You know what I didn’t have time for this week? Cake recipes with 25 steps, that’s what. With one week left in May, an election eating all my time, and WisCon addling my brain, I decided that hosting a board game night on Tuesday was a good idea. You may have noticed that my concept of good idea is fuzzy and often best described as, “Are you insane? No, really, are you?” I was sensible enough to look through the chapter for a recipe that I could actually manage in an afternoon. There were several chocolate cakes, but the Chocolate Decadence cake, aka flourless chocolate cake, was the only one that seemed safely doable. How easy was it? Well, you start by boiling some water with sugar in it, then tossing in chocolate, then tossing in butter. There’s a bit of stirring. Can you stir? You can make this cake.
See the streaks of butter in that tasty tasty chocolate? More stirring. Or, you know, let it sit until the butter finishes melting while you move on to step two.
What was step two? I’m glad you asked. It involved putting gets in a bowl with some vanilla and letting my mixer do some stirring. The goal was to stir until it was voluminous but not so voluminous that the cake would be crumbly. Thanks, descriptive cookbook.
The hostility you’re sensing might be leftover crabbiness from the wine cake. Also, I’ve never had much respect for flourless chocolate cake. It always tastes like a failed brownie to me. Verily, I made this cake because it was easy, not because I was going to buy it breakfast the next morning.
Next came the hard part. Are you ready for it? Here it is. Fold the chocolate into the eggs. Read: Stir some more.
Let me take this moment to diverge a bit and tell you a story. Several years ago now I was going to Chicago every week for work. This was awesome, because it meant I got to eat out in Chicago on somebody else’s dime. I ate well. I ordered dessert whether I wanted it or not, because my customer was obnoxious and racking up my dinner bill filled me with joy. Early on I noticed a trend where everywhere I went, they’d have this delightful sounding chocolate dessert that I’d order because, hey, I’m ordering dessert out of spite; I’m clearly in desperate need of chocolate. The first time I did this, I got a flourless chocolate cake with a fruit sauce. I liked the fruit sauce. The cake was meh. The next time I ordered a completely different sounding cake, but what I got was a flourless chocolate cake, with a different fruit sauce. The third time they’d put the fruit sauce in the cake, instead of on the plate next to it.
By the end of the month I’d stopped ordering chocolate desserts, for fear of getting yet another cleverly described flourless chocolate cake. It was a giant dessert conspiracy, and the only way to win was to run far, far away. I think I had ten different flourless chocolate cakes, and not one of them was remotely what I wanted when I ordered. Now I understand why this happened to me.
Stirring. This cake tests whether or not the person making it is competent enough to stir things together. Shame on you, tragic series of restaurants in Chicago. Shame.
The cake went into the oven in just enough time for it to smell really good when people showed up for board games. This raised the stakes a bit, since now I’m not just throwing an untested recipe done at the last minute on a group of people, but there’s anticipation built.
You know how if you cook something at the wrong temperature the outside will cook and dry out before the inside is done? Well, I made the devastating mistake of setting my oven to the temperature listed in the cookbook. Why I believe a thing it says after the wine cake, we’ll never know.
It was still gooey raw in the middle when the top was done enough to crack like that. You have no idea what this did for Anaea/flourless-cake relations. Unless you’ve heard me cuss while aggravated. Then you know exactly what it did.
Despite the cruelty of making house guests wait while smelling chocolate cake, I followed the recipe and stuck that sucker in the fridge to chill. The cookbook declared that “while this cake should be served at room temperature,” it needed to be chilled to be handled. I left in for the full recommended two hours. And while the broken top was annoying, I figured I’d flip the sucker over onto a cake plate and hide that, so it wasn’t really a big deal.
As crabby as I am with the Professional Pastry Chef as a guide, I’ve gotta lay the blame for that ugly beast on the silicone baking pan. I mean, the recipe probably is borked, but I’m pretty sure a pan with actual structural integrity would have covered for it better.
We’ve now reached the part where the recipe says to whip a bunch of cream, put it in a pastry bag, and pipe it over the cake. I’d read the recipe all the way through before going to the grocery store, and knew this step would be happening during game night. I also knew that the last time this book had me use whipped cream as frosting, it massively misguided me about how much cream it needed. So there I am, faced with the opportunity to subject half a dozen people to the siren whine of my mixer for several minutes, then follow it up with me ignoring them while I do some froofy piping. I stare at the quart of heavy cream, contemplating the sheer awesomeness contained in this prospect.
Yeah, I bought a can of whipped cream and went to town on that ugly sucker. And then, instead of carefully shaving chocolate over it, I tossed on a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Semi-sweet chocolate chips of apathetic spite!
People liked the cake. Some went back for seconds. One person had enough good taste to eat half her piece and go, “It’s not that I don’t like it, I just can’t handle that much chocolate.” If she thought about it she’d realize the truth: this is a cake that wanted desperately to be a brownie. Whoever told it that it could grow up to be anything it wanted, if only it believed in itself, was a malicious liar.
That said, while the wine cake did not get entirely consumed before I declared it expired and tossed it, this one was nearly devoured in an evening. Part of that is certainly scale. Part of that is that people will eat anything made of chocolate. I didn’t really like this cake at all, but I wouldn’t, would I?
Next up is a cheesecake. It’s been made, but I’ll save blogging it for next week. That entry will be