31 March 2009

Yogurt, a love affair... and a fancy schmancy cake!

I love yogurt. Plain, whole milk yogurt. Local yogurt. Pequea Valley Farm is, hands down, the best. My love, however, goes beyond its creamy texture and tangy flavor as when in a bowl alone or with granola. I find that yogurt is a very versatile ingredient and can be used in any number of cooked items: in curries or soups, in cakes, pancakes, breads (similar to buttermilk), as a replacement for cream or sour cream. Recently, I've been on a real kick, using yogurt in a new quiche recipe, in pumpkin pancakes and, last week, in an amazing chocolate cake recipe. After not posting all month, I finally put up a post at Farm to Philly. Go there to find the pancake and spinach quiche recipe.

Here, however, I'd like to offer pictures and a recipe of the cake I made for a friend's surprise birthday party. My friend generously organized this surprise party for her boyfriend and, with her photoshop talents, created the image that would be placed on the cake (edible paper and ink). I was in charge of baking and frosting. I've never undertaken such a cake before and there's something to be said for beginners luck!

I decided to turn to Smitten Kitchen for the cake recipe and chose a chocolate cake inspired by ding dongs, devil dogs and, in my opinion, whoopie pies (yum): basically a moist chocolate cake with marshmallow (7-minute) frosting. This isn't exactly the most verdant recipe, but the flour, eggs yogurt are all local; the butter, vanilla and evaporated cane sugar organic; the chocolate, coffee and cocoa powder organic and free trade - so not terrible! The adapted recipe will follow.

Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Cake: (I made a 9x13 rectangular cake, but this batter can also make two 10" round layers)

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 and 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
2 and 1/2 cups sugar (sucanat/evaporated cane juice)
2 and 1/2 cups flour (I used a local PA white pastry flour)
1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used organic sunflower)
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk plain yogurt (or buttermilk)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300˚F and grease and dust pan with cocoa powder. Line bottom of 9x13" rectangular cake pan with wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, yogurt, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool completely in pan. Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert rack (or cake plate). Carefully remove wax paper and cool completely. Cake may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Marshmallow Frosting:

4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup simple syrup*
4 tablespoons water
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine frosting ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 7-8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled and forms peaks. Mound frosting on top of cake.

*The recipe originally called for corn syrup. I could not buy or use this ingredient. The sugar syrup worked fine. To make bring to boil 1 and 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice and 3/4 cup of water. Boil until the liquid has reduced and when dropped onto cool plate is of a syrupy consistency.


  1. Note to self (and other readers): Do not try to read Melanie's delicious-looking blog during Passover.
    [From your biggest fan in Kreuzberg]