Sunday, August 31, 2008

Scratch Cake #2:Chocolate

After trying my hand at my first scratch cake, I thought I would try again for my dear husband's birthday...and this time--chocolate! (His favorite)

Whose Chocolate cake to bake became the next question....Dorie? Martha? and then I realized I would go back to the very basics, and take out an heirloom: my great-aunt's 1940's Good Housekeeping Cook Book.
This book has been my trusted friend for some time now. My father's Aunt Margaret was the baker in his family. After she became a widow (in the 60's), she moved in with her widowed sister (my grandmother), and ever-bachelor brother (my great-uncle Jack) in our town. On any given weekend, it was not odd to see a white Duster drive up the driveway and the 5 of us (actually 7 of us as Mom & Dad loved her goodies as much as the kids did) would be waiting to see what she'd appear with...because she never came empty handed...brownies, cream puffs, tapioca, apple name it, she baked it--and well.

She passed away when I was only in 5th grade or so...and although my grandmother was not a baker, she saved her sister's cook book-and many years later, as Gram moved into a smaller place, she asked if I wanted was like being passed a family bible. It now has a special place in my kitchen and heart. You can see old oil, chocolate stains...and writing in the front cover pages for other quick recipes she did....not much is marked up in the 'cooking' pages--but the "baking" pages are filled with drops from batters long gone. The cover is worn in out of years of love of baking...and I feel so lucky to have this connection with my Aunt.

I'm getting off track, but point being, I just knew this would be the cookbook to give me THE definitive chocolate cake recipe. "If it was good enough for Margaret, it's good enough for me."

I had to melt the (Trader Joe's) Belgian chocolate over a double boiler, under very specific instructions of Sir Joe ("when water is just about to boil turn it off...wait until it is shiny and then stir to melt it...") I went through my stops and starts of: "is it shiny yet? what about now? well the BOTTOMS of the blocks are shiny, but not the top, does that mean 'shiny'?" I was able to pull it together, realize it's just melting chocolate, and so I started stirring...and soon the blocks turned into something wonderful looking:

I had already lined my ingredients up so I could move this along once the chocolate melted...and into the Kitchen Aid it went...

Overall it was a super-easy recipe...though the only glitch was that regardless of scraping down the bowl as I went along, I guess I did not realize I wasn't getting everything. Once I started pouring the batter into the pans, I saw that there was a residue left on the very bottom of chocolate and flour "cement" that went un-scraped despite my that point, it had solidified so even if I scraped it off (more like "chipped away at it"), it wasn't going to be added into the pans...maybe I added the flour too fast? I have no clue...but I lamented for about 30 seconds, licked the bowl to realize that it still tasted chocolate enough even without a what was left behind...and so be my Navy brother would say, "FIDO" (F- it, Drive On)...

Here they are, out of the oven...I was not sure of how my first chocolate cake would do, and was worried about it not being chocolate enough due to the incident with the chocolate cement--so I did not leave the frosting up to chance, and used store-bought frosting (gasp! the horror! I know, I know, I'm such a rookie, huh?) I chose dark chocolate on top--and found whipped cream 'style' frosting for the middle, which was a nice call if I do say so myself... light, airy, and broke up the total chocolate party going on with the cake and other frosting...

Once the frosting was over, I just waited for the company (my brother/sister-in-law and their 3 kids) to arrive so we could eat dinner--and then crack into the cake! The only thing with cake is you can't test it before everyone else can't even steal a taste of the first piece as that one you have to hand off to the person of honor...All through dinner I was thinking that I had my target audience (my 2 nephews and my niece) and this was make or break time as Auntie Lisa's reputation as a baker...candles were lit, subsequently blown out to an off-key rendition of Happy Birthday...I cut into it, served it, and I looked around the table to see smiles and lots of "wow, Lisa, this is amazing!" I finally let myself breathe, then tried myself to find a lovely tasting birthday cake!

So in closing, this whole from-scratch stuff was a world I never dared tread before--but wow, now that I have I realize that it's not so scary at all, in fact it's "all bake, no bite". My husband is still raving about it, and it makes me happy, proud, and excited to bake more!

Cheers, Margaret.


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