Over at my workplace, we are always coming up with excuses to have potlucks. This year, we celebrated our 3rd annual International Bacon Day, which is traditionally the Saturday before Labor Day, on Friday.
So for this potluck, I wanted to bring in a cake that had different components all using bacon as an ingredient. Basically, I was thinking a cake with a mouse filling. So I came up with the idea of two chocolate cake layers with a chocolate whiskey mousse filling and some bacon brittle crunch in the middle, covered with a chocolate whiskey ganache and more bacon brittle crunch pressed to the sides.
I’m calling it a Chocolate Whiskey Bacon Crunch Cake, but had a few other names swirling in my mind. It’s hard to name things with a few different and distinct flavors. Oh well.
Bacon Brittle Crunch (This recipe is loosely based on the bacon brittle from here)
1 ½ Tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking sheet
12 slices center-cut bacon, cooked and chopped finely
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon black pepper*
Grease a baking sheet that has sides with butter, or use a silpat. Cook bacon stove top method in pans, reserving the bacon fat for later. Pat dry on plates lined with paper towels and when cool, finely chop into small pieces. Spread bacon pieces over the baking sheet
Mix sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and mix until it resembles coarse sand. Place in large saucepan and heat on medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk and breaking up any clumps with the whisk, as needed. This may take several minutes. Sugar will liquify as it cooks. When sugar is light amber colored, immediately remove from heat and add 1 ½ Tablespoons butter, then carefully add the baking soda.
*And then carefully add the black pepper, then your bacon. (I made the mistake of adding premeasured black pepper, which fell into one clump and was extremely hard to disperse throughout the increasingly viscous melted sugar, so perhaps instead of premeasuring it, just guesstimate the amount directly from the black pepper container, whether using a pre-ground product, or black pepper grinder. Or put the black pepper on the bacon before cutting it. Or just omit the black pepper, because isn’t bacon already peppered? The important thing you want to avoid is to have a clump of black pepper in your brittle, which is what happened to my brittle.)
Pour the cooked sugar over the bacon pieces on the greased baking sheet to roughly the length and width of a 15-inch baking sheet. Let cool and harden for 15 minutes, then break into shards and smaller pieces. (I used a pestle, but you can probably use a knife or rolling pin). I then put it in food processor and pulsed it several times, using the metal blade, to make the pieces and shards into smaller granules, and then used a medium-mesh sieve or strainer to remove finer pieces and granules. I reserved the sifted out “sugar”, but I’m not sure what or how I’m going to use that. Ice cream topping, perhaps? The brittle pieces will be used in the filling and sides of cake.
(I used Gale Gand’s recipe for Chockablock Chocolate Cake, but halved it and put it in a 9-inch springform pan)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 3/8 cup flour
½ cup + 1 Tablespoon cocoa (preferably dutch process)
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cups milk
3/8 cup vegetable oil (I used canola oil), minus 3 Tablespoons
3 Tablespoons liquid bacon fat from fried bacon
½ Tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cups very hot water
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a springform pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Wrap the entire outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil to prevent the cake batter seeping out, as it is quite a thin, watery batter. You can also use a regular 9 -inch round cake pan.
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, and use a whisk to mix thoroughly. Whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract in a another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for 5 minutes.
Gradually add the hot water, mixing at low speed just until combined. I added an extra step of putting the batter through a medium-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, which I read somewhere makes for a more consistent texture and removes any stray clumps of ingredients, but I honestly don’t know if that really made a difference.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay) and the center feels firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan. Chill, covered, until ready to cut the cake. After cooled, cut horizontally into two even cake layers.
Chocolate Whiskey Mousse
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon bacon fat
3 Tablespoons whiskey
1 Tablespoon strong coffee
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup cream
First, put chopped chocolate into a double boiler (bain marie) over medium heat and melt. Do not overheat. When barely melted, remove from heat and whisk in bacon fat, whiskey and coffee. Set aside. With clean bowl and hand held mixer, beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks, gradually adding 4 tablespoons of sugar until incorporated and stiff peaked. Fold a third of the whipped egg whites into the cooled but still melted chocolate mixture, and incorporate until blended, then add the rest of the whipped egg whites. In a separate bowl, whip un the whipping cream until stiff peaks and fold into the mixture in much the same way you folded in the egg whites. Use at once for assembly as filling.
I should warn you, this has more whiskey flavor than the recipe I based it on, so if you want less whiskey, maybe use two tablespoons of whiskey instead of three, and add one tablespoon of coffee.
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons bacon fat, or butter
1 Tablespoon whiskey
Place chopped chocolate in glass or stainless-steel bowl. Heat whipping cream until it almost reaches a boil. Pour over chocolate and let sit for five minutes, undisturbed. Whisk slowly until smooth; add bacon fat and whiskey, whisking more until incorporated. Use immediately, if pouring over cake.
So, the order that you’ll want to make the separate components so that you’ll be ready for assembly is as follows: bacon brittle, chocolate cake, chocolate whiskey mousse. Then make the chocolate whiskey ganache only when you’ve already put together the separate layers of cake, brittle, mousse, brittle, and cake back into the springform pan and have let it set for at least 8 hours.
Using the springform pan for assembly, put the first cake layer back into the springform pan, pressing down on the edges to try and close any gaps or spaces between the cake and the pan. Sprinkle about 10 Tablespoons of the bacon brittle, and spread it evenly over the top of the cake layer. Add all of the whiskey mouse over it and smooth with a small offset spatula or spoon, if you don’t have an offset spatula. Add 10 more tablespoons of the bacon brittle, spreading it evenly over the mousse layer. Finally top with the second layer of cake. Place plastic wrap over the cake and store in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.
In the morning, or 8 hours later, unmold cake from springform, but keeping it on its base, place it on a rack and place rack over a baking sheet. If the mousse layer appears to be spreading out, causing a bump on the side of the cake, use a spatula and just smooth it back into the sides of the cake. Hopefully the mousse it set, and so it shouldn’t seep out much. Covering it with ganache poured over it and then cooling it in the refrigerator should keep it from seeping outward.
Make ganache, and while still fairly warm, pour ganache over cake, using a spatula to even out the tops and the sides. If the cake is getting too warm and starting to slide, place it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.
When cooled, press bacon brittle on sides using a spatula or your hands. You may want to do this over a large baking sheet or line a work table with plastic or parchment paper, as it can get messy. When done with pressing brittle on the sides, cool in refrigerator for an hour to ensure that the ganache hardens, making it easier to transport the cake and slice. Slice with a sharp knife that has been warmed with hot water and dried, for nice clean slices.
Happy Bacon Day!