Last night as my husband and I were heading home from the library, I declared that I wanted to make a chocolate cake before the sun set. Earlier in the day I had seen another person’s blog posting concerning not wasting any leftover buttermilk by way of making a chocolate cake. For some reason – of which I do not have a clear origin since I don’t ordinarily love chocolate anything – I became consumed by the idea of making a chocolate cake for the rest of the day.
I tried to push it out of my mind, but I was foiled. Even while at the dentist where I should have been thinking, let’s minimize sugar, I was thinking instead, chocolate cake, must make chocolate cake. Finally, at 7:40pm last night I searched for a recipe and found Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe by Ina Garten – it was highly rated – and it also included buttermilk, which is the only true reason I wanted to make a chocolate cake in the first place. I’m not a waster, you see.
So I made it promptly thereafter. It came out of the oven smelling like pure gloriousness, which I’ve been told cakes are wont to do. Then we had to wait the obligatory 30 minutes for it to cool. I feel as though I need to state my opinion on this “wait until cool” rule: When it comes to this step, it seems rather optional in my mind. “But I don’t mind eating a very warm cake. How about make it a la mode? It’s how all the fancy restaurants serve desserts and they make it seem like a novelty – ‘it’s whipped up fresh just for you’.”
But my husband gave me a look when I asserted my wishes and walked away. He declared it needed to sit, so I let it sit. Then 25 minutes later, we ate the dessert that tasted just as glorious as it smelled. I whipped up the frosting while the cake was baking (breaking one of the rules in the recipe, but in light of all the others I broke last night, it seemed trivial) and let the frosting sit until the cake was cool enough to eat. Well, at least cool enough to eat without scalding our mouths. The cake was still much too hot to frost in its entirety, so I opted for a different approach: I put a dollop on top of my cake serving and called it a day. The frosting melted within a minute of being on the cake, but whatever, it became a chocolate butter sauce. Tasted great either way and no one else seemed to mind the frosting sauce.
Verdict on the recipe: I’m no aficionado of chocolate cakes because of my aforementioned dislike of most chocolate items, however, this cake is outstanding. It’s incredibly moist because it doesn’t use butter (which also means it will stay moist many days after baking) and buttermilk is like a secret moist-inducing ninja. Also, frostings are a sensitive subject for me mainly because I’m in the camp of swiss buttercream, which is fluffy without being too sugary. The traditional buttercreams you find adorning your grocer’s cakes and cupcakes are like my kryptonite. Ick – gritty, sugary fluff. But my husband likes those gritty frostings. Much to my surprise, the frosting accompanying this recipe was one I preferred: not too sweet, very velvety and smooth. It spread like ‘buttah’ – because it was. Go figure.
Here are some of my notes on this recipe:
Disclaimer: I’m not a person who is known to follow rules with recipes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve followed a recipe to the letter. This includes baking recipes in which everyone claims you can’t step out of line or the kitchen will melt. So, me being me, and mostly because I just can’t help it, I made a few alterations.
Changes to cake:
– I mixed this batter by hand with a handy, dandy whisk. Sometimes I like the old fashioned route, which also works my arm muscles. I might have also been avoiding grabbing the hand mixer from the cabinet. I’m pretty sure Julia Child probably used this excuse too. Ha. Using this approach meant the cocoa powder didn’t mix in completely once I added the wet ingredients. Once the batter was all together, I had little bubbles of cocoa powder speckling the top. ‘Eh,’ I said, ‘it will be covered up by the frosting and even if I do notice, it will be a little zingy bitter chocolate taste.’ Reason for change? I wanted to eat cake.
– I combined the coffee into my wet ingredients and then poured the ‘bowl of wet’ into the dry ingredients. I was supposed to mix the wet into the dry then add the coffee. Whoops. Reason for change? I didn’t read the recipe thoroughly because I wanted to eat cake.
– I used a 13×19 glass pan (gasp, not glass!), turned the temperature to 340 degrees and baked for about 42 minutes, which was when the toothpick came out clean. Reason? I wanted to eat cake and didn’t want to fool around with two cake pans. It was 8:15 at night after all.
Changes to frosting:
– I melted the chocolate into a bowl in the microwave instead of using a double boiler. Actually my husband did this step. I don’t know if I used 6 oz. of chocolate because I used up what remained of a semi-sweet chocolate chunk bag then added 4 blocks of Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Pound Plus chocolate bar. In the end, I might have put 12 oz of chocolate into the frosting. Whoops. Reason for changes: I didn’t think extra chocolate could mess up the frosting and I didn’t want to use the bittersweet chocolate I had in the cabinet. I also wanted to use up those extra chocolate chunks that had been sitting in the cabinet. To add to this, I also softened the butter in the microwave and accidentally melted some of it. This typically happens because I think ‘just a second more’ and then I see the yellow puddle forming. Darn it! Each and every time. Eh, in the end, it never matters. Unless I were to melt it all – that would matter.
– I didn’t gradually add in the confectioner’s sugar because I’ve found that even when I do this, I get a cloud of sugar dusting my kitchen. This is fine on my cake, not on my floors, counters, jars, stove, ceiling, everywhere. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of this approach so instead of leaving it to chance, I always mix the sugar in by hand until the cloud of sugar will no longer threaten my sanity.
– I didn’t add dissolved chocolate granules into the frosting but instead used chocolate flavoring and coconut extract. They worked well and though I didn’t measure them, I tried to get it around 2 teaspoons. Reason? I didn’t want the added caffeine of the coffee granules since chocolate has enough on its own. Reason for not measuring out the amounts even though I had a measuring spoon right next to me? I love to live on the edge.
– I made the frosting in advance. The recipe clearly states to immediately frost the cake once you’re done making the frosting. This would also mean waiting until the cake is entirely cool before making the frosting in the first place. I didn’t have that much time, so I accelerated the process. I ended up with chocolate butter sauce, but like I said earlier, it tasted great too. To compensate, I refrained from frosting the entire cake until the next morning. Reason for change: My impatience.
– This cake has an extremely wet batter. It’s pretty much a sauce, which might alarm a person who is used to cake box mixes. As far as I was concerned, if I hadn’t read the comments alerting me to this in advance, I probably still wouldn’t have worried. I don’t fret when it comes to baking or cooking. I think that’s clearly demonstrated by my nonchalance and taking liberties in the above steps. If it comes out like a pan of chocolate goo, chances are it will be delicious chocolate goo not to mention I can term it a ‘new dessert.’ Win, win.
I believe those are all of the ‘changes’ I made along the way. As you can see, I should probably get a prize for my accuracy and chemistry-related details. Side note: I did get an A in Inorganic Chemistry in college so apparently when it’s needed, I can toe the line and follow directions. For cooking or baking, however, those are meant to be fun so I throw caution to the wind. I live very wildly as you can see.
Enjoy your weekend and if you need a chocolate cake, I would recommend this one. It was 1/4 gone after only 30 minutes out of the oven. You will have rave reviews and don’t forget, it’s a great way to use up that remaining 1 cup of buttermilk in the fridge! And some extra chocolate chunks.
Link to Chocolate Cake recipe on Food Network’s site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beattys-chocolate-cake-recipe.html