October 30, 2012

Spooky Spider Cake, Nutella Edition!

All hallows eve... A time for pumpkin carving, costume making, and as usual around here, cake making. I've got a thing for spiders this year, having so far made them using chocolate M&Ms (using sprinkles for tiny spider feet on M&Ms as cupcake toppers or on cookies with royal icing feet) and with buttercream, randomly planted all over this tasty Nutella-inspired cake.

I found the original recipe for an awesome marble cake complete with chocolate ganache spiders on the Cooking Channel's site. However, the original seems to be rather complicated and requires three pages of directions to execute. I simplified it pretty dramatically below, and I even introduced more Nutella into the cake portion of the recipe (the original only calls for it in the frosting). Let me just say, this Nutella fudge frosting may perhaps be my new favorite cake topping. Let's just admit it: Nutella in anything improves things tenfold! Put it in cake and frosting, and well, you'll be in cake coma in no time!

So what is the deal with Nutella? This site provides the complete lowdown on Nutella. Created by Italian pastry maker Pietro Ferraro using hazelnuts to compensate for a cocoa shortage due to World War II food rationing in Italy, it didn't actually make it onto the food scene in the United States until the early 1980s. And as many things go in the world of food, it has since garnered its own day of celebration, World Nutella Day, February 5. I'll put a reminder into my calendar now to give you all another recipe for celebrating this February!

In the meantime, enjoy making this Nutella marble cake this Halloween and share it with the spooky spiders in your life!

Nutella Marble Cake

2 1/4 cups (7.25 ounces) cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated cane sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup light sour cream, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
3 tablespoons Nutella
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (baking cocoa, not hot cocoa mix)

Nutella Fudge Frosting

1 cup (8 ounces) egg whites (from about 8 large eggs)
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 1/2 lbs (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon-size chunks
pinch of salt
1/2 cup Nutella
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (65% cacao), melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Black gel food coloring

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray (preferably with flour). Line with parchment and spray again. Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, place butter and sugar. Beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.

Add flour mixture alternately with milk in three batches. Split the batter in half and sift cocoa powder over half. Add Nutella to cocoa powder half and mix well. Alternate scoops of vanilla batter and Nutella batter to cake rounds until completely divided evenly among the pans. Drag a butter knife or small rubber spatula thru batters until marblelized. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick or skewer inserted comes clean. Allow to cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on racks completely.

For the frosting: In the top portion of a double boiler or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar. Mixture will be grainy. Turn up heat on pan with water to medium-high and place bowl with egg white mixture on top. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 160°F on a candy or probe thermometer. (Do not leave unattended or egg whites will cook!) Remove bowl from heat and beat on high until stiff shiny peaks, about 7 minutes. Make sure the bowl has cooled off significantly before adding the butter. Lower speed and add butter in tablespoon-size chunks, mixing well after every 2-3 tablespoons. Add salt and vanilla and mix well. Remove from mixer and fold in Nutella and cooled melted chocolate.

Assembly: Place cooled cake round on 10" coated cardboard cake circle. Frost top of round with Nutella Fudge Frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and frost top and sides with one crumb coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes and apply final outer layer of frosting. Pipe border with Nutella Fudge Frusting. Tint a half cup of frosting black using gel food color. Pipe spiderweb and spiders as shown. Serves 12-14. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note: The above frosting recipe begins with a standard Swiss meringue buttercream. If you stop before adding the Nutella and melted chocolate, you have a basic vanilla buttercream. For a white chocolate buttercream, add 4 ounces cooled melted white chocolate. For a chocolate buttercream, add 4 ounces cooled melted dark chocolate and 3 tablespoons cocoa (sift over buttercream before mixing in).

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