Frosting with a Soft Touch: Malt Ball Cake

While I have baked my way through the entire Baked Explorations cookbook and am almost finished with all of the recipes Baked Elements, I've been a lot more hit or miss with the original Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook. Baked Sunday Mornings didn't exist when the first cookbook came out, so there are still quite a few recipes I haven't gotten to yet. I decided to cross one more off my list with the "Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake," which seemed perfect for a co-worker's birthday.

This three-layer dessert is comprised of malt cake and milk chocolate frosting. The cake recipe is quite similar to the recipe used in other Baked non-chocolate cakes, including the Aunt Sassy Cake, the Lemon Drop Cake, and the Whiteout Cake. You cream softened butter and shortening; add sugar and vanilla; alternately add the dry ingredients (cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking salt, nutmeg, and malted milk powder) and ice water; and then fold in egg whites that have been beaten to stiff peaks. You divide the batter between three 8-inch pans and bake.

The frosting is basically ganache (a 50-50 mix of bittersweet and milk chocolate, mixed with heavy cream and corn syrup that has been heated to a boil) with room temperature butter beaten in. It is the same frosting used for the Bananas Cake, and almost identical to that used for the Sweet and Salty Cake. Unfortunately, this frosting has caused me some serious problems in the past. I've made two Bananas Cakes and two Sweet and Salty Cakes, and only one of the four total stayed intact. The other three ended up with cake layers sliding off, due to soft frosting issues.
My frosting this time around was also quite soft. I ended up filling and crumb coating the cake with the frosting, and then leaving the cake in the fridge for about an hour to firm up before putting on the final coat. During that time, I chilled the remaining frosting. It became a little stiff, so I had to put it back in the stand mixer to beat it to a spreading consistency again. But with a very firm crumb coat and a more manageable texture for the frosting I had chilled, I was able to finish frosting the cake and everything held together nicely until the next day when I served it.
The cake itself was extraordinary. The beige color was quite similar to that of the malted milk powder that was a major component. The texture was delicate and tender with a superfine crumb. It was so delicious -- and I don't think it tasted like malt per se, but it had more of a general warm nuttiness. And that pain in the butt frosting... This time I got it precisely right, because the frosting was insanely good. While I had kept the cake chilled overnight, I left it at room temperature for a few hours before serving, and the frosting was beautifully silky smooth and soft, and yet the cake and frosting stayed intact when I cut and served individual slices of cake. The 50-50 mix of milk and bittersweet chocolate was perfectly balanced and it was an amazing flavor pairing with the cake.

This is one of my favorite Baked layer cakes, from any of the three cookbooks. I wouldn't change a thing about it; my only regret is waiting so long to try it!

Recipe: "Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Food and Wine. The frosting recipe in the cookbook is slightly scaled down, calling for eight ounces each of bittersweet and milk chocolate, one and a half cups heavy cream, two tablespoons of corn syrup, and three sticks of butter -- and it produced enough frosting for my three-layer cake.

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