Thursday, April 1, 2010

About a Girl and a Chocolate Cake

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in Africa. She whiled away her carefree days playing in the dusty backyard, flanked by jacaranda and mango trees, whose dark, green canopy of leaves provided respite in the long summer afternoons. One day, a truck appeared at the vacant house next door and a prim, bespectacled woman, modestly dressed in beige, alighted.
The little girl stared at the new neighbor and flashed a toothless grin, only to be met with a stern, reproachful look from the newcomer. 

As days past, the neighborhood children gathered new info on the stranger in their midst. Her name was Miss Cole*, and she had arrived from Britain to teach English at the nearby high school. Ms. Cole was unmarried and for all intents and purposes looked like a modern day Mary Poppins, complete with parasol.

One late afternoon, there was a knock at the door, and Miss Cole appeared with a cake in her hand. The little girl watched as her mother and the neighbor exchanged pleasantries and made small talk, but she was far too fascinated with the cake, a dark brown chocolate cake which sat on a light blue plastic platter and was covered in a dusting of the most magical looking tiny snowflakes.

The ladies made their way to the kitchen, and the cake lay in regal position at the center of the dining table. The little girl tip-toed closer to the cake, brushing against the white voile curtains that billowed softly with the afternoon breeze. She straightened her red cotton dress and leaned closer, inhaling the heavenly scent of the chocolate and vanilla that wafted from the warm cake. The smell was intoxicating, and some of the little white flakes that dusted the cake stirred and whirled around, dancing to the wind.

They wouldn't notice, thought the little girl, as she carefully stretched her arm and swiped it across the top of the cake, leaving a gorge-like trail in the middle of the cake and quickly popped it in her mouth.....just as the kitchen door opened and Ms.Cole stepped out.

* True Story - name changed slightly

A couple of months ago, the Barefoot Bloggers (of whom I am no longer a part of) set about to make Ina Garten's Baetty's Chocolate Cake. I actually made the cake along with them, but never posted it, because along the way, the little girl with the red dress grew up with a classic case of procrastination and sheer laziness. But one slice of that cake sent her hurtling back into the memories of Ms.Cole's cake - a dense, deep and rich chocolate cake made even more moist with buttermilk. As I munched on the cake, I realized that Ms. Cole's chocolate cake had been doused with white coconut flakes, so I proceeded to do the same and discovered cake nirvana.

Chocolate cake + crunchy dessicated coconut = Bliss.

And a little girl in a red dress went about her way, giggling after a stern rebuke from her neighbor, who had just introduced her to a life long addiction. To cake.

Cook's Note - there is a lot of internet buzz that Ina Gartens recipe (Beatty is apparently her friend's grandmother) is actually a riff of an old Hershey's Cake recipe called Black Magic Chocolate Cake. I haven't seen this recipe, but I'll let the pundits duke it out.

Baetty's Chocolate Cake - from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
3. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
4. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
6. Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Frosting -I did not use the Ina Garten recipe for buttercream frosting because I got a little queasy with using raw eggs in the frosting. Instead, I hopped on over to Sheba at Art, Food and Travel Chronicles and copied her easy-peasy chocolate frosting instead!

2 tbsp melted butter
6 tbsp cocoa
1 cup sifted icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
3 tbsp hot water

Mix the melted butter, the vanilla and the cocoa. Sift the icing sugar and add it in. Mix and add the hot water little by little until you get the desired spreading consistency. Spread on cake and allow to set.

For the Ms.Cole Effect - Sprinkle dessicated coconut flakes over the cake!

I am sending this in by the skin of my teeth (T -30 minutes to deadline!) to Divya's Easycooking event - The Best Chocolate Cake Ever in honor of her second "bloggiversary".

And in hindsight, I am also sending this in to the food fiction event "Of Chalks and Chopsticks" hosted by the uber-talented Aquadaze at Served With Love.


Divya Kudua said...

A lovely read Ann..the cake looks so decadent and chocolatey..:):)

Cicily Antony said...

Lovely cake and space...thnx for visiting me and leaving comments...

Unknown said...

Loved to read the piece...the cake is too lovely and tempting...

Cooking Foodie said...

Great looking cake Ann... very moist!

Joanne said...

Love the intro to this! You had me giggling the whole way through.

Few things in life are better than a chocolate/coconut comment. Ina knows her stuff.

Arlette said...

Hello Little Red Dress Girl..
I truly enjoyed the story ... I like your writing style , Have you ever thought of writing a book???

By the way and if I am not mistaken, and I heard it from Ina's own lips on one of her shows, this cake recipe belongs to her friend the guy who owns the flower shop... Its his grandma's recipe. On his birthday(forgot his name) she made the cake for him, as it was his favourite chocolate cake... and this is my favourite too, and of course when I make it i triple the recipe, and I posted it on my blog decorated with handmade chocolate flowers..
you should have participated and added your great story...

Kristen said...

What a lovely memory... I felt like I was peaking in!
I've had both Ina's cake and the Hershey's cake and love them both equally :)

tasteofbeirut said...

Enjoyed reading and titillated by this luscious cake!

Lena Jayadev said...

Happy Easter.... this looks Super delicious Ann...... i loved the first pic very much.. :)

Miriam Korula said...

Hi Ann, your cake looks lovely, this is my first time on your blog n' i'm gonna make sure i peep in often to get some tried, tested n' great recipes from your blog. Thanks for visiting my blog n' leaving a comment for my Chettinad Egg Kurma recipe. I have promised myself i will try some more Camellia Panjabi's recipes. :)

Chef Aimee said...

Now THAT is a chocolate cake! Bravo! :)

Namitha said...

well written post Ann :-)
Gorgeous cake..Hope you had a wonderful Easter

sabah said...

Nice post and lovely cake.

Kathleen said...

Love this post! The cake sounds amazing!!!

Marisa said...

Great story! Loving the shredded coconut topping on that cake.

mallugirl said...

hmmm.. gotto to try ur chocolate cake now!

sra said...

That's a nice read and the cake looks pretty!

Swapna said...

Hi Ann,
I really enjoyed reading your stroy! Lovely Chocolate Cake dear! Thanks for vising my blog and leaving a comment! And I am really happy to meet another Knanaya food blogger:)

Desisoccermom said...

I go AWOL for a month and look what all delights I miss, your writing being one of them. Loved the story and agree with what Arlette said. You should totally write a short story if not a book. :)
Guess what my Verification Word is? obsessin!

SS blogs here said...

Very cute story! And the cake looks smashing!!