Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CSA week three - Black sapote toffee cake

This is an adaption of a date cake recipe created by Chicago pastry chef Kate Neumann that I found on Food and Wine's website. I've got the idea that black sapote can be successfully substituted any time you find dried fruit that's been simmered and softened as Neumann calls for here.

1 cup black sapote gunk (two black sapotes peeled and seeded)
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans
1 handful finely shredded coconut
2 Tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
[The original recipe called for double the amount of sauce, but that's quite excessive. As you'll see, even this amount is generous.]

0. Prepare a 8 to 10-inch cake pan by buttering the sides, placing parchment paper in the bottom and buttering the paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. [The original recipe called for 7 ounces of dates simmered in 3/4 cup of water until it boiled down and then blended smooth with the molasses. No need to do any of that with sapote.] Just whisk the sapote gunk with the molasses until it's fairly smooth.

3. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

4. Use your mixer to beat butter with 1/2 cup brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients. Mix in the sapote mixture. Beat until fluffy again. Pour into prepared cake pan and smooth out. Bake for 25-35 minutes depending on the size of your cake pan. [I had a 10-inch pan instead of the 9-inch pan the original recipe called for so I reduced the baking time from 30 to 25 minutes.]

5. Meanwhile, break up the pecans to your preferred size. Spread them and the coconut into a pie plate or baking dish. Add then to the oven for 8-10 minutes until fragrant and golden.

6. Also meanwhile, mix the corn syrup with the remaining 2 Tablespoons brown sugar and another 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Heat briefly in the microwave to get the sugar good and dissolved.

7. Remove the cake from the oven, cool slightly and then dump it out onto a cooling rank. Peel off the parchment and return it to the cake pan. Sprinkle the pecans and coconut onto the parchment then drizzle with the corn syrup mixture. Return the cake to the pan, preferably the same side up. [This is much easier said than done. If you've got a method that works for this sort of thing, do please share.] Retrieve the broken pieces of cake from the counter and pack them back into the cake pan as best you can.

Return to oven and cook another 12-17 minutes depending on the size of of your cake pan. When the cake is springy and dry, remove from oven, cool slightly and then invert onto a cooling rack. Peel off the parchment trying to retain as much of the nuts and coconut as you can. Return to cake pan or place on serving platter.

8. For the toffee sauce, place the butter and brown sugar into a small pot. Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add cream. Stir until blended and then return to heat.

Return to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in salt, let cool slightly and then pour over the cake. Let sit overnight to soak in.

Well that was a bit of a project, but the results are pretty impressive:

This was a big hit in the office. It's pretty rich, but not nearly as over-the-top as you'd think from looking at it. Despite everything else, you can taste the black sapote in there with its not-quite-chocolately flavor undergirding the bright toffee and nuts. Combined with the brown sugar, it's hard to identify, but it's an important component giving the cake depth and keeping it from becoming cloying.

The texture is deeply moist, but still caky, not like those brownies people try to pass off as extra-rich because they're only half-baked. The toffee did successfully epoxy the broken cake back together which is a bonus.

While I'm not going to say the toppings are a bad thing, the cake is pretty good on its own. You can probably save some of that trouble and just dust it with powdered sugar and you'd still be pretty happy with the results.


Frodnesor said...

My daughter is usually game to try any exotic fruit, but she did not love the black sapote. That cake looks good, though.

kat said...

I don't know about leaving off the topping, its the toffee sauce that most interests me with this cake.

billjac said...

Kat, you've never had a sapote, have you? I don't think I've described the cake sans toffee well enough for you to judge without that experience. I did try a piece before the cake went back in the oven for the second half of the baking and it was interestingly complex and pretty tasty in a more sapote-centric way. I probably should have mentioned that justification for my claim that the cake could stand on its own.

drlindak said...

Looks amazing! I'm trying it with last week's very ripe sapote and will let you know...

drlindak said...

OK - made it both ways. Haven't tasted the toffee-topped cake, as it's "soaking in overnight" but the cake by itself with powdered sugar is pretty tasty. It's a tad overdone, but still moist. I think next time I would bake it in a brownie pan with nuts, and possibly a bit more spice, and serve it in squares like a brownie. But it definitely holds its own solo, and is way easier than the toffee-topped version. Thanks for the wonderful sapote recipes! (Now, if there were only something tasty to do with canistel...)

billjac said...

I'm glad you liked it. It'll only be better with the toffee.

I was winging it on the cooking times since I was substituting in new ingredients and using the wrong sized pan. I think mine was a little overdone too, but the toffee soak compensated.

Incorporating the nuts, especially if you toast them first, should be just about as good and avoid the difficulty of inserting the layer halfway through baking. Really good idea.

drlindak said...

Ah, no... Once I tasted the toffee version, that about does it. It's definitely dreamy. I may just need to try my hand with a black sapote tree if you keep coming up with these amazing recipes!

Anonymous said...

Re: the cake flipping thing - if you don't have a spring-form pan, which solves the whole issue, just do the plate trick, like a Spanish omelet.

billjac said...

I used the plate trick to get the cake out, but getting it back in was trickier. I couldn't turn the pan upside down for the second half of the plate trick because of the layer of nuts I had just laid down. I had to flip the cake onto a second plate to get it right side up and then try to slide it back into the pan. It didn't go so well.

I think the right method is telekinesis. I can't think of anything else that would work.

drlindak said...

I just picked it up and flipped it by hand, which worked amazingly well. I'm using a small pan, though, which probably makes life much easier. Also, today I substituted agave nectar, which I had, for corn syrup, which I didn't. Definitely yummy.

billjac said...

A small pan probably made a real difference there. My cake was wide, shallow and fragile.

I think you're on to something with the agave nectar. I've paired it with black sapote a few times now and it always seems to enhance the sapote's fruity flavors. It's my go-to sweetener for sapote recipes now.