Monday, April 14, 2014

DIY Cadbury Creme Eggs

Mrs. BA has a weakness for Cadbury Creme Eggs.  Personally, I can't stand them.  And that's saying a lot.  With the introduction of Halloween Creme Eggs a few years ago, she can get her fix now twice a year.  But now if she wants, she can make her own any time of the year.

In addition to the recipe below, BuzzFeed posted a while back - "17 [other] Scrumptious Ways to Eat a Creme Egg."  Click on the link to see the recipes for the items listed below.
  1. Creme Egg Donuts.
  2. Creme Egg Brownies
  3. Creme Egg Pudding
  4. Homemade Creme Eggs
  5. Dip Toasted Brioche In A Creme Egg
  6. Deep Fried Creme Eggs
  7. Creme Egg Cupcakes
  8. Creme Eggs Benedict
  9. Creme Egg Salad Sandwich
  10. Creme Egg Toastie
  11. Creme Egg Foo Young
  12. Creme Egg and Bacon Rolls
  13. Creme Egg Cocktail
  14. Creme Egg Chocolate Hearts
  15. Creme Egg Milkshake
  16. Creme Egg Cookies
  17. Creme Egg pie

Homemade Creme Eggs
(from Food 52 - see a video here)

Makes 15 to 20 eggs

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Lyle's golden syrup (or corn syrup) 
  • 6 tablespoons butter 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 drops orange blossom water (optional) 
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3 cups powdered sugar 
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate (or bittersweet chips) 
  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment (this can easily be done by hand or with a hand mixer). Add the golden syrup, salt, orange blossom water (if using), vanilla seeds, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is mixed well. 
  2. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Mix until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. 
  3. Place one third of the mixture into a small bowl and add enough yellow food color to obtain desired color. 
  4. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and put into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. It is necessary that this mixture be very cold while you work with it. 
  5. When the sugar mixture is thoroughly chilled, remove from the freezer. Working quickly take about a half teaspoon of the “yolk” mixture and roll it into a ball. Continue forming your yolks. 
  6. Once the yolks are complete, place them on a plate or a sheet tray covered with parchment and then put that back into the freezer. 
  7. Now, measure a tablespoon of your “whites”, and then roll that into a ball. Continue until all the white portion of the sugar mixture is gone. If the whites are too soft to work with, place back into the freezer for a few minutes. 
  8. Remove the yolks from the freezer. Place a white in the palm of your hand and gently flatten a bit. Create an indent in the center to rest the yolk in. Place the yolk in the center of the white, then cover it up. Roll the white into an egg shape. If at any point the sugar mixture gets too soft, quickly put it back into the freezer. 
  9. Continue this process until all your eggs are complete. Return to the freezer. While your eggs are chilling, temper your chocolate. Or melt the chocolate in a microwave at 30 second intervals stirring very well in between. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to the chocolate and stir well. This gives you a little more flexibility with the chocolate eliminating some of the need for precise tempering. You will not, however get as nice of a crack as you bite into the egg. 
  10. Working with one egg at a time, remove the egg from the freezer and stick a toothpick in it. Dip the egg into the chocolate and carefully let the excess chocolate drip off. Place the toothpick into something – like a potato perhaps – while the chocolate sets.
  11. Place the chocolate-covered egg into the fridge for 10 minutes while the chocolate sets. Carefully remove the toothpick from the egg and cover up the small hole with a little bit of tempered chocolate.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Where are the Kayaks?

Every time I announce that I am going to Costco (as I will do tomorrow to buy things for Mrs. BA's family to join us for dinner on Sunday) - SoBA yells, "you can't go by yourself, because you'll buy a kayak.  Kayaks are one of those things that Costco sells, next to the five loaves of bread and the battery piles to get you through the apocalypse.  I'm over the kayak - but SoBA hasn't seen the basketball hoop set they are currently selling. From BuzzFeed (my comments in italics)

