Oi. My apologies for the late post. Though it is Friday, I can attest that the cake is not a lie! As promised, I created an epic Portal Cake for this year’s birthday festivities (read: I spent all day making this cake and NOTHING ELSE). This classic Portal Cake recipe is chock full of decadent dark chocolate, sweet cherries, and creamy homemade whipped cream frosting. That’s right; it’s a black forest cake! Sounds too good to be true, right? Not so. A little elbow grease and a lot of patience will give you the cake of your dreams.
Yes, I see the scary Four Skillet rating up there. It’s not horrifically challenging, but it does take time and effort to make the frosting. And have you ever shaved a bar of baking chocolate with a vegetable peeler? It’s kind of a tedious and messy pain in the ass.
Alas, it’s worth it. It’s so, so worth it. Ready? Let’s go.
Gamers, grab your mats:
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
- 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder – I couldn’t find this for the life of me. Some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (which has some Dutch-process cocoa in it) worked well for me.
- 1 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for pans
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) room temperature butter, plus extra for pans
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup room temperature sour cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or the last of what’s in your house so you have to run to the store like a jackass later. Stupid tinted bottles.
- 1 can (15 oz.) dark sweet cherries in syrup
- 2 tablespoons cherry flavored liqueur- Or steal gifted homemade spiced cherry wine from your parents’ house. Don’t worry; they won’t miss it. Probably.
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 6 cups cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
MANDATORY GARNISHING STUFF:
- 4 oz. chocolate. Semisweet listed in original recipe, but I prefer unsweetened.
- 8 maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry
- single white candle
Recipe adapted from CHOW.
PERSONAL NOTE: If you can bake the cakes and get the cherries and syrup in order the day before you plan to serve, do it! The liqueur/wine/whatever will really soak into the cherries and cake and will make it even more amazing. Just be sure to wrap the cakes tightly to preserve freshness. You could also soak the maraschino cherries in a bit of alcohol as well. Because alcohol.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and arrange a rack bang in the center of the oven. Tear entire kitchen to pieces because one of your cake pans is missing. Every. Single. Drawer. And. Cabinet. And the car for good measure. After about 45 minutes of that nonsense, cut out a couple of 8″ round pieces of parchment paper awkwardly with an X-Acto knife or something. Grease both 8″ cake pans on the bottoms and sides with butter. Place parchment circle in each base, add an additional layer of butter. Coat both in flour and tap out any excess. Pour a glass of wine because it’s going to be a bloody long day.
Chop chocolate bar finely. I found it was helpful to break this up along the lines first.
Bring water to a boil over high heat in a smallish saucepan. Take pan off the burner and add chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk like a fiend until smooth and set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
If you own a stand mixer, now would be a really great time to use it. Otherwise, enjoy the workout? It’s not so bad, really. No, I’m not putting you on. Promise. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy and light in color, about five minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
Set your mixer back to medium speed and add your eggs one at a time. Allow each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next.
Add sour cream and vanilla and blend thoroughly. The overall texture may look a little weird; that’s fine.
Scrape down the bowl. Remember the TNT Cake? We’re about to do something very similar. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and blend until just incorporated.
Next, add half of the cooled chocolate mixture from the beginning. Mix until just incorporated again.
Add 1/3 of the flour again. Mix.
Add the second half of the chocolate mixture and mix.
Finally, dump the last bit of flour into the bowl and mix until everything is smooth. Scrape the bowl if needed; stir in any leftover streaks of flour.
Divide your cake batter evenly into each cake pan and spread into even layers. I’ll tell you this much now: these babies are gonna rise. Bake cakes side-by-side on the center rack for 15 minutes. Rotate pans from left to right and bake for an additional 15 minutes. You should be able to insert a toothpick and see only crumbs. I had to bake an additional 10 minutes even after that but they came out perfect. Keep an eye on them. Take the cakes out of the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 45 minutes. You can get a great start on the cherries and whipped cream while you wait.
Strain cherries over another small saucepan; cut cherries in half and place in a separate bowl.
Bring cherry syrup to boil over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until you’re left with about 1/3 cup syrup. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and cherry liqueur. Kirsch would be traditional, but since when has Skill Up Skillet been traditional? Add 2 tbsp. syrup to cherries and stir to combine. Set this aside til cooled, 30 minutes or so.
Okay. Whipped cream stuff. There will be a ton of it, and it will be glorious.
Place sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Are you sick of saucepans? I’m sick of saucepans. So many fucking dishes, seriously. While stirring like a fiend, pour in 1 1/2 cups whipping cream. Place pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring every freaking second. This will take quite a while
It’ll start out pretty lumpy…
But it’ll smooth out soon enough. Here’s a shot of the cream boiling:
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Freak out for a half second when it bubbles furiously when vanilla is added. Allow to cool completely, about an hour or so.
Pro-Tip: An intelligent person would take this down time to shave a 4oz. chocolate bar. I was not this intelligent person.
Be sure to cover your work surface in parchment paper and hold the chocolate with the wrapper or paper towel. Your hands will thank you.
When the cakes are cool, use a serrated knife to trim a thin layer from the tops of the cakes to expose the inside bit.
Poke holes with a skewer or toothpick all over the tops, about halfway through. Place one cake cut-side up on a serving plate. Use a pastry brush to brush half of the reserved syrup over the cake.
Back to the whipped cream: Pour 2 1/4 cups of cream into a large bowl and whisk with an electric or stand mixer for about two minutes, until tracks show in the cream. If you made the bombe cakes, you’re already a pro. Good for you.
Slowly add half of the original cooled cream mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form.
The finished bit will look something like this:
Transfer this to another large bowl and repeat the process with another 2 1/4 cups cream and the other half of the cooled cream. Add to the first batch of whipped cream. Stir to combine.
Refrigerate til you’re ready to assemble the cake. Which, y’know, is now. So don’t refrigerate unless you’re waiting on something.
Spread two cups of whipped cream evenly over cake, leaving a 3/4 inch border.
Using a slotted spoon, spread all reserved cherries over whipped cream leave syrup in bowl and drink shamelessly later.
Add another two cups of whipped cream over the cherries. You should be spreading the cream evenly so as to enclose the cherries. It’s a special surprise!
Place second cake cut-side up on top of whipped cream and press down gently. Brush top of cake with remaining syrup.
Frost cake with remaining whipped cream. Save a medium sandwich baggie of whipped cream for garnish.
Press shaved chocolate into the sides of the cake evenly. Sprinkle over top as well. Coat the entire cake in chocolate. That can’t possibly be bad for you.
Pipe eight small dollops of whipped cream at edges of the cake, plus one small dollop in the center. Push candle into the middle of the cake. Top whipped cream with drained maraschino cherries. You’re done!
Taste-wise, this is hands down the best cake I’ve ever made. This is the one cake you need in your life. I’m proud to call this cake my birthday cake. And it’s my second Portal creation! Have you seen my Portal Slushies? Still in the hottest weeks of summer, make them now!
The in unrelated news, the polls are now closed and a winner has been chosen: September’s Featured Recipe will be Mrs. Cartman’s Powdered Donut Pancake Surprise! Look for the recipe next week. ON TIME.
Remember, cooking IRL doesn’t have to be a Feat of Strength!