Alex has been asking for a chocolate cake. I had been working on my favorite cake for the last few months, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. We had gone through several variations finally settling on buttermilk layers with a ganache based frosting highlighted with a combination of Valrhona chocolates. So when he asked for a chocolate cake I was up for a new challenge.
I started with chocolate cake layers, loosely based on a 1-2-3-4 cake with cocoa and buttermilk, which makes a cake that has the flavor of a great hot chocolate. Amaya decided that mealtime was while the layers were in the oven so I asked Alex to pull them out. Later I asked him if he wanted any particular type of frosting and he responded by asking about the cake layer.
"I was surprised to see the chocolate layers in the oven."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I thought that you were making the buttermilk cake."
"You asked for chocolate cake."
"Right the chocolate frosted cake you make with the buttermilk layers."
"But chocolate cake will be great. I may not have thought of it but I'm sure it will be delicious."
Clearly I was on my own with the frosting.
On a rainy day during our trip to New Zealand we popped into the Cadbury factory and took the tour. Alex and I had both been childhood fans of their chocolate and the most surprising discovery during the tour was learning that the secret to that Cadbury flavor was condensed milk. That's what they use to make their chocolates. Interestingly once we knew what the flavor was it was immediately identifiable when we tasted it. So when I came across a recipe for a chocolate frosting based on condensed milk I was unable to resist the idea.
The choccolate cake layers were spread with a whole cherry condiment from Trader Joe's, these days I can't always make everything on the spur of the moment, and frosted with my secret chocolate frosting. I deliberately left the mixing bowl on the counter when I went to attend to Amaya and a few minutes later Alex was in the doorway, right on cue, asking about the frosting.
"It's my secret ingredient. Guess what it was."
"I saw the condensed milk on the counter."
"That's not it."
"Well then what was it?"
Four ingredients, condensed milk, bittersweet chocolate, a pinch of salt, and a large splash of very good aged vinegar. I was actually going to go with a Vin Cotto or an aged balsamic and then I saw the Elixer and couldn't resist. This frosting is like Cadbury's to the nth degree, rich, nuanced and not too sweet.
1 can organic condensed milk
6 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 tablespoons aged sweet vinegar (Elixer, balsamic, vin cotto, etc)
Combine all four ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip to a spreadable texture. The frosting is a bit sticky and will firm a bit as it sits, so use it immediately.