20 Survival Tips To Get You Through Costco Alive
  1. Get there early - parking spaces go faster than a cheesecake sample.
  2. Never let your kid bring a toy inside with them - because if he/she loses it in there you are NEVER. EVER. GOING. TO. FIND. IT.
  3. Don’t forget your membership card - not just anyone can join this club, you know. Well, that’s not true. Anyone can. But they still won’t let you in without it. 
  4. Skip the flat bed - you’ll want to strap your kids into the shopping cart so they can’t run around.
  5. Don’t even think about going in there without a shopping list - I once knew a family who went to Costco just to browse. I miss them.
  6. Keep your head down and walk straight to the first item on your list - you do not want the kids to see the toy section. And your wallet doesn’t need you to see all the cool stuff in the electronics section, either. (I have always been an up and down every aisle kind of guy - but even I skip aisles at Costco.)
  7. Seriously, don’t let yourself be tempted by big-ticket items.
  8. Visit the sample folks every chance you get - “Why, yes, I would like to try a chicken, apple, and herb breakfast sausage.”
  9. Just be sure to get out of the way once you’ve got your sample.
  10. Samples are awesome for kids too - if your kids are picky eaters, you’ll love that they can try it before you buy it. (On those occasions when LBA and SoBA come with me - they're all about the samples)
  11. It’s smart to focus on nonperishable items - when you buy in bulk, you’ll want to be able to take your time eating this stuff.
  12. But think twice on perishables - I once got a deal on four pounds of shrimp. For the next week I woke up every night in a cold sweat worrying that it’d go bad before I finished it all.
  13. You’ll want to think about your freezer space too - If your freezer isn’t big enough to stash a body, you probably should pass on that economy-sized box of waffles.
  14. It’s easy to get distracted by the Costco-ness of it all. Stay focused - yes, those are 14-foot Christmas trees for sale in August. No, you don’t need one. What’s next on the shopping list?
  15. Speaking of distractions… Don’t waste time searching for the ark of the covenant - It looks like the same place, I know, but it’s not. Seriously. Stay focused.
  16. If you get lost, don’t panic.
  17. Also, don’t look up - or you’ll be in for a serious case of vertigo.
  18. Just keep heading in one direction until you see something you recognize - “There in the distance… Past the industrial sized jar of oatmeal… That’s the book section! I know where we are! I KNOW WHERE WE ARE!”
  19. Once you have everything on your list, there’s one last challenge: checkout - if your kids complain, remind them they have no problem waiting 45 minutes in line at Six Flags.
  20. Congratulations! You survived! - reward the family with a slice of Costco’s awesome pizza. And a hot dog. And a churro. Anyone know if they sell this stuff in bulk too?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Everything Bagels!

We are approaching the Passover season - the only time of the year when Bagel Boss, the best bagel shop on Long Island, IMHO, is closed - you can't exactly sell bagels when you're not supposed to eat bread products.  The Brave Astronaut clan stocked up when we were up at Christmas - but they never last.  We will buy more when we are up in the summer to celebrate my father's birthday.

In the meantime, maybe I will give this a go.  I often tell people the story about New York bagels are so distinctive because of the water.  There was evidently a New Yorker who moved to Texas and opened a bagel shop and had New York water trucked in so he could make the authentic bagels. Recipe from the Amateur Gourmet.

Everything Bagels from Scratch 
Summary: Adapted from Chow.com.

Ingredients 
  • 1 1/2 cups tepid water (105 F) plus 1 tablespoon for the egg wash 
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) 
  • 4 cups bread flour 
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (that’s salty! Cut it down to 1 tablespoon if you’re worried) 
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar 
  • 1 large egg white 
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon dried onions 
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

Instructions
  1. Mix together the tepid water and yeast in a measuring cup with a fork; set aside. In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the flour, malt powder, salt and sugar. Add the yeast mixture, scraping out any dissolved bits. 
  2. Mix on low speed, about 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is “stiff, smooth, and elastic” about 9 minutes more. (If the dough gets stuck on the hook, mash it back to the bottom of the bowl.) The dough should be stiff. 
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise for 20 minutes. 
  4. Heat the oven to 425. Fill a large, wide pan (I used a Dutch Oven) with water, bringing to a boil over high heat. Set a wire rack over a pan to collect the boiled bagels. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper for baking the bagels. Mix together the egg white and the tablespoon of water for the eggwash. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, onion powder and garlic powder in a separate bowl.
  5. Turn the risen dough on to a dry surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each (you can use a scale to measure, I didn’t). (While you work, keep the dough you’re not handling covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Roll each piece into a 9-inch rope, lightly moisten the ends with water, overlap the ends by 1 inch and press to join so you’ve created a bagel. The hole at the center should be quarter-sized. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 
  6. Then, boil the bagels 3 or 4 at a time, letting them bob around for 30 seconds on each side until they look shriveled. Then remove to the rack and finish the rest of the bagels. 
  7. Place the bagels on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with the everything bagel spices. Pop into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until they’re a “deep caramel color” and have formed a crust on the bottom and top. 
  8. The hardest part: let them cool for 30 minutes before eating. Good luck. 
Preparation time: 2 hour(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12

Friday, April 4, 2014

By the time you read this title - all of this stuff will have happened!

