This cake...this was my masterpiece at Raul's birthday aka the 24, 24, 24 party. After my disastrous Dobos Torte, I was extremely hesitant to try another layer cake so soon. In case you couldn't tell, layer cakes make me nervous. I am just never sure how they will turn out and having to make one for a party is kind of a big responsibility. We decided that if the cake didn't turn out, Glen would run to Kiss My Bundt and pick up something delicious and not a failure like a Maple Bacon Bundt... I decided to start baking the night before and do as much of the recipe as early as possible. After getting started on making coffee and setting out ingredients, I realized I had forgotten the Kahlua. I ran to the store, got more and got started...and then I realized the boys had no vanilla. I was not in the mood to go out to the store again so I just replaced the vanilla with more Kahlua. That was the only change I made to the original recipe. The cake was simple enough to put together, but I got super nervous that after the recommended 35 minute baking time, I still had a soupy mess in the middle. I baked the cakes for about 45-50 minutes total and then let them cool.
(No, the crooked cake looks awesome *wink*)
While the cakes were cooling, I ran out to WeHo to have a drink with the boys because it was also Glen's birthday that night, but I could not get my mind off finishing the cake so I returned home. Four hours later (2:30AM), all of the parts of the cake were done except the chocolate glaze and the cake was chilling in the refrigerator. I wish I could tell you what happened during this time, but I was so incredibly tired and just set on getting as much done as possible. As you can probably tell, the layers are lopsided. This is because I suck when it comes to cutting cakes so the middle ended up being thinner than the edges. Honestly, I didn't really care and I think it looks rather artistic, no?
Now you may be wondering what makes this cake Cuban. To be honest, I can't really tell you, but I can tell you that it was freaking delicious. Even though I make cakes once in a while, and cupcakes, I am not a huge cake person, but this was so good. The coffee really brought out the chocolate flavor and it was rich, but not heavy feeling. Glen even called it "one of the best cakes he's eaten". In the end, this cake is not difficult, it just takes some time and patience. It's well worth it!
Cuban Opera Cake
(Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2003)
Makes 12+ servings
4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 teaspoons Kahlua
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crème de cacao (or Kahlua)
1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee, lukewarm
8 ounces imported milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup half and half
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee powder
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin softened in 1 tablespoon water 10 minutes
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon Kahlua
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; line bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and 3 1/2 teaspoons Kahlua in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Gradually beat in lukewarm melted chocolate. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Gradually beat in crème de cacao (or Kahlua) and coffee. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth tops.
Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto 9-inch cardboard rounds or removable tart pan bottoms; cool cakes completely on racks.
Melt milk chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from over water. Whisk sugar, egg yolks, 2 tablespoons water, and corn syrup in medium metal bowl to blend. Add 1/4 cup butter. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; whisk constantly until mixture reaches 170°F, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat until completely cool and thick, about 6 minutes. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating each addition and stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate.
For coffee mousse:
Bring half and half, 2 tablespoons sugar, and espresso powder to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot half and half mixture into yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thermometer registers 160°F, about 2 minutes. Pour into large bowl. Add softened gelatin; stir until dissolved. Using electric mixer, beat until cool, about 10 minutes. Using clean dry beaters, beat cream and Kahlua in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into coffee mixture.
Cut each cake layer horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer in bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Cover with 3/4 cup buttercream. Place second cake layer atop buttercream; cover with mousse. Top with third cake layer. Refrigerate 1 hour to allow mousse to set. Spread 3/4 cup buttercream over third cake layer. Top with fourth cake layer (cake will rise above rim of pan). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
For chocolate glaze:
Stir sugar and 1 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Whisk in cocoa; remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Let stand until cool but still pourable, about 2 hours.
Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides. Scrape excess mousse from sides of cake. Transfer cake on springform pan bottom to rack set over baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Pour glaze over cake, allowing glaze to drip down edges onto baking sheet (use spatula to spread glaze over any uncovered spots). Refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow glaze to set. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.)