Do you remember Hostess Choco-Bliss snack cakes from the 80's? No? It's ok, me either. But they're just one of many things Shane remembers fondly from his childhood - right up there with so many of his other favorites from the 80's:
1. Cartoons! He-Man, Transformers, Voltron and the associated toys for all of those. Also, Duck Tales!
2. Video Games (Mario, Mega Man, Contra and others for the Nintendo. Pac-Man and Galaga in the arcade)
3. My lunch boxes for school (a new one every year)
4. Vintage Arnold movies – Predator, Commando, Terminator
5. Garbage Pail Kids
7. Guns ‘n Roses (although he didn’t actually own a copy of Appetite for Destruction until the early 00s)
We're both children of the 80's but I probably couldn't tell you one thing I fondly remember so it's a good thing I have Shane as a reference :) But getting back to my original point... The other day Shane and his coworkers were discussing Choco-Bliss at work, which led Shane to Google, which led him to this blog post from the folks at King Arthur Flour: a re-creation of the Choco-Bliss! He immediately emailed me the link asking if I could make these. It's actually quite a rare occurrence for Shane to request a baked good, so I was more than happy to give these a shot. I follow King Arthur's blog so I'd previously seen this post but I probably never would have attempted the recipe (it was long and I can be a lazy baker sometimes) were it not for the nudge from Shane.
Yesterday afternoon we got to work. I was very thankful Shane helped me with these as they are a bit time consuming, though not at all complicated. The one issue I ran into with this recipe was with the cake. It was pretty fragile and honestly, a bit frustrating to work with. I later saw a tip in the comments over on KA's blog post recommending freezing the cake for a bit to make it easier to slice and next time I'll probably try that. Otherwise, it was fun to watch these come together as they were filled and then topped with the icing. Choco-Bliss had a grooved top traditionally (or so I'm told) so we made some that way (by running the tines of a fork through the icing) and left some with a smooth top.
When I mentioned I was making this treat to my friend Nancy, she suggested making them for Shane as a Valentine's Day treat, and while I loved the idea, I knew there was no way I could wait 2 weeks to make these for him. She also suggested posting them on Valentine's Day, but it falls on a Sunday this year, which is the posting day for Sweet Melissa Sundays. So, I thought instead I'd post these today, which leaves everyone else plenty of time to make this rich, indulgent treat for Valentine's Day. Shane tasted the components along the way as we made these and enjoyed each of them so I was fairly certain these would be a hit. When he sampled one of the assembled cakes last night he declared it among his top 3 treats I've ever made him (in close competition with these favorites among others).
The recipe is below and I highly recommend checking out the KA blog for lots of photos of the process if you're a visual person like me.
adapted from King Arthur Flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x13-inch can pan with cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray too.
To Make the Cake: In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the cocoa and hot water. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder (if using), sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour the cocoa/butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to blend. Finally, add the buttermilk (or yogurt), eggs and vanilla to the bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth (you could also do this with a mixer, but I don't think it's necessary).
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan when it is done. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.
To Make the Filling: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cocoa, chocolate chips, salt and heavy cream. Microwave until the cream is very hot and the chocolate chips have softened. I microwaved for 1 minute at first and then in 30 second bursts until the chips had softened. Once the chips have softened, stir to help them melt completely. You want the mixture to be completely smooth so if necessary place back in the microwave to reheat. Stir in the vanilla and set the bowl aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening and half of the confectioners' sugar until fluffy. The mixture may appear crumbly at first, but it will come together. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once fluffy, add the chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl then add the remaining confectioners' sugar and beat again until the filling is fluffy and spreadable. You may need to add just a teaspoon or two of heavy cream to adjust the consistency.
[Note - you probably want to wait and make the icing after you cut and fill the cakes as it will set up fairly quickly once made] To Make the Icing: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, corn syrup, vanilla and ice cream. Following the same instructions as above, microwave until the cream is hot and the chips have softened. Stir the mixture until the chips are fully melted, reheating if necessary. Add the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.
To Assemble: Turn the completely cooled cake out of the pan. With a long end facing you, cut the cake in half, to form two 9 x 6 1/2-inch rectangles. Use a long serrated knife to slice through the middle of each rectangle completely so you have a top and bottom half.
Spread half of the filling on each bottom rectangle of cake. Use a spatula or your fingers (which I found easier) to spread the filling to the edges of the rectangle. Place the top halves back on the filling to form two chocolate-filled 9 x 6 1/2-inch rectangles.
Spread half of the icing over the top of each rectangle using an offset spatula. Working with one cake at a time, make two vertical slices and two horizontal slices to yield nine 2x3-inch snack cakes. Repeat with the remaining cake. Traditionally, Choco-Bliss had a grooved top so if you'd like to re-create that look, simply dip a fork in hot water and run the tines through the icing.
To store the cakes, allow the icing to set then wrap each in plastic wrap individually. The cakes can also be frozen if well-wrapped.