Monday, October 26, 2009

Baking Cakes in San Antonio

This past weekend was my daughter's school carnival.  Though I am unwilling to spend two hours manning an unshaded booth on a hot Texas afternoon, I am willing to provide something for the cakewalk.  Possibly inspired by my previous read, Baking Cakes in Kigali, and by my recent discovery of the hilarious blog Cake Wrecks -- and if you have not seen this blog, please, do yourself a favor and visit immediately -- I decided to bake a cake.  From scratch.  No last-minute trips to the grocery store bakery or boxed-mix cakes from me, no sirree!  Even though I would most likely never meet the lucky recipient of my handiwork, I pulled out one of my family's tried and true favorite recipes.  It has no name, it is just the Good Chocolate Cake.  It is quick and easy, and mighty tasty.  [Disclaimer: the above is not an actual photo of said cake, but it's pretty close.]  Sadly, my children did not win our own cake in the cakewalk, so instead they were awarded a dozen Wal-Mart cupcakes.  They had cute plastic Halloween rings on top, but other than that they were pointless calories. (Well, at least they weren't Cake Wrecks.) Luckily, I bought enough ingredients to make another cake. 

I think this cake recipe originally came from Food & Wine, but it's been so long that I have no idea.  If you know the origin of this recipe, please let me know so I can give the appropriate credit. 

It's kind of an unusual recipe -- you don't cream the butter or fold anything in, but you boil water and sugar together until dissolved, then pour it over chopped unsweetened chocolate and butter.  The batter is really thin and the crumb isn't the most delicate I've ever eaten, but it has great flavor and is one of those quick and dirty recipes necessary when you need something both fast and impressive.  And the frosting, your basic ganache, brings the cake to a higher level.  When in doubt, heavy cream is your friend.  Always.

Excellent Chocolate Cake:


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 Tb unsalted butter.
1 tsp vanilla.
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then pour into a large bowl. Add the butter and chocolate. Stir occasionally until melted and slightly cooled, and add the vanilla.

3.  Beat the eggs into the chocolate mixture at medium speed until combined. Add the dry ingredients all at once and beat at medium speed until smooth.

4.  Divide batter evenly between pans and smooth the tops. Bake about 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans about 25 minutes, the invert on a rack to cool completely.

Frost with Chocolate Ganache:
8 oz heavy cream -- do NOT substitute milk or half and half.  Don't even think about it.
12 oz chocolate chips (1 bag)

1.   Place chips in a mixing bowl.  Use the best quality chips you can find.  Guittard and Ghirardelli are good chioices. Nestle is passable but not nearly as good -- buy a bag of each and do a taste-test.  You will not look back.

2.   Bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan (careful, it will boil over the minute you look away). Tip: rinse the pan with water, but don't dry it, before you heat the cream.  It will be much easier to clean afterward.  Nonstick pans are also recommended.

3.   Let the cream and chocolate stand for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Don't wait too long, or the cream will cool and you'll have tiny lumps.  Let the mixture stand until thickened. Will frost one 8 or 9-inch layer cake, a 9x13 cake, or a batch of cupcakes. Any leftovers can be chilled to make truffles, heated to dip fruit, or on top of ice cream. Or straight off the spoon.


  1. That pour-recipe sounds really interesting!

    Sadly, our school district does not allow us to make homemade desserts for things like this. Jason and I just about always make our cakes from scratch, so we never end up participating, food-wise, in these things.

  2. I can't remember if we're allowed to bring homemade items for birthdays, but now that you mention it, I am sort of surprised that they allow it. In a way it's nicer, but on the other hand, it does take the pressure off if you don't have time to bake. That is a good question.

    Sadly, I don't think they had chocolate cake in Jane Austen's time, so I don't know if I'll make it for our JA birthday celebration in December. Or maybe I'll bend the rules and bring it anyway!

  3. Ha, Cake Wrecks is hilarious, yes :D And Mmmmm, cake. Now I want cake.

  4. That looks and sounds delicious. I'm definitely going to try it for the chocolate lovers around here.

  5. Oh my goodness, that cake looks SOOO good!! =D

    I'm trying to start up/keep up my own book blog; feel free to stop by!

  6. Even if that is NOT the cake you made, yum. I want some now!