Are you as surprised as I am that this post is about chocolate?
My dislike of chocolate has probably been overstated. It is more like apathy. I just don’t care much about it, and chocolate will almost always be my last choice for dessert. It just isn’t my jam. But then, occasionally, chocolate crosses my path that makes me really happy—chocolate soft serve ice cream, for instance, or pain au chocolat. Bryan says I just like chocolate that isn’t very chocolatey, which is probably true. I think I like chocolate as an accent, rather than a focus. Except in the case of chocolate chip cookies, which I always hate. Um…. Enough about me, let’s talk about chocolate-juniper cake.
I’ll be honest, this recipe for a chocolate juniper cake caught my eye because of the milk jam-sweetened sour cream that is suggested as an accompaniment. But I was also curious about the combination of chocolate and juniper, and feeling adventurous, so I gave it a try. It is outstanding. Maybe the most exciting recipe I have tried in months. Sticks of cake are rolled in sugar and then caramelized in a hot pan (why doesn’t all cake have crispy-caramelized edges?!). The cake is served warm with a generous amount of the sweetened sour cream. It is perfect. You probably won’t hear me say that about a chocolate dessert for years, so get it while you can.
One of the beautiful things about this cake is its simplicity. Two bowls and a spoon, like we’re in the olden days. It is the perfect combination of simple technique and sophisticated flavor. The original recipe suggests for you to serve the cake with a milk jam crème fraîche (a couple of tablespoons of milk jam stirred into some crème fraîche), but allows a substitution of sour cream for the crème fraîche. I will always choose sour cream over crème fraîche, and did. Hell, I’ll choose sour cream over almost anything. Milk jam is amazing in many applications, but if you’re not up for making your own, you can substitute some sweetened condensed milk. It would be an excellent, and simple substitution. Also, the cake can be frozen for weeks, so you can save some for later.
Chocolate-Juniper Cake with Milk Jam Sour Cream (from Oxheart via Bon Appetit )
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 teaspoons (heaping) juniper berries
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 2/3 cups sugar plus more for coating
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13x9x2″ glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper; spray the parchment with nonstick spray and set aside.
Toast juniper berries in a small skillet over medium heat until aromatic, 2–3 minutes. Let cool completely. Finely grind in spice mill.
Sift flour, 1 2/3 cups sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and ground juniper berries into a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water in a medium bowl. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top.
Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cover and chill in freezer until frozen, about 2 hours. Can be made 3 weeks ahead. Wrap in 2 layers of plastic; keep frozen.
Unwrap cake and invert onto a work surface; discard parchment. Using a long serrated knife, trim cake to form clean edges. Cut cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1 1/4-inch–wide bars.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour a layer of sugar onto a plate. Roll each bar in sugar, coating completely. Working in batches, caramelize cake in skillet, turning with tongs to brown evenly, about 30 seconds per side per batch (be careful; the sugar burns quickly). Serve warm, with Milk Jam Sour Cream or crème fraîche.
kari (tanglewood baked goods) says:
August 29th, 2012 at 7:06 am
Ahh! I have been obsessing about this recipe since the latest issue arrived in the mail two days ago. The rolling-and-frying thing seems so genius. Think you’ll try it with other cakes too? Thanks for sharing.
la domestique says:
August 29th, 2012 at 8:19 am
I am so excited to try this recipe I can’t even handle it! I’m a chocolate lover, but there’s nothing more disappointing to me than a mediocre chocolate dessert. I really like the idea of combining chocolate and juniper. Great post!
Diane, A Broad says:
August 29th, 2012 at 8:42 am
That caramelized edge thing is genius. I’m going to want to do that with every cake now.
August 29th, 2012 at 9:01 am
Tim, I’m with you on the chocolate front, and I have a tin of juniper berries in the pantry. I want this cake! I wonder if I could convince Octavian to make this for my very soon approaching birthday…
August 29th, 2012 at 9:43 am
Crispy edged cake slices?! Brilliant!! I have a buckwheat blueberry bunt cake on my counter that is just begging for this treatment.
August 29th, 2012 at 9:54 am
it’s like you read my mind. I, too, was intrigued (ok, maybe even a little obsessed) when I read my new BA before bed this weekend and discovered this recipe. but, pardon my ignorance, where can one buy juniper berries?
August 29th, 2012 at 10:41 am
Looks delish. I love the idea of rolling the bars in sugar and then caramelizing the whole lot. YUM.
miss Lila says:
August 29th, 2012 at 10:45 am
Ohh my, this sounds so good! But I must ask – is there a recipe for the milk jam?
August 29th, 2012 at 12:08 pm
This idea of rolling the cake in sugar is way out! Milk jam is such a great name and I happen to love sour cream too. Juniper berries, I must admit to not being too keen on but I know it must be good if you are raving about this cake so much!
Dawn | KitchenTravels says:
August 29th, 2012 at 12:25 pm
Cake sticks rolled in sugar and caramelized? I am all over that action. And thanks for introducing me to Milk Jam, something I’ve never heard of before. You know I’ll be Googling that recipe. Mommy likes. ;) xo
heather @ chiknpastry says:
August 29th, 2012 at 1:19 pm
I literally just read about this recipe last night. i’ve been trying not to make sweets as much lately, but dang, i had to clip this one. i’m glad i’m not the only one who was intrigued :).
