Jim Says Goodbye to His Mid-Thirties: Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Tom and I spent last weekend in Shenandoah, on our annual cabin trip in honor of our friend Jim's birthday. Tom and I were responsible for making dinner on Saturday night -- which happened to be Jim's actual birthday, so of course I had to make a birthday cake. I wanted to bake a cake in advance and take it with us to the cabin, because I don't like having to do any serious baking anywhere other than my own kitchen, where I have all of my own familiar equipment. As I was browsing cake recipes, I saw that Dorie Greenspan's Devil's Food White-Out Cake can be made up to two days in advance. Plus, the cake is pictured on the cover of Greenspan's cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours, so I have been interested in trying the recipe since I bought the cookbook several years ago.

The devil's food cake is made from butter, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, melted bittersweet chocolate, buttermilk or whole milk, flour, cooca powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, boiling water, and miniature chocolate chips. You divide the batter into two 8-inch pans, and after you bake and cool the cakes, you divide each cake into two layers. My cakes domed during baking, and after I leveled them, each cake was only 1.25 inches tall -- so after I divided the layers in half, they were quite thin. You only need three layers for the cake; the fourth layer is smushed into crumbs used to decorate the cake. (In retrospect, I could have made a four-layer cake, because the amount of cake I trimmed off to level the layers would have been sufficient to provide the crumbs for decorating.)

The cake is filled and frosted with a marshmallow frosting made by whipping egg whites, adding hot sugar syrup (sugar, water, and cream of tartar heated to 235 degrees) and vanilla, and running the mixer until the frosting is cool. After filling and frosting the cake, you press the crumbs into the frosting. At least I didn't have to worry about doing a crumb coat on this cake, since I knew that I would just be putting crumbs on the frosting anyway! Greenspan says that she prefers this cake at room temperature, but notes that some people prefer it cold, when the texture is more fudgy. I made the cake one day in advance, kept it chilled, and brought it to room temperature before serving.

This cake certainly is pretty, and it definitely has "celebration cake" written all over it. I appreciated the classic snack cake flavor combination of devil's food cake and marshmallow. However, I wasn't thrilled about the cake itself -- it was not as tender as I would have hoped (perhaps the cake texture would have been better if I had used buttermilk instead of milk to make to batter). Also, I personally did not like the miniature chocolate chips in the cake layers, but other people commented favorably on them.

I liked this cake and thought it was fitting for Jim's birthday celebration, but it wasn't a favorite. I couldn't help comparing this cake to the Baked Whiteout Cake, since they share the same name -- although the similarity ends there. Instead of Dorie's devil's food cake with marshmallow frosting combination, the Baked Whiteout Cake is vanilla cake with white chocolate frosting. I have to say that I prefer the Baked white-on-white version, although it obviously doesn't have the visual impact of the white-on-black devil's food variety.

In any case, many thanks to our friends Jim and Colleen for organizing the annual cabin trip and inviting us to be a part of it; Tom and I look forward to it all year. Colleen summed up the tradition perfectly: "Good Friends, Good Wine, Good Food, Good Times."

Recipe: "Devil's Food White-Out Cake," from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.

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