Aimée’s birthday cake: black bean chocolate cake with whipped ganache frosting

Layering the cake.

This was an easy one to do. The birthday girl, who has problems with digesting wheat, specifically asked that I make the Hippie With a Minivan black bean cake for her, since the last time she had it some years ago it left quite an impression on her.

There were no particular requests for how to frost it, so I opted for a whipped chocolate ganache, made by heating whipping cream until very warm, melting chocolate in it, chilling it thoroughly, and then whipping it until it is fluffy. I couldn’t remember what ratio of cream to chocolate I used last time I made it, so I Googled around a bit and settled on a 2:1 cream:chocolate ratio this time.

The finished cake.

It turns out that a 2:1 ratio makes a much lighter result than would have been appropriate for the black bean cake, which is rather dense. This cake would likely have done better with a 1:1 ratio, and the ganache I’d made this time around would have worked well for an angel food cake or a chiffon cake.

As for decoration, I opted to pipe some very simple puffs of ganache and garnish each with a French vanilla-scented coffee bean soaked in crème de cacao. The coffee beans looked good, but didn’t taste great; next time I will probably coat them in chocolate or candy them for a more interesting result.

Over all, the cake was well received. It wasn’t even an issue that the filling was too light, since the layers absorbed most of it, which helped overcome the dryness that the black bean cake recipe is somewhat prone to. Also, I had made a mistake and assumed that the chocolate I’d used in the ganache was Callebaut dark chocolate, when it was just Baker’s bittersweet. It didn’t taste bad, but it was a surprise to me, since I had been expecting something less sweet and not so distinctively flavoured. Still, no harm done.

I still need practice decorating cakes, since visual appeal is a pretty important part of a special occasion food. Piping skills are their own area of expertise, but a steady hand and a turntable won’t hurt, either. I’ve found a good cheat is to use thinly sliced fruits on white or creamy cakes — mangoes, strawberries, and kiwis work very nicely for this — but chocolate cakes are a little harder. One thing that could work for next time is to paint or stencil designs using tempered chocolate on wax or parchment paper, then peel them off when set and apply them to the base icing coat.

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