Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chocolate Cake on a rainy day

Sometimes nothing else will do.  I have been thinking about making a chocolate cake for months, probably years, and it is time.  I can feel it.

I don't ever make chocolate cake except when requested, say for a birthday or other occasion.  It is such an indulgence.  But the weather went from 90 degrees and humid to rainy and 65 degrees, and it consumed me.  I had to do it. Comfort food was in order and I needed some order.  Really.  Isn't that a good reason?

This recipe has been in my cake recipe file for quite some time.  I use this recipe when I need a quick, very good desert.  In my southern mind, it is perfect for a picnic or a potluck because it is a bundt style cake.  It has always gotten great reviews.  But I never paid it much mind.  People are kind when you bake for them.  I have never been a good critic of my own baking (or cooking for that matter) because I am always thinking of ways to tweak it to make it better.  My advice to others is if your audience if happy . . . be happy too.  Stop tweaking.  Maybe I should listen to myself.  But I probably won't.

Anyhow, back to the chocolate cake.  This cake is bundt cake style with a delicious chocolate drizzle on top.  It has a light, moist texture and using a good quality chocolate really shows in this cake.  When I think of chocolate deserts, I usually think dense and moist.  And gooey is good too.  But not today. 

Come to think of it, my cooking adventures actually started with a chocolate cake.
I was 10.
It was a box mix.
It cracked down the middle. Like the Grand Canyon.
Everybody laughed. And then they ate. They ate some more.
The cake didn't last long.
Was it a failure because it looked like a total disaster?
Or was it a success because everyone laughed and then totally enjoyed it?
That is, until there was no more to enjoy.

And why do I bring this up?  Well because this chocolate cake wasn't perfect either.  And I probably shouldn't have tweaked it with all those delicious semi-sweet chocolate chips to pump up the flavor. But then maybe I did just the right thing!

So here is how it all went  -- chocolate cake on a rainy day!

Three amazing flavors are in this cake and they should get their just due.
I love good vanilla.  Once you use the better stuff you won't go back.  There is a difference.

Not a day goes by without coffee . . . need I say more.

Good chocolate can make the difference between "That is so good" to "Oh My God! That is amazing! Diet be damned, I must have another!"  Scharffen Berger is one of the best chocolate made in America, in the great state of California, in the fabulous city of San Fransisco.  I am not dedicated to a specific brand of chocolate.  In my area, I usually use the best that I can find.  I was thrilled to find Scharffen Berger.

So I melted and mixed and prepared the recipe to the letter - but in a moment of weakness I added about a 1/2 cup or more of semisweet chocolate pieces (ghirardelli's, also from CA) that I just happen to have. I even tossed them in a little flour that I used for the cake to make sure they would not sink to the bottom of the pan while cooking.  They sunk anyway.  This is what my caked looked like after I got all of it out of the pan, piece by piece.  I reassemble the top.

Can you tell?
Looks pretty shabby and it is shabby looking. Maybe I should have made it into a dirt cake and added some gummy worms. But I think I can salvage by covering the damage with icing.  Right?  In my house, the visuals will last only until someone sees it and digs in and couldn't even remember what it looked like anyway.
So I made the icing almost perfectly and poured it the way I have done so many times before.  Zig zagging the icing across the cake in a circle.  I thought the icing would run down the sides of the cake slowly, like it usually does . . . except it doesn't.  The icing was probably a bit too thick, the cake had cooled down too much and the day was very cool so the icing basically just sat on top of the cake.  Okey dokey.  Now for some embellishments.  Toasted walnuts.  Not because I think they will help, but because I like them.  Outside of dropping this cake on the floor, there is nothing I can do to make it look worse.  So I added walnuts.
OK, so here it is with walnuts.  Not too bad, but totally homemade.  Like maybe a first grader might do it.  I am good with that.  I have always focused more on flavor and not the way somethings looks.

Here is the last piece.  This photo almost did not happen, as in no cake to take a picture of.  I gave a couple of slices to my chocolate loving neighbor (who just happens to be expecting).  Cakes I definitely like to share.  The shelf life of a cake is usually limited to about 2 days unless it is a refrigerated or a frozen cake and no cake should go to waste.  Don't you agree?  Cake makes people happy, especially a really good one.  This one turned out to be a really good one.  I enjoyed it (probably too much).  My son loved it times 2 every time he had a piece.  Same for hubby.  My daughter, who claims to not like chocolate, had a couple of small pieces.

Not too lovely to look at, but oh so tasty, moist, and chocolaty.  Perfect with vanilla ice cream if you so choose.  Or just straight up as I so chose.  My son had to make some fresh whipped cream, what was he thinking?!

The morals to this story:  Appearances are often deceiving (Aesop).

Just because something looks bad doesn't make it taste bad AND just because something looks good doesn't make it taste good.  How often have you tried something or bought something because it looked really good and it wasn't. In my case, too often. I think some cooks focus more on how something looks than the flavor and quality of the ingredients in a recipe. Ingredients and a little technique can go along way in cooking even the most simple things. Don't get me wrong I am not saying make ugly food and they will taste better.  I like for my stuff to look good but mostly I want it to taste good.  Mishaps happen.  So relax and enjoy.

Recipe for Delicious Chocolate Cake here.  Yours will look much better!

Nutritional tidbit:  Moderation is key here.  I am not going into the positive nutritional benefits of chocolate or anything silly like that, but I will say that enjoying a slice of cake with family or friends has benefits that is hard to measure.  I have heard that happier people live longer. 

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