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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream and a Book Review

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Recently I was invited to join a small book club with a few other food bloggers (being called The Edible Word - and how perfect is that?!) by the lovely Cath of A Blithe Palate and wonderful Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness. The idea was to get together with a few others who like to cook or bake and who also love to read. You already know how I feel about food, but you may not have known that I come from a long line of avid readers. I pretty much go crazy if I don't have something to read.

For our first book we read the new book by Kate Jacobs called Comfort Food. Kate has a lovely website and you can even get a chance to win a tote bag, sign up for her newsletter and even see if she is going to be in a city near you.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Comfort Food. It naturally combined two of my favorite things and pulled it all into an engaging read. It is the story of a woman who is approaching her 50th birthday - and she isn't too thrilled about it. On top of that she is a food television star and life is getting a bit shaky there as well. It is a story about family, love, humor and grief - all mixed in with a great helping of lots of good talk about food and the passion for cooking.

The book follows Gus, our heroine, but it also follows the stories of the characters swirling around her as well so the pace never really feels like it bogs down at all. I'm not going to tell you much more because I don't want to ruin it, but I will say that it didn't take me long to read this book at all, just a couple of days, because I really didn't want to leave the story. I was enjoying being a part of their world too much!

You should definitely read this book if you are looking for an entertaining story with lots of emotion and passion, as well as interesting characters. If that doesn't sound like your kind of story, well, then, I don't know what is wrong with you! ; )

Now, the second half of the fun of being a part of The Edible Word is that, since the book we reviewed has so much great food in it, there is plenty of good culinary scope for the imagination too - so, we all had the challenge to make something from the book or inspired from the book.

I actually didn't have a hard time deciding what I wanted to make because I knew what it would be from the first line in the book (which you can read the first chapter on Kate's website). I just didn't know what kind it would until almost the end of the book. A birthday cake! A Chocolate Oatmeal Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream to be exact.

Now, the surprise here is that I'm not going to tell you who the birthday cake actually ends up being made for. It isn't who you think from anything I've written so far though. As I mentioned, I knew it was going to be a birthday cake, just not what kind. Since it is supposed to be a dressed up celebration cake it is a decorated with cute little chocolate curls and white beaded frosting).

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How did I decide on a Chocolate Oatmeal Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream? In the book, there is an important scene which includes this cake. So, in Kate's own words straight from the book - here is the basis for the cake recipe I decided to create:
"What do you think?" Gus said, looking expectantly into their faces.

"Of what?"

"This," she said. "It's Sunday dinner like we used to have it." She led Aimee and Sabrina over to the counter, which was covered with mixing bowls holding oats, cocoa, chocolate chips, flour, and eggs at room temperature.

"We're going to make a birthday cake," said Gus... "
Now, I didn't have a recipe for any kind of cake even remotely like this to go off of since I've never had a cake with oats in it before, but I put my trust in Kate here, and she didn't lead me wrong with the cake idea (or her book)! I decided to try to come up with a recipe that included all the ingredients she named (and of course a few more) to make the cake.

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The icing recipe comes from Gale Gand, but the idea also comes from Comfort Food and Kate.
" Together, as a family, they mixed the ingredients and greased the pans, put the batter in the oven, and then made a simple icing out of butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla beans. "

So, how was it? This cake was actually pretty perfect! Nothing about this was remotely fussy to make and the results were wonderful. The cake itself was dense and not too rich (but just rich enough) and had a great texture, not crumbly really at all. It doesn't rise much because it is a heavy batter, but it isn't dry at all. The icing was heavenly and could very well be my new easy go to recipe for a simple vanilla buttercream. When I started out to try to create this cake, I really had no idea what it would be like, but I am very happy with it. You could easily make this into a snacking cake for an afternoon treat or cupcakes too (oh, and I stole a little nibble still warm from the oven while the chocolate bits were still melty and let me just tell you, it was ridiculously good)!

It is definitely a new comfort food! Thanks to Kate Jacobs - for a great book, and a great new recipe idea! Thanks to Cath and Stephanie for inviting me in on the fun! Can't wait to get together again!

Now, you (yes, you) - go get Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs, then come home, make this cake and enjoy a nice big slice with a tall glass of cold milk and spend your afternoon sitting in a nice cozy chair reading and eating cake. Seriously, can life get much better?