Every once in a while it's nice to slow down and look around.  But every five seconds all of these things will happen.  From BuzzFeed.

Food and Drink
  1. Every 5 seconds, 10,056 pounds of edible food is thrown away in the United States. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, 375 McDonalds burgers are sold.
  3. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 1,750 pizza slices. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, 2,090 KitKat fingers are consumed worldwide. 
  5. Every 5 seconds of every day in the month of January, Americans purchase an average of 500 cans of Campbell’s Soup. 
  6. Every 5 seconds on an average day, Dunkin’ Donuts sells more than 100 cups of freshly brewed coffee. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, 2,750 hot dogs are eaten in America. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, two jars of Nutella are sold. 
  9. Every 5 seconds, over 35,000 Coca-Cola products are consumed. 


Internet and Social Media
  1. Every 5 seconds, 205,000 Facebook posts are posted.
  2. Every 5 seconds, 23,000 tweets are posted.
  3. Every 5 seconds, 1,860 people search for porn on Google. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, 8,666 Snapchats are sent.
  5. Every 5 seconds, 17 million emails are sent.
  6. Every 5 seconds, 47 new websites are created.
  7. Every 5 seconds, 28 new Wordpress posts are created. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, six hours worth of YouTube video content is uploaded.
  9. Every 5 seconds, 300 new Instagram pictures are uploaded.
Consumption
  1. Every 5 seconds, 1,250 iTunes tracks are downloaded from the iTunes store. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, Amazon sells nearly $7,000 worth of product. 
  3. Every 5 seconds, 35 LEGO sets are sold by retailers around the world. 
  4. Every 5 seconds, nearly two Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world. 
  5. Every 5 seconds, Nike makes a little over $3,000. 
  6. While every 5 seconds, someone working at a Nike factory in Vietnam makes $.00012. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 7,500 water bottles. 
  8. Every 5 seconds, Americans consume 60,000 plastic bags. 
  9. Every 5 seconds, about 3,150 steel cans are recycled. 
  10. Every 5 seconds, about 79,181 pounds of trash is thrown away in the United States. 
  11. Every 5 seconds, about 4,645 barrels of oil are used.
Life and Death
  1. Every 5 seconds, about 21 babies are born in the world.
  2. Every 5 seconds, about 10 babies are born into poverty.
  3. Every 5 seconds, about one baby is born with birth defects.
  4. The world population has a net gain of about 13 people every 5 seconds.
  5. Every 5 seconds, about 9 people die in the world. 
  6. Every 5 seconds, 1.5 people die of starvation in the world. 
  7. Every 5 seconds, one child in the world dies of starvation.
Earth and Outer Space
  1. Every 5 seconds, about 500 lightning strikes have struck the ground.
  2. Every 5 seconds, the sound of thunder travels one mile.
  3. Every 5 seconds, 15,800 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls.
  4. Every 5 seconds, 80 million tons of water has evaporated from the Earth’s surface.
  5. Every 5 seconds, the Sun has flung five million tons of matter out into space.
  6. Every 5 seconds, the universe has expanded about 46 miles.
Humans, Insects, and Animals
  1. Every 5 seconds, some flies can beat their wings up to 1,000 times; three times faster than a hummingbird.
  2. Every 5 seconds, 500,000 chemical reactions have taken place in every single cell of your body. 
  3. Every 5 seconds, the average person blinks.
  4. Every 5 seconds, a woodpecker can hammer with its beak 12.5 times.
  5. Every 5 seconds, a sloth can move at a rapid speed of a little over one foot; 13 feet per minute.
  6. Every 5 seconds, adult bed bugs can crawl about 4 inches.
And for motivation:
  1. Every 5 seconds, Oprah earns a little over $43. 
  2. Every 5 seconds, Bill Gates earn $1,250; about $20 million a day.
  3. BONUS: Every 5 seconds, the average person in the world makes $.001.

[Home] Opening Day!

The Washington Nationals open their season today at home (they started the season on the road - with a series against the Mets earlier this week).  There's instant replay in baseball this year and each of the managers are allowed one challenge (like in football).  The problem is - we may not see some of these managerial eruptions any more.  From BuzzFeed.
"In a preseason game Monday, Major League Baseball saw its first use of the expanded instant replay system.  This is great news! But there is also reason to mourn. Because the advent of instant replay could mean a scarcity of disputed calls, and therefore, epic manager ejections. So let’s take this moment to appreciate some of the great manager meltdowns of the past."
1.  Lou Piniella - June 2, 2007 - one of the all time greats at blowing up, Lou Piniella even has a signature move — kicking his hat around the field. Which he enthusiastically employs here. This was his first ejection as Cubs manager, and the crowd is immediately behind him, launching their own hats and assorted detritus onto the field in solidarity.
Best Part: The groundskeeping crew swarming the field to collect the debris at the end.
End result: Lou’s Cubs lost, 3-5.

