"It's totally weird. I've never had anything like it before. And I want one for my birthday in November." — Marc
My boss is one of those people who considers the onion and the potato his favorite vegetables (all the better if they're fried). A meal just isn't a meal without meat, and practically any meal can be made better with the addition of a pork product. Not to mention that he's the only person I know who has three enormous barbecue grills on his Brooklyn patio roof-space.
So when his birthday rolled around, the email conversation naturally turned to bacon. There's been a lot of bacon sweets in the blog press lately. Bacon Brittle. Bacon Lollypops. The Vosges Bacon Chocolate Bar.
Could we really do a bacon cake? With real bacon? And how would that work?
Tomi bravely took the plunge (she says she was actually rather terrified by the whole prospect), going for a simple rectangular chocolate layer cake. She discovered a plastic pig at the dollar store to drive home the whole piggy point and topped her cake off with a pretty pink version of Paula Deen's Brown Butter Icing, crunchy pink sugar sprinkles aaaaand.... BACON!
Now, before you say "eeeew!" remember that sweet and salty tastes are often pretty great together. Chocolate covered pretzels, say. Or salted butter caramels. Or peanut-butter cookies. Sweet plus salty makes them multi-dimensional and more exciting to the tongue. And crunchy bacon bits on a chocolate cake offer a third dimension... sweet + salty + savory. Very exciting!
Some approached cautiously, but everyone who tried the chocolate bacon cake proclaimed enjoyment. Some went back for seconds. In the end, not a single slice went unclaimed. The boss man was pleased, and the whole thing was an enormous success. I was left wondering why bacon bits aren't a standard topping for cakes in the same way they are for salads, casseroles and omelettes.
The assembly couldn't be easier. (Bake cake. Make icing. Ice cake. Top with bacon bits.) The chocolate cake itself is ultra-basic. The icing's a snap. The key to this recipe is in the bacon. It must be crispy, and it must be broken into bits. Long, limp slices won't do at all.
A Simple Chocolate Cake
3 oz semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
1 cup hot black coffee
2 cups all-purpose flour (or pastry flour)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine hot coffee and chocolate pieces in a bowl. Let stand 5 minutes before whisking smooth.
3. Butter and flour the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch cake pan. (Or butter the bottom of the pan and lay in a piece of parchment.)
4. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
5. In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until slightly thickened and pale, about 3 minutes. Gradually add yogurt (or buttermilk), vegetable oil, vanilla and coffee-chocolate mixture to eggs. Stir to combine well.
6. Add the dry ingredients into the moist ingredients and continue to beat until just combined.
7. Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40-45 minutes (or until the cake springs back lightly when touched and a tester inserted in center comes out clean).
8. Place cake pan on a rack and cool completely in the pan. To remove, run a knife around edge of the pan and invert cake onto a rack. (May be wrapped tightly and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for 3 weeks.)
Paula Deen's Browned Butter Icing (in a Pretty Piggy Pink)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Red food color (optional)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until butter is lightly browned. Whisk in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Stir in 2-3 (or more) drops red food color to achieve your own perfect piggy pink.