“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love chocolate, and communists.” Leslie Moak Murray
I am very well aware of the fact that many people believe apple pie to be the quintessential all-American dessert. Many would say that there’s nothing better than a hot, flaky-crusted, cinnamon-infused apple pie fresh from the oven. Normally I would not be disinclined to agree. Pie is delicious. However, just this once, I am going to be wholly irreverent and say I disagree. I disagree, and I give my support to the moist, fudgy chocolate cake as a contender for the all-American classic dessert.
Here are my reasons:
- Chocolate is a uniquely American ingredient (true, it is more of a Central American ingredient; all the same it is specifically indigenous to the Americas…unlike, say, apples..ahem Western Asia.)
- Chocolate cake is used as a celebration cake year round, across all generations. Kids love chocolate cakes, elderly folks love chocolate cake, etc. It is truly versatile, unlike apple pie which is usually made during a specific season and usually for a specific couple of holidays.
- According to Leslie Moak Murray, people who dislike chocolate (and by extension, chocolate cake) are communists, and the US does not currently support a communist government, ergo, if you love chocolate, you love America.
- Chocolate cake, I think, also embodies the American spirit. It is bold, rich (culturally, of course), and can be waaaaay over the top in terms of size. It is warm, and comforting, sweet and full-flavored. Pair it with a glass of milk (cow, soy, almond, lactose-free, or any other variety, according to the American standard of freedom of choice) and you are ready to feel some warm fuzzies.
And the warm fuzzies are really what its all about. My dad’s birthday passed recently, and he wanted nothing more than a big chocolatey-chocolate cake. So I delivered this gem, courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “Cake Bible.”
Ms. Beranbaum does an amazing job of describing the process of cake making and baking, so I highly suggest you buy her book if you are seriously into cakes, or even just kind of into cakes and want to make some really delicious ones. She also writes up gloriously detailed flavor profiles – she describes her Chocolate Fudge Cakes as “soft and light yet moist with good chocolate flavor impact and a lingering bittersweet aftertaste.” Super.
Chocolate Fudge Cake
- 3 oz or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
- 12.5 oz or 1 1/2 liquid cups boiling water
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 10.5 oz or 3 cups sifted cake flour
- 15.25 oz or 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz or 1 cup softened unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350*F. Prep two 9-inch by 1 1/2-inch cake pans, greased, bottoms lined with parchment or wax paper, and then greased again and floured.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
In another bowl, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture and the vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides AND bottom of bowl. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides AND bottom of bowl.
Scrape the batter into prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back and pressed lightly in the center.
Let the cakes cool in the pan on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting reinvert so that the tops are up and cool completely before wrapping airtight.
Dark Chocolate Ganache, Filling, Frosting, and Sauce
I used this recipe, again from Ms. Berenbaum’s book, to fill and frost the cake. It definitely makes a very very rich chocolatey cake – I’m going to go ahead and say that this fudge cake and dark chocolate ganache makes one of the best all-American butter chocolate layer cakes I’ve ever tasted. Also – though the butter is optional in the recipe, it really isn’t. Add it.
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 13.5 oz or 1 2/3 liquid cups heavy cream
- 2 oz or 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (not) optional
- 1 oz or 2 tablespoons Cognac
Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine. Heat the cream to the boiling point and, with the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process a few seconds until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Gently stir in the butter and Cogac. Allow to cool for several hours until of frosting consistency (if you try to put it on a cake now, the cake will just absorb…which makes another kind of deliciousness, but not a true filling). Whisk for a few seconds to aerate. The color will lighten, slightly.
**If you don’t have a food processor or hate pulling the processor out of its hiding place and then cleaning the 14 part attached to it like me, you can just chop up the chocolate finely with a chef’s knife and a cutting board and throw all the pieces into a large bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and don’t touch it for two minutes. Take a whisk and gently agitate, until the chocolate is integrated, and add the butter and Cognac. Give it a little more muscle, until the ganache is lovely and SHINY. Let cool.
Up next: Some wild and crazy yeast