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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chocolate Strawberry Mini Cakes

Cake is nice for dessert, but sometimes if you're having several people over, it's nice to present each guest with their own personal little cake. Of course, Petit Fours are cute but what about something a little more substantial?

Most petit fours and dessert cake recipes call for rather bland bases. I thought it would be nice to have individual dessert cakes that were visually pleasing but also tasted great. So, I opted to start this out with a very old Pound Cake recipe that I kicked up a notch by adding Grand Marnier. Then I cut the large cake into individual size 3-inch rounds that were split and filled with Strawberry Cream icing. Then the cakes were chilled then dipped and coated in chocolate ganache flavored with a hint of Grand Marnier, then rolled in toffee bits, drizzled with white chocolate and topped off with a fanned fresh strawberry.

The results are a great cake that is dense and satisfying and the blend of chocolate and strawberry strikes just the right decadent note for a rich and inviting dessert.

This is a multi-step cake so, you can always cheat just a bit and use a store bought strawberry cream icing. I found the Betty Crocker Strawberries & Cream worked nicely.

If you don't have any Grand Marnier handy you can always use a touch of orange juice or orange flavoring for both the cake and the ganache. As always the secret ingredient to get the wonderful flavor in the chocolate is a teaspoon of instant coffee powder.

Pound Cake

1 lb. butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tbs. Grand Marnier
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For toppings:

12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
1 cup heavy cream
4-5 oz. white chocolate
1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
12 oz. toffee chips
8 large fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 300°. Line the bottom of two 9" round pans with parchment paper. Grease pans and flour lightly.

Beat butter on medium speed until light yellow and creamy. Gradually add sugar while beating at medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.

Add flour to mixture alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Batter should be very smooth. Stir in vanilla and Grand Marnier. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 300° for an hour and a half or until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted into center of cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pan 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack. Remove parchment paper from bottom of cake and allow to cool completely.

Once cake is cool. Take a 3" cookie cutter and cut circles out of the cake. (You may want to use a cookie cutter to start the cut and then finish by using a 3x3" cake ring to insure a clean cut.) You should have enough for about 8 mini cakes. Discard the excess or use it for a quick snack while you're waiting on the cakes to chill for the ganache!

Slice each mini-cake across the middle. Spoon strawberry frosting onto cake and replace top portion, pressing just slightly to secure the pieces together. If any icing comes our the sides, smooth it down with a small spatula.

Place filled cakes on large baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips or chopped bar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
1 tsp. Instant Coffee (or Espresso) powder

Place chocolate in large heatproof bowl. In saucepan, heat heavy cream until bubbles from, whisking occasionally. Pour cream over chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in instant coffee powder and Grand Marnier. Allow to cool slightly.

Place 12 oz. of toffee chips in a shallow bowl.

Take chilled cakes and dip in chocolate ganache coating cake thoroughly. Roll edges of cake in toffee chips and place cake on wire rack set above baking sheet lined with waxed paper. (Note: You may also use your hands to place the toffee onto the cakes - either works.)

Return cakes to refrigerator on baking sheet to chill thoroughly.

In Microwave safe bowl, heat 4-5 oz. of white chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir between each 30 second cycle. Once melted, place white chocolate in small plastic freezer bag and close tightly (be sure to remove air from bag). Snip a very tiny hole at one corner of bag and use like piping bag to drizzle white chocolate in fine lines over cakes.

Top each cake with a fresh ripe strawberry cut 3 times and fanned. Return cakes to refrigerator to allow white chocolate to set (about 30 minutes) and serve.

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