Chocolate iceberg cake  
  Glenn Powell    
   

3   cups   plain flour  
2/3   cup   unsweetened cocoa  
2   tsp   baking soda  
2   cups   granulated sugar  
1   tsp   salt  
2   cups   cold water  
1/2   cup + 2 Tbsp   corn oil  
1   Tbsp   vanilla  
2   Tbsp   white vinegar ,   or strained lemon juice
1   cup   half-and-half  
24   ounces   semisweet chocolate chips  
1 1/2   pounds   white 'chocolate' candy bark ,   roughly chopped
1 1/2   pints   red berries ,   e.g., strawberries, raspberries

1. Bake cake layers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut two circles of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit into the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans. Grease and flour pans and place parchment paper or waxed paper in bottoms.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together water, corn oil, vanilla, and vinegar or lemon juice. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. Pour through a strainer into a bowl, breaking up lumps and pressing them through. Mix again, and pour into prepared cake pans. [We used a mixer instead of whisking and straining the mixture and it worked fine. Just don't overbeat the batter, which will work the gluten and make the cake tougher.] Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to a hard surface several times to pop air bubbles. Back at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the layers test done.

2. Prepare iceberg shards
This is the hardest part of the recipe. But don't worry: If it doesn't work out, you can just re-melt the candy and start again.

While the cake layers are baking, pour 1 pound of the chopped white "chocolate" pieces into a large metal pan that will fit on top of a pot of boiling water. Melt over the boiling water, whisking or stirring occasionally until all the candy has melted (you can also microwave the candy to melt it, but watch it closely to be sure it doesn't burn). Be sure none of the water gets into the melting or melted candy, which could cause it to "seize." When the candy is completely melted, use a flexible plastic or rubber spatula to spread it out into two long, thin rectangles on a large piece of parchment or waxed paper. Each rectangle should be about 4-6 inches wide, 16-20 inches long, and 1/8 inch thick. Don't spend a lot of time trying to make the rectangles perfectly uniform and even... remember that icebergs are craggy with ragged edges. Do try to avoid getting the rectangles too thin... if the candy becomes paper-thin, it won't stand up against the side of the cake and hold its shape. Watch the edges of the rectangles, and try not to feather them. Ideally, the edges should end abruptly instead of getting gradually thinner as you move away from the centers of the rectangles.

Allow the white "chocolate" rectangles to cool completely. They should be hard and not at all bendy when they are cool. If the weather is cool and dry, you can set them outside to cool faster.

3. Assemble cake layers
Optional: For a truly decadent touch, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of Kahlua, Grand Marnier, brandy, or your favorite chocolate-compatible liqueur over the center of the cake. Don't soak the cake, and try not to get the sides too moist, since the sides have to support the iceberg shards and withstand the outward pressure of whatever you put in the candy "iceberg" basket.
When the cake layers are completely cool, assemble them using semisweet chocolate "sludge":
Remove layers from cake pans. Peel off the parchment or waxed paper from the bottoms of the layers. Pour semisweet chocolate chips into a medium-sized bowl. Heat 1 cup of half-and-half almost to boiling. Pour hot cream over the chocolate chips and stir gently until the chocolate is completely melted. Use about 1/3 of the chocolate "sludge" to sandwich the two cake layers together (attaching the flat sides to each other). Use about 1/3 to frost the sides of the cake. Use the remainder to cover the top of the cake. It's OK if there is not enough sludge to completely cover the cake.

4. Assemble the iceberg
Once the white "chocolate" rectangles are completely cool and hardened, peel off the parchment or waxed paper. Break the rectangles into a few large irregularly shaped pieces that look like large shards of ice. Each rectangle should yield 4 to 8 shards. Melt the remaining 1/2 pound of white "chocolate" candy over a double boiler or in the microwave. Use this melted candy as a "glue" to attach the shards to the sides of the cake. Spread a dollop of melted white "chocolate" over a small section of the sides of the cake and press a hard white "chocolate" shard into it while it is still warm. Hold the shard in place for a second or too while the melted candy attaches itself to the cool shard and begins to set. The larger shards should extend above the top of the cake, making a kind of candy basket with the cake as its base. Continue attaching shards around the entire cake, until all the melted candy and all the shards are used up. Avoid leaving large gaps between shards, so that the "basket" will be able to hold whatever you put into it. If the melted candy gets too hard to spread, just melt it again. If you end up with too many shards and too little "glue," melt some of the shards to use as "glue."

5. Present the cake
When the white "chocolate" holding the shards to the cake has cooled and hardened completely, fill the candy "basket" with fresh, dry berries and flowers; or with anything you like, for that matter. If you use enough white chocolate "glue," this is a pretty sturdy cake that should transport well. Just try not to break off the tips of the shards as you're moving it.

A note about the white "chocolate"
I've written white "chocolate" in quotes because it's actually not chocolate at all. It's the candy-making stuff you can buy in the grocery store, usually by the name of "candy bark" or "fudge bark." Because it has no cocoa butter, it's pretty stiff and sturdy when it's cool. Real white chocolate might work, but we haven't tried it. We had the best results with "Wilton's white candy melts," which we found at Michael's Arts & Crafts store. It melted faster and smoother than the white candy bark from the grocery store, but either would probably be OK.


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