Although chocolate as the main event is awfully nice, it’s just as sweet as an accent feature. Such is the case with Dorie Greenspan’s Cinnamon Squares, which get a double hit of chocolate; layered in between the batter and then slathered on top as a frosting. The smell that wafts from the oven and fills every corner of the house, (or tiny apartment…) while this cake is baking is simply intoxicating. The second I caught a whiff of the heavenly aroma I began to salivate. When the timer buzzed I went to check on the cake and grew weak in the knees as I opened the oven door, the smell was overwhelming. For a split second I had a crazy thought of sticking my fist into the pan, pulling out a handful of cake and shoving it into my mouth. I shook my head to clear out the crazy and realized that would be a disaster on so many levels. I then calmly removed the cake, put it on a rack to cool and left the kitchen to try to busy myself with thoughts of something other than cake.
As many tools, pans, gadgets and gizmos that my kitchen has, it’s lacking an 8x8 baking pan, which is what this recipe calls for. As I always do when a recipe is supposed to be baked in an 8x8 pan, I made it in my 9x9 pan, (bad baker, very bad!) which means that it wasn’t as tall as it should have been and isn’t as tall as the Cinnamon Squares made by Nicole over at Baking Bites or those made by Helios from Tales from a Veggie Kitchen, (who also added cardamom to the swirl) but I’m sure it was just as melt in your mouth good.
Cinnamon Squares, (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)
For the cake
11/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
11/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought mini
For the frosting
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
21/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
To Make the Cake: Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar, 21/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the espresso together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 11/4 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the liquid
ingredients over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a homogenous batter. Now, using the whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the butter with a light touch, just until the butter is absorbed. You'll have a smooth, satiny batter.
Scrape half of the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the chocolate over the batter and dust with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter and smooth the top again.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan; a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 15 minutes before unmolding it onto another rack. Peel off the paper, invert it onto the first rack, and cool to room temperature right side up.
To Make the Frosting : Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and fit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring gently and often, just until they melt. Be careful not to overheat the mixture so much that it thins out; the chocolate should be smooth, very shiny, thick and spreadable. (If it thins, leave the frosting at room temperature for a bit, until it thickens a little.)
Using an offset metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread the frosting in generous sweeps and swirls over the top of the cake. Allow the frosting to set at room temperature, then cut the cake into 9 squares, each about 21/2 inches on a side.
Makes: 9 servings
Serving: Serve the cake as is or, if you'd like, with whipped cream, crème fraîche or sour cream.
Storing: Wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep at room temperature for 2 days. It can be frozen for up to 2 months, but it's best to put the cake in the freezer unwrapped and then, when the frosting is firm, to wrap it airtight; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.