Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salted Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

~ The Break Up ~ 
My old friend, The Kitchen Aid Mixer, had started leaking after nearly 18 years together. That alone was not enough to say good-bye, as it's an easy fix to replace the grease (at least the online instructions and videos say so).  She also started complaining every time I suggested we bake some bread; she actually became quite childish, bogging down and dragging her feet like an unwilling toddler as I pleaded with her to mix the dough.  This scene always ended with me saying, "Fine.  I'll do it myself," as I finished the mixing and kneading by hand.  Our tastes in culinary adventures were clearly moving in two different directions.  The Kitchen Aid Mixer and I had a good run of it together, but it was time to move on. 
During one of our arguments over dough, I said a hurtful thing right in front of her.  With much resolve I looked at HotDog and asked, "You know how you wanted to buy me a new stereo for Ruby Redbug for my birthday...?"  He, who clearly doesn't know me well (ha!), replied with, "You want a new mixer."  It was much more statement than question, to which I beamed and said, "Yes, please."
And that was the official break-up.  She immediately started looking for a new place to live, while I delved deeply into the wiles of cyber matchmaking (aka research) to find my forever mixer.  As I waited for my new love, the old one promptly found a new home with a friend who loves her for who she is.  It ended as best it could have.
I hear you.  "Soooo, what did you get?  What did you get?"  I was going to save that part for a future blog, but here you go:  an Electrolux Verona Assistent.  I'll gush about all the wonderful reasons why we belong together later.  Feel free to Google in the meantime.
It was two long months before the new mixer arrived on my doorstep.  While I waited and obsessively checked the order status every couple days, a couple memorable moments made me feel like a genius.  The first came when I set out to bake cupcakes for HotDog and his son, the ManBoy.  I perused my small kitchen appliances and noticed my blender has a batter function.  I put the water, oil, and eggs in the pitcher and gave them a few pulses.  Then slowly added the box cake mix with the blender on low.  After a couple cycles of the batter program, I poured the perfectly blended batter right from the pitcher into 24 waiting cupcake liners.  Also, a food processor works wonders with frosting.  Those cupcakes were delish, and I self-elevated to baking savant!  HotDog tasted these and declared I didn't need a mixer.  I shot him a look.
Then there was the potluck at work.  I settled on an old Keeper from my childhood, because it can easily be made without a mixer.  The second stroke of sans-mixer creative genius struck when, while putting the cake together, I caught a glimpse of the finishing salts starter kit that my awesome sister-in-law, Tama, gifted to me.  Check out how cool!

The cake alone is fantastic.  However, Chocolate + Sea Salt = Sheer Tastebud Ecstasy.  When HotDog took a bite, he demanded to know why I have been keeping this from him all these years.  Do it:  buy some sea salt and make this cake.  Throw in a dash of cardio for each piece you eat, and I promise the trade-off is well worth it.

Salted Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake
2 sups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon regular ol' salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk -or- sour milk (1 Tablespoon vinegar and enough milk to make 1/2 cup; let sit several minutes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons milk
1 lb box powdered sugar (~3 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1-3 teaspoons sea salt, optional and to taste  (I used Maldon sea salt flakes.)

For the cake:
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a saucepan, melt the butter and combine with the water and cocoa powder; bring to a rolling boil.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat or whisk into the flour mixture; add cocoa mixture.
As I tried to show here, it is a very thin batter.
Pour into greased and floured 15 1/2" x 10" jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 min, or until cake starts to pull away from sides and middle springs back when lightly touched.  Frost while warm.

For the icing:
Whisk the butter, cocoa powder, and milk over low heat until combined.  Do not boil.
Remove from heat and beat or whisk in the vanilla, then the powdered sugar.
Spread on cake.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  This picture should give you a good idea of the amount of salt I used.
Add nuts (the 1/2 cup for the cake and a bunch of lovable ones to help you eat it).

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