2.  Joe Mikulik - June 25, 2006 - the minor leagues are known for having some of the best manager meltdowns around. Frequently, minor league managers will “get their money’s worth” from their ejections in an attempt to raise the profile of themselves or their teams. Here, Joe Mikulik just plain goes ballistic, throwing bases, covering home plate with dirt, throwing bats on the field and more, all while the home team sound system taunts Mikulik with a stream of music and movie clips (the “Who’s On First” routine matches shockingly well).
Best moment: After Mikulik throws bats out on the field, the poor bat boy takes a step toward them to clean them up, only to jump back from Mikulik’s re-emergence from the dugout.
End result: The Tourists lost, 2-5.

3.  Gary Robinson - August 27, 2010 - There are certain moves that become recurring themes in manager meltdowns — kicking dirt on the umpires, uprooting and throwing the bases, and covering home plate with dirt are tried and true favorites. But sometimes a manager takes a move and makes it his own. Take State College Spikes manager Gary Robinson, who doesn’t just remove a base, he then PULLS A PEN OUT OF HIS UNIFORM AND AUTOGRAPHS IT for a kid in the stands. Was it planned? Improvised? I’m honestly not sure which is more awesome.
Best moment: The kid’s awkward thumbs up to the camera after he receives the autographed base.
End result: The Spikes lost 3-7.

4.  Gary Allenson - June 12, 2011 - Here is an ejection tirade that will probably never be replicated. In the top of the ninth inning, Norfolk Tides right fielder Tyler Henson launches what appears to be a home run, but upon replay is actually a ground rule double. The ball landed behind the padding of the wall. The Durham Bulls players notified the umps that the ball was still behind the padding, and the umps reversed the call. Tides manager Gary Allenson did not agree with overturning the call. Presumably thinking that the ball behind the wall was already there from before, Allenson marched out to the wall, climbed the wall, and searched the grass behind the wall to see if he could find, in theory, the “real” ball. Not surprisingly, he did not find it.
Best moment: The “Well what did you expect to find?!” smirk from the umpire during Allenson’s long walk back.
End result: The Tides won even without the home run, 11-5.

5.  Wally Backman - June 26, 2007 - in 2007, a ten episode documentary called “Playing For Peanuts” followed the return of manager Wally Backman to minor league baseball, as he managed the South Georgia Peanuts. During one game, Backman came out to argue a call, got ejected, and proceeded to flip out on the umpires. The cameras recorded every single word (most of those words NSFW) for future generations to enjoy, in all it’s bat-throwing, nail-clipping glory.
Best moment: “Let’s go have a beer, Doug.”
End Result: The Peanuts lost 5-6.

6.  Phillip Wellman - June 1, 2007 - there is a point at which this stops being a baseball ejection and becomes something resembling performance art. It starts off with the classics — covering home plate in dirt, removing bases and throwing them, etc. But then Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman takes it to another level, dropping to the ground in an army crawl, and pantomiming throwing a rosin bag grenade at one of the umpires before ultimately marching through the outfield to the exit, pausing to bow to his adoring fans.
Best moment: Are you kidding? Of course it’s the grenade throw.
End result: The Braves lost 6-7.

7.  Earl Weaver - September 17, 1980 - this confrontation is profane, hilarious baseball poetry. Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, a true baseball character who once had a meltdown so massive he ended up forfeiting a game in the middle of a pennant race, and umpire Bill Haller get into a truly extraordinary shouting match. There are countless amazing lines from each. Weaver is a diminutive bulldog, going straight at his much taller opponent, and Haller is the perfect dance partner, alternatively dishing the hostility back at Weaver, then dismissing him with a weary, “Ahhhh.” Notice how Weaver plays the crowd, coaxing a thrilled cheer from them with every time he turns back to continue the confrontation.
Best moment: Though the video is dominated by Weaver, Haller lands the best blow with, “You gonna be in the Hall of Fame for f*cking up World Series?”
End result: Weaver’s Orioles coasted, 9-3.
"Although baseball’s expanded replay system will eliminate plenty of mistakes, balls and strikes, most managers’ favorite argument topics, still belong strictly to the umps. So while the apoplectic manager might become more rare, he will likely never go extinct."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Toasted Butter Pecan Cake

When our good friends got married, part of their wedding cake (there were several flavors) was a toasted butter pecan cake.  Mrs. BA has replicated the cake with this recipe and it was the one she chose for the final round of her office Bakeoff!  And she used whole milk instead of 2%.

