Today I want to talk to you about real life. Not the pretty, serene ideal I usually try to depict here, but my real real life. Here's the thing: my real life can be messy. Harried. Way less than perfect. My real life almost always includes few dirty dishes, a half-finished to-do list, and an open bottle of red wine. My real life involves a purse full of crumpled up receipts, several stray tubes of lip gloss, and a lingering fear that I forgot to unplug the curling iron. My real life means getting a run in my tights, missing my train and bumping into my cute neighbor when I haven't washed my hair in days. Sometimes my real life means dropping buttercream on my new shoes. Baking my coworker a birthday cake at midnight. Taking pictures of said cake in a conference room at the office and hoping a partner doesn't walk in while I'm standing on a chair trying to get the perfect shot. Thankfully, my real life also means chocolate almond cake, chocolate coconut ganache, and coconut almond buttercream--otherwise known as this almond joy cake. My real life may not always be perfectly styled or well lit, but it's still pretty sweet. And today it includes chocolate. I think yours should too.
Almond Joy Cake
For the Chocolate Cake Layers (Adapted from Martha Stewart):
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, water and almond extract and whisk or beat in a stand mixer on low speed until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans. Bake for around 25-30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Place the cake pans on wire racks and let them cool there for about 1o minutes. Turn the cakes out of their pans, and allow them to finish cooling directly on the racks.
For the Ganache
6 oz (about 3/4 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup light coconut milk
Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate chips and let stand for about five minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate the ganache, stirring occasionally, until it's a spreadable consistency.
For the Almond Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup c0c0nut milk
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
Beat the butter in a stand mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, the coconut milk, the salt and the almond extract. Beat for another 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar until the frosting is the flavor and texture that you want. The buttercream should be light, fluffy, and thick enough to spread. You may not need all of the powdered sugar.
To Assemble the Cake
1 bag (about 2 cups) sweetened shredded coconut
chocolate covered almonds (optional)
To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake board or large platter. Top with 1/2 of the coconut chocolate ganache. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup shredded coconut over the top of the ganache. Repeat with the next cake layer, the rest of the ganache, and another 1/3 cup of shredded coconut. Top with the final cake layer. Spread a very thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula if you have one. This is your crumb coating. Don't worry if there are crumbs of cake visible in your frosting--that's the purpose of the crumb coating. All of the cake crumbs will be suspended in this bottom layer of icing, and will not be visible once you apply the rest of the buttercream. At this point, I like to pop the cake in the refrigerator or even the freezer for a few minutes to allow the crumb coating to harden. The icing should be dry to the touch. Once your crumb coating has set, apply the rest of the buttercream in a thick layer. Press the remainder of the shredded coconut into the sides and top of the cake. Top the cake with chocolate covered almonds, if desired.