Parenting By Chocolate, Part One

Jane's birthday is today. She is seven. I am rather beside myself at the thought, I don't know why. Seven seems awfully big for someone I KNOW I just brought home from the hospital.

Anyway, we celebrated her birthday yesterday because my husband is traveling for work and only had one night home this week --actually less than 24 hours. So I baked a cake.

Note: I had already taken store-bought cupcakes to Jane's class yesterday because Thursday is "Extra" day at school and the kids get a little ice cream treat. I didn't want to put them into a coma by having too much sugar on one day so I took the cupcakes up a day early. Because that's what we do here: we like to load the kids up with sugar and chocolate AT SCHOOL instead of suffering through that kind of sugar-induced hyperactivity on Mommy's watch. (Yessss.) However, what would a night at the Cooper Clubhouse be without a little sugar-induced hyperactivity? Especially if Daddy's home to take the abuse help out!

So, I made one of my chocolate cakes. Now, I will tell you that this cake has made me famous --um, well known--very welcome in at least one person's house. Therefore, this blog post is for my friend Erin, who has wondered for two years now why my chocolate cakes are so good. (Seriously, she actually asked me. No, really.) I'm about to spill the beans. (This got kind of long so if you want to just skip the rest, I'll understand.)

My foundation recipe (sounds like underwear) is from this book:

I love this book. I used to collect cookbooks and had many, many wonderful cookbooks. Until I realized that I mostly cook without recipes and also, that there were just a few cookbooks to which I turned again and again. In my opinion, this is THE dessert cookbook of all time. I dabble and I read cooking magazines, etc. (I subscribed to Bon Appetit for more than 20 years!) but when I want to make something that I know will knock someone's socks off, even if I've never made it before, this is where I turn.

Having said that, of course I don't quite follow the recipe to the letter because that would be WAY too easy and foolproof. Obviously, not for me.

Here's the recipe and I am uploading the honking big file so you can read it and print it if you want. I am too tired to try to re-type it here because I'm a terrible typist and it would take me all day.

The stains on the cookbook are authentic--I've probably made this recipe 30 times, maybe more.

So, first I prepare my pans. This is the biggest pain of the whole recipe because it requires me to line my freaking pans with parchment. I often omit this step with other recipes but, trust me, it's a mistake to omit it with this one.

Trace the bottom of the pans onto parchment paper. I like to double up the parchment paper citing the flawed idea that this will make it easier to cut just once but on two layers of parchment.

In reality, I just end up trimming more and more off until they fit. Take my advice on this and try your parchment rounds in the pan BEFORE you've greased them. And obviously, before you fill the pans with batter. Ahem.

Then, you're supposed to butter the pans, put in the parchment and then butter the parchment. I just use Pam.

This is what one looks like when done:

So, then I sift together (I don't really sift but I use a whisk. I think that counts) the dry ingredients.
Then you soften the butter and beat it with the sugars until it's light ( I ran out of brown sugar and ended up using one cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. It came out fine.)

I added the eggs. (In the interests of full disclosure, these are NOT the eggs I used. These are stand-ins because my camera needed recharging when the REAL eggs got beaten in. I love brown eggs because they remind me of my grandmother, who ate a soft-boiled farm egg at night with her evening tea. Plus, I can fool myself into thinking that the brown eggs aren't quite so much a product of the horrible factory farm, miserable-life-for-a-chicken industry. These are from "cage-free" hens. Probably still a travesty of animal rights but it makes me feel better.)

Then I add the vanilla. I like this vanilla best:
but had to panic when I realized I only had one teaspoon of it left. However, tucked in the back corner of the spice rack, I found this:


So, then you add the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture, along with the buttermilk. The resulting batter is gorgeous and thick. See?

I had gotten to this point and had revealed the BIG SECRET of my cakes and then I'd written the whole rest of the post, including why I had to frost the top of the cake three times, when Blogger decided (again) that it hated me and ate the whole rest of the post. All those pictures. All that funny, funny prose--GONE. And it was brilliant, let me tell you.

So, I'm going to wake my kids up and get them to school and sit down and write part 2, AGAIN. Not that I'm bitter.

To be continued...


Suna Kendall said…
Wow, here I am paused in mid- mental cake. I was going to mentally enjoy some for breakfast. I guess this will be the pause that refreshes.
Heidi Malott said…
Happy Birthday to Jane! The cakes looks yummy!
Oooh! A cliffhanger! Love it!
Jennifer said…
whenever I make a cake, my mil will ask, oh, did you make the cake homemade. Uh, no, it's a la box mix. I'm so impressed you actually use ingredients in yours!!!!
Happy Birthday Jane!
My "baby" is turning 2 in a couple of months and I'm wondering how that happened ;)
hokgardner said…
Happy birthday to Jane! Ella turns 7 on Saturday, and I've already turned weepy at the thought. I cried when she turned five, because she was a "whole hand" old. Six didn't upset me. But with 7 I'm a wreck again. I suppose it's because I vividly remember being 7, and it just can't be possible that Ella's that old already.


But I'm still buying a store-made cake for her party.
Anonymous said…
I've always used a whisk too, figuring (but not really caring) that it works. A month or so ago I saw Martha Stewart do the same thing!
Can't wait for the rest of the recipe AND most importantly, Happy Birthday to Jane!
Grandmother of Ella who is turning 7 too.