The cake was a winner!  As noted earlier, the contest this year was bittersweet for Mrs. BA, with the loss of our good friend, and chief taste tester.  Her win this year and the trophy that she will hold for the next year is dedicated to him.

Toasted Butter Pecan Cake
from Taste of Home
If you like butter pecan ice cream, you'll love this cake. Loads of nuts are folded into the batter, and more are sprinkled over the delectable frosting. —Phyllis Edwards, Fort Valley, Georgia 
12-16 Servings
Prep: 25 min.
Bake: 25 min. + cooling

Ingredients 
  • 1 cup plus 
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened, divided 
  • 2-2/3 cups chopped pecans 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup 2% milk 
FROSTING:
  • 2 packages (one 8 ounces, one 3 ounces) cream cheese, softened 
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened 
  • 6-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons 2% milk 
Directions
  1. In a small heavy skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add pecans; cook over medium heat until toasted, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
  2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and remaining butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Beat just until combined. Fold in 2 cups reserved pecans. 
  3. Spread evenly into three greased and waxed paper-lined 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. 
  4. For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with remaining pecans. Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lemon Chess Pie

Mrs. BA made it to the Finals!  This week she will "bring her best" to a one on one competition.  Come back next week to see what she made (and if it was the winner!).  For the pie round - there was much discussion as to what to make.  She looked at a variety of pies and tarts before settling on the Lemon Chess Pie.

Here's a recipe from Epicurious - it calls for a pre-made pie shell - but she made the dough from scratch.

Lemon Chess Pie
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 3 large lemons 
  • Juice of 3 large lemons 
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted 
  • One 9-inch unbaked pie shell
Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium- size bowl. Beat the eggs in, one by one, then add the butter in a slow stream, beating all the while. 
  3. Pour the filling into the pie shell, slide the pie onto a baking sheet, and bake on the middle oven shelf for about 45 minutes or until puffed and delicately browned.
  4. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before cutting; don't fret when the filling begins to fall. This is what gives chess pies their silken texture. Cut into slim wedges and serve.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today is my sister's birthday.  She's got some snow today from my mother.  Winter might be done with us now.  Happy Birthday Peg!  Did you have some green cake today?  No?  How about this one - it was the winning cake from Mrs. BA in her office March Madness Bakeoff - this week is Pies!

Salted Caramel Ding Dong Cake
from Epicurious
Bon App├ętit | October 2012
by Janet McCracken and Alison Roman
Yield: Makes 12 servings

Ingredients
Cake:
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray 
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
  • 1 cup hot strong coffee 
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups cake flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 3 large eggs 
Caramel ganache:
  • 9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Filling and assembly:
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin 
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream 
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar 
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) 

Special equipment: Two 9"-diameter cake pans with 2"-high sides; a 9"-diameter springform pan

Preparation
For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment-paper rounds; coat paper. Place cocoa powder and chocolate in a medium metal bowl. Pour hot coffee over. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.

Whisk cake flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with chocolate mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes (cakes will deflate slightly). Run a knife around pans to loosen cakes; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and let cakes cool completely. Turn cakes over.

If needed, use a long serrated knife to cut off bumps or trim dome from top of each cake to create a flat, even surface.

For caramel ganache: Place chocolate and salt in a medium bowl. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium deep saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar is deep amber, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over medium heat until caramel bits dissolve. Pour over chocolate in bowl. Add vanilla; stir until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly.

Place 1 cake layer in springform pan. Pour 1 cup ganache over. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Cover remaining ganache and let stand at room temperature.

For filling and assembly: Place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small heatproof glass or metal bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

Pour water to a depth of 1/2" into a small skillet set over medium heat. Transfer bowl with gelatin to skillet; stir until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove bowl from skillet. Set aside.

Place cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Using an electric mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add gelatin; beat filling until firm peaks form.

Spoon filling over chilled ganache on cake layer in pan; smooth top. Gently place second cake layer on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cream layer is set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Remove sides from springform pan. Using a knife or offset spatula, scrape off any filling that may have leaked out from between cakes to form smooth sides. Transfer cake to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Rewarm remaining ganache until just pourable. (Microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, or set a metal bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water until just warm, not hot.) Pour ganache over cake, tilting cake as needed to allow ganache to drip down sides and using an offset spatula to help spread ganache, if needed, to cover sides of cake. Chill until ganache is set, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with a cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Sprinkle cake with flaky sea salt.