2 September 2010

I would love to

Dear Reader, my drama with that chocolate cake (remember?) is over.

As a foreword, let me tell you that I made the cake ten times within the past fourteen days, which means the cake was seen in my kitchen almost daily for the last couple of weeks. I would love to explain the cake’s frequent appearance by its exceptional taste, so exceptional that each time the sweet thing was gone sooner than I could bring it to the table. Oh how much I would love to say that all that is true. But brother, it’s not! This cake, it was unruly. It drove me crazy. It exhausted my patience. I’m not exactly happy to relay all this, but nine times out of ten I flipped it the finger and furiously sent it into a trash bin. Why I kept making the stuff was that I can be stubborn -- if I want to. And I love chocolate cake. Plus, I believed a Moosewood restaurant cookbook that said that this six-minute chocolate cake is “an economical, low cholesterol, delicious dark cake that goes into the oven in 6 minutes with no mixing bowl to clean, because the batter is mixed directly in the baking pan”. I want to think that somebody somewhere did as the recipe has them to -- and loved the results. Me, I only made my trash bin full.

The only thing that I can agree with is that the cake is “low in cholesterol”. True -- no eggs, no butter, just vegetable oil. I would think twice before nodding in agreement about the creation being “economical”, as the recipe advertises. Good-quality cocoa powder (you need it for the batter) is not entirely inexpensive, right? The same goes for chocolate (you need it for the glazing). So calling the cake “economical” is not fully accurate, I noticed. As to the deliciousness of the cake, well, the past few weeks I spent nearly all my free time looking for it, that deliciousness. I found it not.

Like I mentioned, the recipe comes from a book by the Moosewood restaurant collective Moosewood restaurant cooks at home whose primarily focus lays on the food that’s fast and easy to make, and above all, the food that’s natural (Moosewood restaurant is a natural foods eating establishment).

(I borrowed the book from my baker boss Issa Niemeijer who is a vegetarian. When it came time for me to return it and I hadn’t yet copied said chocolate cake recipe, I hastily made a picture of it. I couldn’t wait to make this cake.)

I feel I should say now that I made it a point not to deviate from the original recipe too much. The cake was intended to be simple and quick. Its main ingredient is unsweetened cocoa powder, no chocolate in the batter. An innocent observer could now notice that I could have used chocolate ganache or chocolate chips in addition to the cocoa powder to try to make the cake close to being heart-rate accelerating, but I chose not to. If I did, it would not be that “economical, low cholesterol, delicious dark cake” any more, was my reasoning. I didn’t want to complicate anything about the stuff. I just hoped it’d be delicious. Alas, it never tasted as much to me. Reader, I don’t want to come off as a Negative Nancy around here, what with all the complaining and everything. The cake wasn’t bad. But it didn’t cut it for me, either.

As I said, I didn’t inject the cake with the ganache and whatnot. Yet, in my desperation, I kept adding things to it -- such as lemon syrup which I’d spoon over the cake before covering it with chocolate glaze -- trying to make the cake flavorful and interesting, attempting to create a bomb of flavor out of it. But now as I think of it I can see I kept forcing this cake to be what it’s not. In a few brushstrokes, it’s an easy cocoa-based cake whose attraction may be hidden deep down its nude simplicity. On its own, cocoa can never be as rich in flavor as chocolate, but I didn’t want to see it then. I had my grand expectations which would never match what this cake is all about: decency. Instead of accepting it, I was getting continuously upset: it’s not what I want it to be, it’s not what I want it to be, it’s not what I want it to be. Finally, I figured it’s better if I stop looking for something that’s not there. I’m not going to make this cake anymore.

Yet, I’ll post the recipe. Maybe somebody will get to make it, and will love it, and will tell me that I am crazy to “dis-love” it.

Six-Minute Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Moosewood restaurant cooks at home by Moosewood collective

Despite it being said in the book that the cake batter “can be mixed directly in the baking pan”, I’d recommend you don’t do that. It’s not entirely convenient to try to mix the batter in a square cake form; a good amount of flour can be left unincorporated in the corners of such pan. Of course if you are using a round baking pan, that’s not a problem anymore. Yet, it’s better to first mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, this way you will not over-mix the batter adding wet ingredients one by one. For those reasons, it’s better to use two separate bowls – one for dry and another for wet mix. Which, I agree, is at odds with the original idea for the cake preparation to be only six-minutes long. Still, a few more bowls notwithstanding, it’s fast to whip up.

Dry mix
1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Wet mix
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup non-fragrant vegetable oil

Bittersweet chocolate glaze
½ pound (250 grams) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
¾ cup warm milk

Preheat the oven to 165 C (365 F). Butter a 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake form.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; mix well. Continue sifting in the baking powder and cocoa powder. Mix again.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk in the oil. With a spatula, stir the wet mix into the dry mix just until incorporated.

Pour in the prepared cake form and bake for 40-50 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 mins. Take out from the cake form and put on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling down, prepare the chocolate glaze. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan with boiling water. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the warm milk. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving (as you can see from the photo, I didn’t wait that long.)