The Perfect Father’s Day Cake! (Hog Heaven Chocolate Cake)
Words and Recipe by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
The following is an excerpt from Sweet and Vicious © 2014 by Libbie Summers. Published by Rizzoli.
Many years ago, on a pig farm in rural Missouri, I stuck my chocolate-covered palm into the pocket of my shorts and found a piece of bacon.
On summer days, one wasn’t allowed in the farmhouse until mealtime. Grandma had a rusted hook-and-eye closure on the back screen door. The hook was always in the eye, locked from the inside. Thirsty? Grandma pointed to the garden hose. Bathroom break? Grandma pointed to the woods. Hungry? If you knew what was good for you, you wouldn’t ask.
Grandma’s meal schedule was never regular, either. Lunch may be at noon one day and at three p.m. the next. Grandchildren were not a priority, hypoglycemia be damned. It didn’t take me long to learn to squirrel away food whenever Grandma laid the table for us to eat. After most breakfasts, I’d grab an extra piece of bacon and put it in my pocket on the chance she had better things to do come lunchtime.
One such day, I grabbed for my salty snack with a palm thoroughly coated with a melted chocolate bar.It was a grand revelation—four summers beforeNixon’s resignation—that changed my world and my palate forever.
That same summer, the sweet-and-salty, chocolate-and-bacon discovery won me a third-place ribbon at the county Youth Fair (there was no fourth place, but I didn’t care) for my bacon chocolate cake. Clearly, as indicated by the judges, it wouldn’t be until many years later that everyone else’s palates would catch up to mine.
- ¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- ½ cup very hot (almost boiling) strong coffee
- 3 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 1¾ cups vanilla sugar, (see below) or regular sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 cup chocolate milk
- 1 1⁄2 cups pecan halves, toasted
- 4 slices bacon, cooked extra crisp
- 2 recipes Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, (see below)
Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 1⁄2 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (better chocolate = better frosting)
- 3 1⁄2 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 8 to 10 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 fresh (preferably organic) vanilla bean
- 3 cups sugar
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray the paper. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and coffee and set aside to cool.
- In a separate medium mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the vanilla sugar and beat for 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla paste and beat just until combined.
- Whisk the chocolate milk into the cooled cocoa-coffee mixture.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and chocolate milk mixtures to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix for 3 minutes, or until the batter is smooth and creamy. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through for even baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the layers cool in the pans for 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and removing the parchment paper.
- Put the pecans and bacon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times, until they are broken up, but not too fine, kind of a chunky pig fairy dust. Set aside.
- Frost the cake using 1 heaping cup frosting for each layer and a crumb coat, then about 3 cups frosting for the final coat. (I like to make a smooth surface all over the cake and then use a piping bag fitted with a star tip to pipe around the entire edge of the cake top. This gives the cake a rimmed edge, so the pecans and bacon will stay in place). Sprinkle the top of the cake with the pecan and bacon mixture.
For the Rich Chocolate Buttercream:
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and creamy.
- Turn off the mixer and stir in the cocoa powder and 3 1⁄2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Resume mixing on low speed for 3 minutes, until all the cocoa and confectioners’ sugar have been incorporated into the butter.
- Add the salt, 8 tablespoons of the cream, and the vanilla paste. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until creamy. If the frosting is too thick, add a bit more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat for 30 seconds or until just combined. If the frosting is too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar, 1⁄2 cup at a time, and beat for 1 minute until fully incorporated. Frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the Vanilla Sugar:
- Have a sterilized 1-quart jar (run through a hot dishwasher) with a tight-fitting lid ready.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut a slit down one side of the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and place the seeds and bean in the jar.
- Fill the jar with 2 cups of the sugar. Screw the lid on tightly and give it a good shake. Remove the lid and top off the jar with the remaining 1 cup sugar.
- Screw the lid on tightly then label and date the jar. Set aside in a cool, dry pantry for 2 weeks to achieve peak flavor before using (although I’ve been known to use it after just 2 days). Keep adding more sugar to the jar as you use it. One vanilla bean should last through 3 jars (9 cups) sugar and the sugar will keep indefinitely.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Excerpted with permission from Sweet and Vicious © 2014 by Libbie Summers. Published by Rizzoli.
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