Monday, January 7, 2013

Best. Cake. Ever. [Guest Post]

With Nick and Mits at their engagement!
Happy New Year you guys! Like I was telling you in my last post, it seems like all I've been doing is working and attending weddings. I would complain about the wedding part but when the person getting married (engaged) is your best friend, things are a bit different!
I asked Mitalee and Nick to take over and write the very first post for 2013. I love them (and the cake they baked) and I hope you enjoy this recipe. It has some history to it and i'll let them tell you all about it :)

The Messi Chocolate Cake 

Mitalee: Every year, I look forward to the few weeks I am able to visit home and celebrate the New Year with my family and friends, including Pooja, my BFF of a decade and counting. Her goodies have been the fulcrum of every celebration for the past two years; so we were honored and thrilled to be invited to the Le 15 kitchen to demonstrate a recipe of our choice.
Nick: Le 15 was part of my first trip to India. When I arrived in Bombay with Mitalee, she called Pooja to help with a “Bombay darshan”. The sights were nice, but, as an avid soccer player (footballer for all you fake Brits), what I enjoyed most was being mistaken for Leo Messi. News flash to all Mumbaikars: Leo Messi is busy scoring 90 goals a year for FC Barcelona and Argentina; he doesn’t have time to wander around your city taking photographs with an old red Canon Powershot.
Anyhow, the only thing that could pull me away from an afternoon tanning session on Chowpatty beach was a box of Le 15 macarons. I’d only previously tasted Pooja’s macarons after they’d journeyed to the U.S. as checked baggage. Even those were good; the fresh ones were freakin’ awesome! When we were challenged to make a recipe of our own in Pooja’s kitchen, I knew then we had to bring out the big guns. No measly brownies or banana bread, we were going for THE CHOCOLATE CAKE.

Such tourists! 

Mitalee: Nick first baked me THE CAKE for my 25th birthday. He bakes like a champ and is renowned for his chocolate chubbies, but I’ll admit I was hesitant biting into this, his first-ever cake. My fears were unfounded. It was the best homemade chocolate cake I had ever tasted. Ever since, it has become my go-to chocolate cake for friends’ birthdays. It’s usually a hit, but who knew how it would jive with the Indian palate?
Nick: We showed up at the kitchen around 1:00 PM on New Year’s Eve. Earlier in the day, my left arm had a near-death experience when Pooja’s horse-sized dog mistook it for a chew toy, so my arm – and the rest of me - came into the kitchen ready to bake like there’s no tomorrow. Upon entering, I was instantly stuck by the colors and aromas. Half macaron shells of every shade cooled on big trays, and cakes were frosted with designs of all kinds. And the place smelled like I just dived into a cookie dough sea.

Nick and Russell!

Mitalee: The ritual of baking the two-layer cake, whipping up the buttercream, and frosting the layers usually takes a couple hours. Thanks to Le15’s mise en place, only an hour later, we had two high cakes the color of the deepest dark chocolate.
We watched expectantly as Pooja tasted a large crumb. “I like that it’s not too sweet.” Yes! She liked it! (I think?)
Later that night, Nick, Pooja and I reconvened at a New Year’s Eve house party.

A few minutes past midnight (Happy New Year woo), I cut the cake and served it to our fellow revelers. And then, we waited. 

“It’s amazing.”

“It’s so, so good.”

“I want more!”

I turned to Pooja, “If this is what it feels like to be you, I’m ready for a life swap.”

Fearing it would run out, I grabbed a quarter of the cake and stashed it in my purse for later.

Two days later, it was still yum.

Now for the recipe.

Nick: The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake ( When I say adapted, I mean copied exactly, aside from substituting yogurt for buttermilk. And maybe some guesstimated cups to grams conversions.

Do I feel bad copying the recipe as my own work? Well, rumor in the gourmet pastry chef community – and after an afternoon in Le 15’s kitchen, clearly I’m in the circle – is that Ina Garten stole this off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa Powder box. You be the judge:

Thefts aside, here’s the recipe for Messi Chocolate Cake, baked in Pooja’s kitchen by Mitalee & Leo Messi himself (look at the pictures!). If you like it, I will also autograph your FC Barcelona gear for Rs. 10,000 per item, if I’m not already in jail for fraud!

Note: all conversions to the metric system are done by me and, as such, might be bogus. When we were in the Le 15 Kitchen, we had a handy kitchen accessory called a professionally trained baker to go grab all the ingredients in the right amounts. So we really didn’t do any of the conversions.

Messi Chocolate Cake


· Butter, for greasing the pans

· 1-3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

· 2 cups (400g) sugar

· ¾ cup (100g) cocoa powder

· 2 teaspoons baking soda

· 1 teaspoon baking powder

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 1 cup (225g) yogurt

· ½ cup (110ml) vegetable oil

· 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

· 1 cup (235ml) freshly brewed hot coffee

· Chocolate buttercream frosting, recipe follows


1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper if you wish, then butter and flour the pans.

2. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed, or mix by hand as we did, until combined.

3. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla). With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Don’t fret if the batter appears too thin, that is just how it’s supposed to be.

4. Pour the batter into the prepped pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

5. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a cake pedestal. With a knife, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and frost the whole sucker!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

· 6 ounces (170g) semisweet chocolate

· ½ lb (2 sticks or 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

· 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

· 1-1/4 cup (150g) sifted confectioners' sugar

· 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder


1. Chop the chocolate and place it in a microwavable bowl. Microwave it on 50% power to melt. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes.

4. Turn the mixer to low to avoid sugar-frosting your face, and gradually add the confectioners' sugar. Beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.

5. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hot water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix (don’t whip!) until blended. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.


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