August 29th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
It’s crazy that I as JUST daydreaming about this recipe. I was hooked on the milk jam, too, and loved the idea of caramelizing pieces of cake in a skillet…why not?! I’ll have to make this soon. I love that you’re two steps ahead of me, Tim :)
August 29th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
my love of chocolate was sudden, like someone just flipped a switch and BAM Let-There-Be-Light-And-A Lot-Of-Chocolate! I think it probably had something to do with moving to Switzerland, but maybe not, maybe it was just ‘my time’. As a little kid/teen/20-something I shunned the stuff, but now I am obsessed and cannot seem to get enough and I go as far as to consider it a health food to justify my obscene rates of consumption. Anyway, enough about me and more about this cake. The caramelized edges are the real kicker in this cake, that and the milk jam sour cream. Caramelize me up some cake please.
Anne @ Webicurean says:
August 29th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
This looks amazing! I never would have thought of adding juniper berries … or caramelizing the finished cake like that. Really need to try this!
August 29th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
All- thanks for the nice comments. A couple of clarifications:
Milk jam is basically sugar and milk reduced until it is jam-y. If you follow the link to Bon Appetit, you’ll find their recipe. There are other variations online. I basically took 4 cups of whole milk (only whole, do not try anything else) and add 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer low for an hour or so until it is reduced by half and darker in color. Use a much larger pot than you think you need, milk boils over easily.
Juniper berries are little dried “berries” from juniper trees. They have a pine-y flavor. Think: gin. If you’re in a major city you’ll find them at spice shops, otherwise you’ll need to order online.
August 29th, 2012 at 7:31 pm
Looks super yummy! Can’t wait to try!
dervla @ The Curator says:
August 29th, 2012 at 10:09 pm
Love the addition of the juniper here! Bet it makes for an amazing flavor.
August 30th, 2012 at 2:51 am
The flavors of this cake are so intriguing. And, yes, why doesn’t all cake have crispy-caramelized edges? That is a very good question.
August 30th, 2012 at 3:31 am
Wow! love the simplicity and elegant looks.
What do you think about baking in Microwave? I know i know dumb question, but I can’t seem to get my oven fixed in the near future! :( and I Can NOT wait to try the dessert!
August 30th, 2012 at 8:38 am
Milk jam: you mean dulce de leche? Or is this something different entirely?
At last, something to do with those juniper berries besides making bathtub gin! ;>
August 30th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Juniper is totally the new lavender.
August 30th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
Hi CHN- I meant milk jam, but yes- it is basically the same as dulce de leche or any other sweetened milk caramel. When I make milk jam it doesn’t get as dark as dulche de leche.But they are all variations of the same thing.
August 30th, 2012 at 4:40 pm
francofly- totally. but somehow less annoying. (or is it more annoying?)
August 30th, 2012 at 5:28 pm
L O V E juniper berries and the pic of the slices in the sugar is the best. I think I’m going to try torch carmelizing the sugar…I think that might work…then I’m still at the simple clean up of 2 bowls and a spoon.
August 30th, 2012 at 11:48 pm
I am always on the lookout for a good chocolate cake recipe, because like you, I don’t care much for chocolate cakes, and it’s hard to find the right recipe or maybe I haven’t tried hard enough. I’ll be trying this one, though. bookmarking it.
Ashley Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) says:
August 31st, 2012 at 12:46 pm
I am totally with you on the chocolate thing–I do love it, but it’s not my go-to dessert. But I do love chocolate chip cookies, so we differ there.
September 1st, 2012 at 7:44 am
Juniper and Choclolate? Hum. Never thought of this combo. This might also make a good ice cream. Can’t wait to try this recipe.
September 2nd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Chocolate and juniper, wow, what a combination! I am beyond excited to try out this recipe!
Explody Full says:
September 2nd, 2012 at 5:56 am
I am exactly like you apathetic about chocolate – it shocks people when I tell them I don’t like chocolate. They look at me like I have grown another head. I will eat chocolate desserts if it’s not too sweet and sounds delicious though.
September 2nd, 2012 at 4:56 pm
This looks especially delicious and I am a chocolate lover who eats all kinds of chocolate desserts. The milk jam sour cream I think is what makes it perfection :)
September 2nd, 2012 at 11:49 pm
L-O-V-E. L-O-V-E. This looks so delicious!
Samantha Angela says:
October 24th, 2012 at 6:37 pm
I made this tonight. I thought it was pretty heavy on the juniper. I liked it, but my husband didn’t. I’d go with about half the amount of juniper berries next time.
October 30th, 2012 at 7:59 am
I keep coming back to this post! This time to admire that awesome plate. It looks like the inside of a fancy Bundt pan–so great.
October 31st, 2012 at 8:22 am
Kari! Glad you like the dish, too. I am pretty obsessed with them.
Chocolate Cake Blog says:
December 29th, 2012 at 2:39 am
Y-U-M. Looks fantastic! Love the combo of caramelized cake wedges and juniper berries. Looking forward to this one.