As I had already baked the frozen pecan tart that was the assignment for Christmas week, I looked ahead for a dessert for our Christmas dinner and landed on the Chocolate Cuddle Cake. It's just me and the folks next door for the meal, so I went with a half-sized cake. Unfortunately that doesn't reduce the amount of pans and utensils needed. :) (That's two bowls and whisks for the KitchenAid mixer, plus the Cuisinart food processor with metal blade, plus the hand mixer, plus the baking pan and another mixing bowl. This doesn't include pans and bowls for the caramel, and assorted other stuff.)
I used a 6" springform pan, not quite 3" tall. I didn't measure my parchment paper strips used to line the pan to get them 3" high, having not thought this all through, and regretted it. This is a genoise, so needs to be turned upside down to cool so that it doesn't collapse. I had to do a little hasty trimming right after taking the cake from the oven, but it all worked out.
I don't have any notes on the cake besides the egg yolks and whites measuring as desired,not always the case with the variation in egg sizes: 2 yolks were just about the desired amount, and 2 whites a little over (which is fine--they are used to make a meringue which is folded in to the chocolate mixture). I had mixed success at getting the parchments strips off the cooled cake after holding a hot damp towel to them--about half of them came away clean leaving a smooth cake surface, and the rest stuck a bit to leave a rough surface. The cake gets covered with ganache though, so the mix of surfaces was quickly hidden.
The ganache was straightforward using the food processor. I frosted the sides, followed the shape of the cake which curved in at the top where the cake pulled away from the top of the pan. I decided to follow the suggestion of using a pastry bag to pipe an edging at the top edge to hold in the whipped cream topping, but didn't stop to practice for the half-shells Rose used. Instead I started with a set of small swirls in several shapes, then a round of stars as there was still ganache left. I got the cake to this point on Christmas Eve, and left it in a large sealed container at room temperature overnight.
Christmas morning, after the presents were opened and while the prime rib was roasting, I started the caramel whipped cream. It's actually chocolate caramel whipped cream, to add to the decadence level. First comes caramel--sugar, a bit of golden syrup to keep it from crystalizing, and a bit of water to start. I chickened out (well, didn't quite trust this thermometer, which I hadn't used for candy before) and stopped a bit below the target temperature, but I still had a golden caramel after the cream and butter had been stirred in. For the chocolate, 2 teaspoons of cocoa get whisked into a little hot cream, then that all gets mixed into the caramel. I didn't whisk vigorously enough and later had a few spots of cocoa in my chocolate whipped cream....somehow, no one complained. The final steps were to whip more cream to soft peaks, then whip in the chocolate caramel mixture, then finally some gelatin softened in even more cream to stabilize the whole thing. I had managed the softening of the gelatin and getting it melted, but somewhere in cooing process or in adding the vanilla to it the gelatin clumped up. A few seconds in the microwave and some stirring got it back to liquid, and it whipped into the rest of the cream with no problems.
Even though the cake was half-sized I made a full recipe of the caramel whipped cream--halving the small caramel recipe would have been pretty difficult. Perhaps because of my curved-in top, I only managed to pile about a quarter (maybe a third) of the recipe on the cake, so we passed some around to dollop beside the cake slices. No complaints there. I also tackled chocolate curls with mixed success, using Rose's technique for getting the right sized bar (my silicone financier pan was about right) and then finding the right temperature for the chocolate to curl. After a lot of splinters I did get a few curls, but the chocolate was blotchy, I think because I may have stirred in some air bubbles while making my chocolate bar. Cosmetic issues only...and again, no complaints.
The half cake was a good decision as it made 6 nice-sized pieces for us. The cake was moist and even textured, the ganache added extra chocolate intensity, and the caramel whipped cream balanced the "total chocolate" effect nicely. Would I make it again? Probably not--it was a good bit of effort, and all three components (cake, ganache, whipped cream) are needed to get the well-designed cake. Sister-in-law asked if I might do just the whipped cream again and I said no. I'll hedge on that now and say maybe. For a special occasion, when I'm not juggling several other cooking tasks too. Maybe. :)
P.S. on the caramel whipped cream: the leftovers went along as the folks next door left town to visit relatives. I understand some was eaten on the plane with fruit, and the rest was finished up at their destination. Don't let it be said that any caramel whipped cream went to waste around here!