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Chocolate Oatmeal Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa powder (preferably, Dutch processed)
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
2 cups quick/instant oats (1-minute NOT old-fashioned)
3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 bar of 70% Lindt Bittersweet is perfect), chopped into "chip" sized chunks - or the equivalent of your favorite chocolate chips)

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans (or one 9x13-inch pan) well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or with a hand-mixer fitted with beaters in a large mixing bowl) cream together the sugar and butter until well combined and the sugar is mostly absorbed into the butter - will still be crumbly and somewhat dry looking. Add the eggs one at a time and mix in well, beating on medium-high speed for 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and continue beating for 1 minute, or until mixture is well combined, light and fluffy.

In another bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the sugar mixture in alternating additions: flour, milk, flour, milk, flour. Mix until just combined after each addition, finishing the last addition of flour by hand with a rubber spatula while you fold in the oats and chocolate chunks.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and spread with the spatula to even out the batter. This batter will be very thick, more like brownie batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for the two round pans, or 35 minutes for the 9x13 pan, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The batter will have risen only slightly and will be very dense and heavy.

Remove the pans from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Remove the cakes and frost as follows: cake, approximately 1 cup of buttercream spread on top, layer with the other cake, frost with enough of the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides. Decorate as desired. I used some grated bittersweet chocolate (from another Lindt bar).

Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream
(Adapted from this recipe, by Gale Gand)

Makes just enough for a not too thick layer (as shown) on this cake - if you like more frosting, you could make an additional half recipe of the frosting quite easily by using the alternate measurements in italics. There wasn't that much frosting to decorate with, so if you like decorating with frosting instead of chocolate shavings, use the alternate).

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 cup)
3 cups confectioners' sugar (4 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract (1 1/2 teaspoon)
1 to 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (1 1/2 to 3 Tablespoons)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla bean paste or extract and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

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18 comments:

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

If it tastes as fabulous as it looks, it must be a winner! I've never seen the combination of oatmeal and chocolate before, and I'm very intrigued, I'm clipping this one!

slush said...

Holy Yum Holly! I wish I had a piece of that in my house this morning. I would tear into that so fast, oh my. Looks fantastic!

Manggy said...

Filipinos have long known the benefits of chocolate in breakfast, so I'm sold on oatmeal and chocolate in combination! (Well, I didn't say they were *health* benefits, haha!) That is intriguing! It looks so dark and rich, totally unexpected for a cake with oatmeal! Thanks for the recipe!

Jenny said...

That cake looks absolutely gorgeous! I remember watching Gale Gand on Food Network when she was on, she was great, wish they wouldn't have cut her show.

Beautiful pics too!

lusciousfood said...

i'll be right over - should i pick up a gallon of milk on the way?

this looks seriously yummy. i wouldn't have thought of oatmeal in a chocolate cake, but these pics have made a believer out of me.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Looks delicious! Thanks for the book review too!

Allergy Mom said...

I've got some serious chocolate lust on right now. That cake looks inspired! Libby

Gabi said...

That looks lushy-
Funny I just picked this book up- now you're in my head :)
xoxo

Tempered Woman said...

Oh how I love this post! I'm an avid reader too. Thanks for the great recommendation. The cake sounds absolutely divine...

Lisa Thibault said...

This looks fabulous. I'm definately going to pick up that book - what a wonderful cake you've made!

kate said...

that looks so GOOD!

btw, i tagged you for a meme! check my blog.

Deborah said...

I love reading, but just don't have the time for it these days. Hopefully that will be changing soon.

This cake is gorgeous! I've never even heard of using oats in a cake, but I'm intrigued!

RecipeGirl said...

I don't believe I've ever seen oatmeal in a cake before. Very interesting. And yummy looking!

Grace said...

i don't like to admit it out loud for fear of having things thrown at me, but i've never really been a fan of chocolate cake. that being said, i find myself strangely drawn to this cake. i can't explain it, but it looks exceedinigly awesome and i'd like a slab of it right here, right now. :)

Jaime said...

beautiful cake!

Tartelette said...

I am posting mine tomorrow and the inspiration came to me later too. I wanted to try and replicate one of the Indian desserts mentionned but my trusted advisor is not around...I did make something that the husband wanted for a long time!!

cath said...

Yuuuuuuuuuum! A new way to get my daily dose of oatmeal! Thank you so much for taking part. :-)

Karen said...

This cake looks amazing! I was going to make a cake for my brother in law's birthday... then decided that he didn't deserve one and got him a cheap DVD instead.

I might have to rethink that and make this instead. I love the combo of chocolate and oatmeal!

I hope we do the book review again sometime... it was a lot of fun!

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