I recently revisited the sweet and salty cake (this is only the second time I've made it), and it was an entirely different result from my inaugural experience. In particular, the chocolate cake component is now old hat to me, as it is the exact same cake recipe used in the Chocolate Coffee Cake and Grasshopper Cake. Last time I made the Sweet and Salty Cake, I baked only two 9-inch layers of chocolate cake; this time, I made three 8-inch layers, as the recipe directs. As a result, my final assembled cake was much taller. Also, I'm a little incredulous that last time I pronounced the chocolate cake as "quite unexceptional." This is now my favorite basic chocolate cake recipe -- it's so light and tender and chocolatey! At this point, I can also pretty much make the salted caramel component in my sleep; it's the same caramel used in the Sweet and Salty Brownie, which I make all the time.
Last time I made the cake, I had great difficulty with the ganache being too runny; the top half of the cake practically slid off the cake after I took it to a housewarming party. For my recent attempt, I had time on my side; I was making the cake a day in advance, so I didn't have to rush to assemble it and could afford to be a little more patient with the ganache. The ganache was definitely still difficult to work with -- when it's freshly made, it's quite soft. It does firm up after being chilled, but if you chill it, then it becomes difficult to spread to a smooth finish. So when I assembled the cake, I spread the salted caramel on a cake layer, spread on some ganache, and then refrigerated the frosted cake layer for a bit until the ganache was firmer; otherwise, the room temperature ganache was too soft to support the weight of a cake layer on top of it. However, while the cake layer was in the fridge, I kept the remaining ganache at room temperature so that it would remain easily spreadable and wouldn't become too stiff.
Going through this somewhat laborious process, I was able to create a beautifully filled and frosted cake. [Note to self: in the future, it would save time to take the two bottom cake layers, and concurrently spread caramel and ganache on both. Then the two layers could be refrigerated (unstacked) at the same time, and after the ganache was firm enough, it would be possible to stack all three cake layers at once.] I refrigerated the cake overnight, after which it held together with no problem, even though it spent several hours at room temperature the next day before serving.
So I wish I could give you a review of how this cake tasted. However, I dropped off this cake with our friends Jim and Colleen, and I didn't stay for the serving and eating -- so I can't give you a firsthand report.
Still, I was assured that the cake was enjoyed by all. I am confident that it's going to be nowhere near three years before I make this cake again!
Recipe: "Sweet and Salty Cake," from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito; recipe available here on marthastewart.com.
- "The Sweet and Salty Cake: Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel, and a Runaway Ganache," February 8, 2009.
- "Baked Sunday Mornings: the Sweet and Salty Brownie," December 5, 2010.
- "My Cake Has a New Set of Clothes: Grasshopper Cake," January 24, 2012.
- "Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache," March 25, 2012.