My first bake as a homeowner! Yay! Having just recently moved to Atlanta, one of our top priorities was to get on the property ladder. Renters no more! The hub and I snagged a pretty sweet loft in a converted building downtown, something we could've never afforded in NYC. And the kitchen has counter space for days!! Now that we're pretty much settled, a break-in bake was in order.
I've been playing around with alternative sugars for some time, and in the South, sorghum syrup is everywhere. Baking with liquid sweeteners can be tricky, since they add a lot more moisture to baked goods, which can drastically alter results if trying to substitute them for a recipe with granulated sugar. Sorghum syrup is the juice of the sorghum cane, that's been boiled and reduced to a molasses -like consistency. The complex, cereal flavor can be addictive, and it pairs really well with salt.
Only having a couple liquid sweetener cake recipes in my arsenal, I'm always ready to seek out more. I found an interesting recipe from Epicurious using maple syrup, and knew it would be easy to swap out the maple for sorghum. I also have this thing where I can never just follow a recipe as written, especially when baking at home, where I may not have the exact ingredients on hand, or my intuition tells me it'd be so much better with the additional pinch of this or that. Case in point, many chocolate cake recipes out there only use cocoa powder as their chocolate component. That's not a chocolate cake to me. I have to have REAL chocolate in my chocolate cake! I also threw in a little bit of sourdough starter into the mix, just because. Perhaps it will improve the crumb and flavor from the original... but I'll never know, because I will never make the original! Lol. I would love to have used sorghum flour in this cake as well, but I didn't have any on hand. Next time!
This cake, with the sorghum buttercream recipe that follows, turned out just as I'd hoped. The sorghum really comes through, and the cake is just sweet enough to be satisfying. The cake itself is moist with good structure and has a lovely soft crumb. Please try making this recipe at home, and deviate at will.
Chocolate Sorghum Sourdough Cake
Makes 1 low lying brownie pan's worth
96 g all purpose flour
25 g cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
170 g sorghum syrup
120 g yogurt (I used almond milk yogurt b/c that’s what I had)
1 whole egg
30 g grapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee (optional, I had some left in the coffee maker)
20 g sourdough starter or levain (also optional)
30 g unsweetened chocolate, melted and warm
Preheat oven to 350F. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl large enough to fit everything else. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the liquids except the chocolate. Once everything is homogenous, quickly scrape in and whisk the melted chocolate, so it doesn't seize up. Now pour this liquid mix into the dry mix. Starting from the center out, whisk into a smooth batter. Transfer to a greased brownie pan and allow to rest before baking about 10 minutes (this is to allow the chemical leaveners to hydrate, as well as let that sourdough reactivate).
Baker's trick: when I want a nice flat, cake with little or no bump, I'll wrap the pan in a wet dishtowel, like a scarf around a neck, to insulate the sides from crusting too quickly. This allows the entire cake to bake at basically the same rate, therefore less bump!
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top looks dry and the cake gives some resistence when lightly pressed. This cake won't rise much, so don't be alarmed. Cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a rack, then invert again so the top of the cake is facing up. Cool completely.
Salted Sorghum Buttercream
Enough to frost this cake – you’ll need an electric hand mixer for this, sorry
80 g sorghum syrup
5 g fine sea salt
2 whole eggs, large
213 g soft butter (or 1 stick)
5 g vanilla extract
Bring the sorghum and salt to a boil and allow it to slightly caramelize (swirl the pan as the edges of the syrup darken a bit). Turn off the heat, and allow to cool just for a few seconds. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whisk the eggs until foamy. Carefully drizzle in the still very hot syrup into the eggs while whisking constantly. The syrup my harden a little in the bottom of the bowl but that’s okay for now. Quickly fill the same pot that had the sorghum in it half full with water and get it on the stove again. Now put your sorghum-eggy bowl over the hot water and continue whisking until the foam becomes warm, thick and almost dense. There should be no more trace of any hardened syrup. Now pull the bowl off the heat and continue whisking until just lukewarm. Add the soft butter in chunks, then the vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Your buttercream may look like a loose icing at this point (mine did). No worries. Throw the bowl in the freezer for a couple minutes, then whisk again. Keep whisking until it gains some of that density again. If it breaks, wave the bowl over an open flame to warm slightly. If you over-warm it, and it becomes soup again, back in the freezer. I know this sounds finnicky, but please don’t give up. It will come together, I promise. Frost and decorate your cooled cake now.
If you've got good, flaked sea salt, it won't hurt to sprinkle some over the top.