Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pretty in Pink Peony Cake

Every year when peonies come into their fragrant glory, a friend brings by an armload full of some of the most beautiful varieties from his farm. Each one has its own personality and color, and all have a sweet and feminine aroma that fills the air. Like a summery floral chintz, they make me happy to just look at them. This year I wanted to thank him and his wife by making a cake. I just happened to be making cupcakes for my neighbors high school graduation party and so I split the recipe, making a small 6 inch cake and 2 dozen mini cupcakes. My graduating neighbor loves chocolate nut toffee crunch (she's very smart...move her to the top of the class!), so I crushed some and mixed it into chocolate ganache and added it to the filling of the cake. The little cupcakes had their chocolate treasure hidden under a slice on top and were crowned with a meringue frosting. As you bite into the lightly sweet cloud of meringue frosting, the cake is tender and moist. And with the chocolate toffee ganache surprise in the center, you'll need a chair to sink into as you lick your spoon clean. The combination works so well together, that after the last taste, you'll be left dreaming for more. Sweet Dreams!For the cake batter, I used Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe poured into a 6x3 inch round pan and the rest into a lined mini cupcake tin. After the cake was baked and cooled, I cut it in half horizontally and put in on a serving plate. I then put a layer of ganache on top of the lower layer and spread it into a generous filling.Then I added the top layer and frosted with the Meringue Frosting. Just like a prom date awaiting her corsage, a pretty pink peony from my friends garden was the only decoration needed.
Chocolate Toffee Crunch Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 3-4 ounces crushed chocolate toffee/nut candy, such as Heath Bar.
I used Trader Joe's, Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the optional candy until coarsely chopped and remove. Break up the chocolate into the bowl of the food processor and process until fine. Heat the cream until just before the boiling point, and pour into the feed tube while processing. Process until just smooth and creamy, and then add the vanilla and pulse a few times to blend. Pour into a medium bowl and let come to room temperature and then fold in the crushed candy mixture. Refrigerate until it thickens enough to spread. If made ahead of time, let come to room temperature before using.

Makes about 2 cups.

Store at room temperature 1 day, 1 week refrigerated and 3 months frozen.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Hershey's Chocolate Cake recipe (pdf)
Meringue Frosting recipe (pdf)
Chocolate Toffee Crunch Ganache recipe (pdf)

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