I have a (really good) habit of being over confident. Not in a cocky way, it’s kind of like raising my own bar. If I start out believing I can achieve or win something, I try harder to prove myself right. If I go into something with doubts, I more than likely won’t try as hard because I know I’ll probably fail anyway. Make sense?
I went into this holiday season of cooking for events and taking on new clients with gusto! I had bitten off a lot in the form of saying ‘yes’ to nearly everyone that asked for food. Of course, my ego wants to set a high bar and take the credit when I get it all done and do well, but I know it’s not just about me. There’s also someone on the end of my ‘yes’ that I can’t let down. I need to come through for them, for their guests, for their families. They are counting on me to leap over the bar no matter how high it’s raised.
If I really love you I will cook you something that is ambitious. Don’t get me wrong – my love shines through in the simple things I make too. (Stay tuned for a post about a macaroni and cheese cook-off I’m entering when I go home to Missouri for Christmas. Simple food and FULL of love!) But if I really adore you, you know I’m going to make something that takes a miracle. Ambition in the kitchen = Love.
A few years ago I threw a dinner party in Los Angeles for all my west coast besties and took on a gold dusted Twinkie as a desert item. Impossible. Ambitious. And a bit of a failure. Boo. My household has a favorite snack cake sweet treat. A homemade Ring Ding. Individual chocolate cakes (made by Drake - later bought by Hostess, whose version is called a Ding Dong) piped with cream filling, draped with a chocolate coating, and presented in the famous foil wrapper. I’ve found two places in Manhattan that make them. I bring them home as a surprise for my nearest and dearest, Christopher. Well, after my gold dusted Twinkie debacle, I’m either a glutton for punishment or I have a slight obsession with Hostess snack cakes, because for our holiday party this year, I knew I wanted to make Ring Dings. Mainly to please Christopher, but also to please those that we love so much that will join us in our home for holiday festivities. I have been researching recipes since May. Did I practice? Um. No. (Although if buying and eating the other two homemade versions counts as practice, then, yes, I practiced plenty.)
Cut to — my best-loved weekly drop off client, Sara, whom I’ve wanted to help entertain for years, was finally ready to host a party in her new home. She asked me to cater the event, and I said yes! 100+ guests. I work for Sara, and I see her more consistently than anyone else in my New York life (except Christopher.) Every Monday for the last seven years I’ve come into her home bringing containers of love and deliciousness to feed her family. We are friends. I love her. This event was a very important ‘yes,’ so not only did I need to come through - I needed to make something special. This party called for Ring Dings! The only hitch being my personal holiday party hasn’t happened yet, so I still didn’t even know if I could pull them off. Talk about raising the bar – I made 100 Ring Dings, unpracticed, ambitious, with multiple steps in their process. All wrapped in foil! Love.
Like I said before…I have a (really good) habit of being over confident. Not in a cocky way, it’s kind of like raising my own bar. If I start out believing I can achieve or win something, I try harder to prove myself right.
I did it. My Ring Dings were awesome. Raise your own bar.
Ring Dings by Michael Symon
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch-processed)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
FOR THE FILLING
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- salt (to taste)
FOR THE GANACHE
- 8 ounces heavy cream
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 9"x13" pan by spraying it with cooking spray then lining the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper again. Set aside.
- In large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add both of the sugars and whisk to incorporate.
- In a separate bowl, add the sour cream, water, vanilla extract, vegetable oil and eggs and whisk to combine. Add the bowl with the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine. Pour into prepared 9"x13" pan and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool until easy to handle.
- Flip over the baking pan to remove the cake. Remove the parchment and using a 2 1/2” biscuit cutter, cut out 12 rounds. Using a smaller (1-inch) biscuit cutter, make a shallow "cut" out of the center of the round, not pressing all the way through. Scoop out the center and reserve the “cap.”
- Pipe some of the filling into the hole in the center of each cake. Replace the cap, sealing the hole. Repeat with the remaining cakes then brush each with a layer of ganache. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, chocolate ganache side up, and refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.
- Remove from refrigerator and flip cakes so the chocolate ganache side is facing down. Using a fork, coat the cakes in the ganache, letting the excess drip off.
- Refrigerate until ready to eat.
- For the filling: In a small sauce pot add the milk and cornstarch while still cold and whisk together. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Continue to stir until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
- Meanwhile in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, salt and the chilled milk mixture. Whip on medium high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Place into a piping bag.
- For the ganache: Heat the cream in a saucepot over medium heat until just starting to simmer.
- Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, allowing the chocolate to begin to melt.
- Stir until all of the chocolate is melted and the cream is incorporated. Stir in the butter. Let the ganache cool for about 5 minutes before dipping the cakes.