March 4, 2008
I'll admit that 'wet cake' sounds really unappealing, the opposite in what you're going for when you're baking a cake. Possible thoughts going through your head are 'mushy cake', 'soggy cake,' or 'icky cake'. But it's none of these. Rather, it's divine. Perfectly, melt-in-your-mouth divine. 'Wet Cake' doesn't do this cake justice–it's just lost in translation.
In Argentina, babies are often called 'divine'-people coo over them saying "Es un divino! Absolutamente divino!" And so it's fitting that this divine cake is what I made for our son, Esteban's first birthday. (Who is indeed, just that!)
To make wet cake you need a regular cake, (I used chocolate, but any flavor is fine) lightly soaked with simple syrup to give it an extra moistness and sweetness. It almost melts in your mouth. Argentinos commonly use (in place of icing) jam , fresh fruit mixed with whipped cream, or dulce de leche between the layers of the cake. Then the cake is iced with icing–chantilly cream mixed with dulce de leche, or fruit to compliment the flavors inside. The combination of the flavors is like no other cake you've ever tried, and it will send your taste buds straight to heaven.
There are a variety of flavor combinations you can try for the filling between the layers (on this cake I did one layer of dulce de leche and another of strawberry jam) try: dulce de leche, fresh sliced fruit like banana, strawberries, peaches, apricots, stirred into whipped cream (crema chantilli), or your favorite jam (raspberry, strawberry, or peach would all be good).
For the wet cake technique, you can use simple syrup, or you can add the flavored liqueur (for adults only!) of your choice: almond liqueur, Frangelico, Rum, Kahlua or Grand Marnier would all be good options. (to taste-a couple of tablespoons should be plenty) A spoonful of instant coffee or some espresso would also be great.
Here's a video (shameless bragging, I know!) of my son eating his very first piece of chocolate cake.
For the cake, you can cheat like I did and use a cake from the box. You can also use one of your own favorite cake recipes, or this one, for All Purpose Chocolate Cake, from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso or instant coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat two 8-or9-inch round cake pans or one 9 by 13-inch cake pan with vegetable oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, cocoa, instant espresso, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes/ Beat in the eggs, one at a time until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the speed to low and beat in one third of the flour mixture. Beat in half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.
Give the batter a final stir using a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes for round cake pans, 25-30 minutes for the sheet cake, rotating the pans halfway through.
Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cakes to loosen, then flip the cakes upright, discard the parchment, and let cool completely before frosting, 1 to 2 hours.
Simple syrup is 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water heated in a sauce pan over medium-high heat just until boiling, and the sugar has dissolved. At this point, any other additional flavorings can be added. This amount is more than enough for one wet cake.
The technique to make wet cake is this: Spoon the simple syrup over the cooled cake layers before frosting. you can make a 2 layer or a 4 layer cake. For example, a four-layer cake needs 2 round cakes. Each of the two cakes is carefully cut in half, (so you have four approximately one-inch thick cake rounds) and the top layer removed. The first (bottom layer) is put on to the cake plate. The simple syrup is spooned a little at a time, covering that layer. Then the filling of choice (jam, fruit and cream, or dulce de leche) is carefully spread on. The top half of that cake is then set on top, the simple syrup is spooned on, followed by the filling. Repeat with the top two layers.
After assembling your cake, frost with the frosting of your choice.