Author Notes: So many flavors in Thai cooking straddle the line between sweet and savory - coconut, ginger, kaffir lime, lemongrass, even chile - so I didn't think twice about translating one of my favorite Thai dishes, green curry, into something sweet. I came up with this recipe several years ago for a challenge to create a dessert with eggplant in it - the cake was really a sweet and chocolatey version of green curry with eggplant - and have since modified the recipe to omit the eggplant in the cake batter as well as the topping so as to simplify the recipe a bit.
The cake is a simple chocolate cake, although the texture of it is wonderfully light and fluffy, with a small crumb that is moist. For good measure, though, I soak the cake with a ginger simple syrup. The filling of the cake is a rich and deeply flavorful dark chocolate ganache infused with kaffir lime leaves and Thai bird chiles. The herbaceousness of the kaffir lime hits your tongue first, and as you swallow, the sweet heat of the chile creeps up. The heat is not overpowering, but it's definitely present. The cake is topped off with a classic Swiss meringue buttercream infused with a bit of green curry paste. What? Yes, green curry paste. You'd think that green curry paste in frosting would be really strange, but you'd be remiss to not try it. The kaffir lime and chile in the paste echo the flavors of the ganache filling, and the lemongrass, ginger, and galangal play off the flavors of the ginger soaking liquid. But there are two other ingredients in the paste - garlic and shallots - that lend a hit of earthiness and a savoriness that really rounds out the cake. And because cake is more fun with sprinkles, this one is topped off with peanuts that are dusted in coconut milk powder. The peanut sprinkles are totally optional, but because they're really easy to make (if you can find coconut milk powder), I always add them to lend a bit of crunch and contrast to the lush, silky cake.
This cake has earned a spot as one of my favorites - give it a try and it might be one of yours, too.
Food52 Review: Don't be afraid of the long list of ingredients here. Raspberryeggplant has put together a very thoughtful recipe making use of bright and vibrant Thai flavors in every part of this delicious cake. The gingery cake is delicious alone, but the spicy ganache and curry buttercream take it to new heights. Not only are the flavors spot on, but the delicate texture of the cake and whipped buttercream are perfect together. - Stephanie Bourgeois
Makes one 9" two-layer cake
Cake components - chocolate cake, ginger syrup, chocolate kaffir lime chile ganache, green curry buttercream, and coconut milk peanuts
- For the chocolate cake
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- For the ginger simple syrup
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1" piece ginger, peeled and cut into 1/8" thick slices
- For the ganache filling
- 2 small Thai bird chiles
- 4 Kaffir lime leaves
- 6 ounces heavy cream
- 6 ounces 70% dark chocolate
- For the green curry buttercream frosting
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 10 ounces unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoons green curry paste (I use Maesri brand, as it's really flavorful and doesn't contain shrimp paste. I don't recommend the Taste of Thai green curry paste - it's really bland)
- For the coconut milk peanuts
- 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk powder (available at Thai grocery stores and probably on Amazon - what don't they sell?)
- Make the chocolate cake
- Set a rack in the middle of your oven and heat to 350 F. Use the 1 teaspoon of butter to grease two 9" round cake pans. Divide the 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder between the pans and swirl it around the pan to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Bang out any excess cocoa powder.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Heat the whole milk to just below a boil (you can do this on the stove or, more easily, in the microwave). Put the cocoa powder in a smallish bow, pour the hot milk over it, and whisk until the cocoa is fully dissolved. Add the coconut milk and whisk to combine.
- Put the butter, turbinado sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl every minute. Add the eggs and beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add the ginger and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the ginger and vanilla and mix until combined.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just barely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add 1/2 of the cocoa-milk mixture. Mix on low speed until barely combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, ending with the flour.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 22-24 minutes. (Note: my oven is crazy, and I've found that my baking times are often very different from what's noted in a recipe. Use your senses to determine if/when the cake is done - the timer is just a reminder to check on it.)
- Place the pans on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then invert the pans and let the cakes cool fully directly on the rack.
- Make the ginger simple syrup
- Put the granulated sugar, water, and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely, then pour it through a small sieve and discard the ginger pieces.
- Make the ganache (I recommend doing this before baking the cakes, as it takes several hours for the ganache to set)
- Cut the stem end off the chiles and slice each one into quarters lengthwise. Tear the kaffir lime leaves into a few pieces each. Add the chiles, lime leaves, and cream to a small saucepan and bring to just below a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the cream steep for 15 minutes.
- Finely chop the chocolate and put it in a medium bowl.
- Bring the cream to a bare simmer, then pour it through a sieve directly onto the chocolate. Let the cream sit for 30 seconds, then gently but thoroughly whisk the mixture to melt all of the chocolate. Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it is firm but spreadable, about 2 hours. Alternately, you can put the bowl in the fridge, but make sure to stir it every 10 minutes so that it doesn't get too hard.
- Make the green curry buttercream
- Fill a medium saucepan with 2" of water and bring the water to a simmer. Put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and whisk constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to the touch, about 6 minutes.
- Cut the butter into 1/2 tablespoon size pieces. With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure that the previous addition is fully incorporated before adding more butter. After you've added all of the butter, continue mixing on high speed until the frosting comes together. It's a moment of alchemy - it will look soupy and curdled after you add all the butter, but have faith (and patience) - it will come together.
- Add the green curry paste and mix for 10 seconds on medium-high speed to evenly incorporate it.
- Make the coconut milk peanuts
- Coarsely chop the peanuts - I prefer doing this by putting the peanuts in a ziploc bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. Very therapeutic.
- Transfer the peanuts to a small bowl and heat them in the microwave for 1 minute, stopping halfway through to stir the peanuts. Add the coconut milk powder to the hot peanuts and stir well to combine.
Assemble the cake
- If the tops of the cakes are domed, use a large serrated knife to level them.
- Put a little dab of frosting on a cake round or serving plate and place one cake on it with the bottom facing up. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the ginger simple syrup over the top of the cake. (I usually give it three good passes.)
- Spread the ganache on the cake in an even layer. Top with the remaining cake (again, the bottom side of the cake should be facing up). Brush the cake with the ginger simple syrup - you may not need all of it.
- Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. If you want to be meticulous, you can first spread on a crumb coat (a very thin layer of frosting on the entire cake), chill the cake for a half hour, then top it off with the remaining frosting. I rarely do this as I am too lazy to do so unless my cake is for someone else - sorry family, you don't get a crumb coat.
- Sprinkle the peanuts on top of the cake.
- Cut yourself a big slice and, as you chew on the first bite, marvel at how the green curry in the frosting makes complete sense with all the other flavors in the cake and ganache.