December 6, 2010


Duvel Cake
A cake that was iced to mimic a Duvel bottle. I know I lack crafty-artsiness. Ba-humbug.
yellow cake

This is the real thing. Last Friday, I made the first real frosting of my life. I managed to successfully make an ultimate French chocolate buttercream.  This kind of indulgence can/should only be enjoyed once a year because I am going to share this recipe, and after you read it, you might shit your pants.

I have an unbelievably dorky collection of recipes (really an old binder that has been filled with recipes). At the beginning of the year, I usually tear out all the recipes that I never managed to try the year before and allow the book, er, binder to collect new ones. Last year, before moving to Belgium, I modge-podged a bunch of recipes onto a page and shoved them in.  The buttercream one has been in my collection since 2006 or 2007 (I think it was a snipped from the Durham Herald Sun). As you can see, I was always hopeful that I may have the excuse and nutritional reasoning to make this.

Nutritional reasoning. Ha. This frosting calls for 8 egg yolks, 2 cups of sugar, and 1 POUND of butter. This frosting is a series of wonderful chemical reactions that must be carried out at lightning speed. Printed along with the recipe was a chef’s note telling the baker (me) to have everything ready to go as soon as you get started (including the room temperature eggs and butter).

This frosting was made for a friend’s 30th birthday cake. I, the ever-horrible baker, baked a yellow-layer raspberry cake which was then iced with the ultimate French chocolate buttercream.

Before you begin, read the entire recipe through. Have all the ingredients prepared and measured out (including the eggs and butter at room temperature). You will not have any time to measure or prep once you start. Buttercream icing stores well for several days in the fridge and freezes well.

The Ultimate French Chocolate Buttercream
Yield: ~2 cups or enough to frost one 8-or-9 inch two-layer cake
Ingredients: 8 large egg yolks ¼ cup water 2 cups sugar pinch of salt 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (mine was kept over a double-boiler and wasn’t cooled down, this allowed me to scrape out all the chocolate in the pot). Use the highest quality baking chocolate you can find. The original recipe suggests these: 99 percent Scharffen Berger, Durig Grand Caraque 99 percent, Michel Cluizel Amer 99 percent, or Lindt 99 percent Excellence, or Ghirardelli unsweetened. I used Cote D’Or baking chocolate. 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 generous tbsp instant espresso melted in 2 tbsp hot water (the small addition is meant to bring out the chocolate taste) 1 pound unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
Special tools: A stand mixer with a whip attachment (I got away with my hand-mixer). A candy thermometer that can read above 300º F (essential). Rubber spatulas to help keep the edges of the bowl clean. A pastry brush and a small bowl of water (to be creative, I used a new toothbrush). Patience.

  1. Put the yolks in a large mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with the whip attachment.
  2. Pour the water, then the sugar and salt into a small saucepan.
  3. Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan so the sensor is immersed in the sugar. Have a cup of water and heatproof brush handy.
  4. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat. Start beating the yolks at medium speed. As the sugar heats up, it will become clear. Do not stir the syrup at any time. Every so often, use the water dampened brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. This heating mixture will look like you are boiling Sprite, and should take between 8-10 minutes to reach temperature.
  5. By the time the syrup reaches 245º F, the yolks should be about three times their original volume. Flip the beater speed up to medium-high.
  6. When the syrup’s between 248º and 250º F, immediately remove the thermometer and pour the syrup into the beating yolks along the inside of the bowl. Turn the speed to high, and beat 5 minutes. Turn speed down to medium, add the vanilla and beat until close to room temperature.
  7. Now add the melted chocolate and espresso, beating until blended. Finally beat in the butter, a generous tablespoon at a time. Beat until smooth. If the frosting seems too soft, refrigerate 20 minutes. When you are ready to frost the cake, bring the buttercream to room temperature so it will be fluffy and silken.


  1. Holy crap, dude. That icing is unbelievable.


  2. see, you ARE a baker! just follow the directions EXACTLY, it is science after all. =) none of this making things healthier with substitutions. would you try to make beer healthier?!?! heheh, love you!