Cooking in the time of coronavirus: let them eat (chocolate) cake
This is exactly why I don't need to bake. Ever. My mother-in-law made this cake for the Boss. Everything on it is edible. He knows not expect anything like this from me.
Another rainy day, another chance to stress bake. I’m sure many of you are doing the same. All of us in the cloudy North are craving carbs and sugar right now. At this time of year, sunshine is sporadic at best, mix in the added stress and uncertainty, and it’s a perfect storm for cravings.
I’m still trying to walk outside between rainstorms, and while my daily yoga routine is anything but, I’m still finding ways to move and exercise as much as possible. Running up and down the stairs to the garage, hauling delivery boxes up and down the stairs outside, endless loads of laundry and dishes - you get the picture - I’m hardly sedentary these days.
As promised, this week is dedicated to chocolate madness. My last post featured candies, this one will be all about the cake.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a chocolate fan normally, but since this whole worldwide disaster started, I’ve been treating the Guittard like a feedbag. I am also not normally a cake or candy person - cookies have always been my jam. I’m also partial to cheesecake.
But cake has never been my favorite thing. In fact, baking is one of those activities I leave to the rest of my family. The kiddo loves to bake and decorate cakes, the Boss has been known to sling brownies on occasion, and my mother in law is a master of cakes - the photo at the top of the page is one of her creations. But me, baking ranks somewhere between annual mammogram and root canal. I’ll fling a pan of cornbread or some brownies in the oven, but if it goes beyond add water, mix and dump in a pan, I’m out.
And it’s not that I can’t bake or that my cakes look like something from Nailed It - I leave that honor to my mother - no, I just don’t enjoy the activity is all. Now give me a cutting board, Santoku and some veggies - I will go to town. I love to cook, and my favorite thing to do is barbeque.
But cakes are best left to the kiddo, who is a master decorator and takes fussiness in the kitchen to a whole new level. She will whip up a layer cake or cupcakes in artful designs, throw together a dozen cookies for a school project, or devise some outlandish recipe for a new dessert at any time of the day.
After consulting with my master baking staff (i.e. The kiddo), it was recommended to me that I feature the following recipes.
My baking staff created this when she was maybe 8 or 9 years old. I can't make something that looks like this now.
Basic Chocolate cake
This is one time when being basic is just fine, according to my baking staff.
2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.25 cups honey (or 2 cups sugar)
1/2 cup oil
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1.5 cups water
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Grease and flour two 8-inch pans or one larger pan if making single-layer cake
3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.*
4. In a smaller bowl, whisk egg, oil, vanilla and water. Add to dry ingredients.
5. Mix until well combined.
6. Pour into pans and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of something, enjoy life.
7. Place pans on center rack of oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.
8. Remove and let cool on a rack.
9. When cooled, with a sharp, long knife, slice off the puffy tops of each cake layer. Save the tops…hide them from the kids and inhale them later. I suppose you could use them in the next recipe - cake balls - if you were into sharing your chocolate bounty.
10. Run a knife or hard spatula around the edge of the cake pan to help release the cake. Place a plate over one pan and flip over, praying the cake will release from the pan in one piece - don’t worry if it cracks…we can rebuild. Repeat with other cake.
11. This is where the magic happens - frost the bottom cake (using frosting as glue if it has gone to pieces on you). Place second cake on top and frost the whole thing. Slather that frosting on like you’re spackling a wall.*
12. If you want to get crazy, add sprinkles all over and let your kids run wild in a sugar-induced frenzy as you calmly eat your cake and binge watch The Crown.
Notes: In the interest of full disclosure, and not to start a riot, I take everything, dump it in the bowl of my mixer and let it whip (and yes, I am referencing The Gap Band). I am now getting eye rolls from my baking staff for my singing/dancing, as well as for shortcutting the recipe.
* If you want to be the mom everyone secretly hates at the PTA meeting, gently slice and sprinkle fresh fruit and edible glitter or whatever on the top and dust lightly with powdered sugar. There is a time and place for ooey, gooey chocolatey goodness and that time is now. No one likes a health zealot. Don’t be a Karen.
Another cake by the kiddo. This one was for a tea party for her cousins and great-grandma on the same weekend as the one above.
Yes, please! If I’m going to eat cake, it’s going to be the above cake with vanilla frosting. The Boss claims that the combination is un-American, but he’s a chocoholic and needs an intervention.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (Do NOT melt!)
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons of heavy cream or plain old milk
Pinch of salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or get crazy and whip in actual vanilla beans)
…. I suppose if you don’t want to be accused of anti-patriotic activities, you could toss in 1/2 cup of cocoa powder for chocolate frosting… and ruin everything.
1. Using a mixer, whip the butter until smooth and creamy. Add in the rest of the party and whip for 1 minute or until desired consistency. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Too thick, add a bit more milk.
2. Frost cooled cake. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Notes: You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla for a more “cherry” flavor. Any flavored extract can be used to create a variety of cake flavors. The world is your oyster!
This one is for the kids...or for you when no one is looking. I don’t judge.
Leftover cake, unfrosted (remember those puffy cake tops…)
2 Tablespoons frosting*
Sticks for candy making (or used lollipop sticks - whatever you’re comfortable with here)
1/4 cup of chocolate melts (you can use white or whatever chocolate chips you have on hand)
Sprinkles or whatever garnish you like here
1. In a large bowl, using your hands, crumble the cake until it is like breadcrumbs.
2. Add in frosting until you can form balls of it with your hands.
3. Roll the mixture into balls and place on a parchment lined cake pan
4. Insert sticks and freeze balls for 2 hours.
4. Melt the chocolate.
5. Dip the cake balls into the chocolate.
6. Add the garnish while chocolate is still wet.
7. Place in freezer until chocolate is hardened
8. Store in a single layer in a covered container in the refrigerator.**
* You’re looking for something like a 4:1 ratio of cake to frosting. Too much frosting makes these tasty greasy for some reason. So, go easy on the ooey gooey.
**Wrapping these in plastic before storing makes them easier to handle and places a protective barrier between your kids’ hands and a sugar rush. I am told “we” use parchment paper cut into squares with pinking shears and tied with a cute ribbon.