approx. 3 eggs)
  • 50g caster sugar
    For the glaze: 
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon icing sugar
  1. In a food processor, combine the icing sugar, almond meal and instant coffee. Process until smooth and there are no obvious lumps. Alternatively, sift the ingredients 3 times. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and whip to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar in a steady stream and whip to stiff peaks. It should appear be very glossy and if you turn the bowl upside down, no meringue should fall out.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the meringue mixture and fold until it reaches a “lava-like” consistency (read the post above for more details). 
  4. Transfer mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm-round nozzle. Pipe macarons shells approximately 2-3cm in size onto a lined baking tray (optional: use this template). Make sure you leave about 3cm of space in between each one as they will flaten.
  5. Then sprinkle the shells with extra instant coffee granules. Bang the tray the 3 times on the bench to remove any air bubbles. Let macaron shells sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour to form a dry skin.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at  160° C 10-12 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely on baking tray then transfer onto wire rack.
  8. For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth. If the mixture is too diluted, add more cocoa powder. Then brush onto cooled macaron shells with a paint brush or pastry brush.

Pair the macaron shells with ones of similar size. Pipe thickened ganache onto one shell and sandwich together. Repeat with remaining shells.


CHOCOLATE GLAZE 

Adapted from Call Me Cupcake.

  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 45g butter, cubed
  1. Melt together both ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth.
  2. Allow to cool until slightly thickened.

ASSEMBLY AND DECORATION 

I used chocolate covered coffee beans to decorate the cake, feel free to use whatever you want! The possibilities are endless!

  1. Trim and level the cakes with a serrated knife or cake leveller so that the the top is completely flat/even.
  2. Put the first layer of cake onto your cake stand/platter and spread a generous amount of buttercream.
  3. Place the next layer of cake on top, and continue until all layers are complete.
  4. Spread a thin amount of frosting around the cake to secure any crumbs (this is called a crumb coat). Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the fridge, and this time – spread a thicker layer of buttercream as the final coat. Gently run a cake scraper around the sides to make the frosting completely smooth.Refrigerate again for 10 minutes.
  6. Then remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate glaze on top it. Spread it to the edges and allow it to drip down the sides. Refrigerate to let the glaze set.
  7. Transfer remaining buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe swirls around the edge of the cake, then decorate with macarons and chocolate covered coffee beans.

*Make sure you bring the cake to room temperature before serving.