I have this thing for you.
It's that chocolate cake. You know what I mean. Rich, soft, and dense, with just the perfect amount of icing. Almost like you can taste it as you slice into it. It's the cake incapable of producing leftovers, and if for some unheard of reason it did, it's the cake you'd eat for breakfast because you can't wait until afternoon coffee to once more taste its luxuriously stacked chocolate
There's something about cake... I like pie. Pie is tasty and flaky and sweet and tart. And sometimes I really crave pie. But cake... I like cake. Something about cake is celebratory and unique, giving me cause for joy and anticipation. On a warm summer birthday with melting ice cream. On a chilly afternoon with a steaming drink. As a late-night snack. First thing in the morning. With tons of friends. Alone. Second-day cake (usually the best). Third-day cake. Cake until it's gone. Cake's crumbs whose sole purpose is to stick to your finger when your tastebuds are trying to salvage the not-so-distant memory.
I really like cake.
And this cake is certainly that celebratory cake. Recently, I attended a cookout held for a campus ministry in which I'm involved. Prior, they had asked if anyone would bring dessert. "CHOCOLATE CAKE," I proclaimed. I'd been wanting to make this cake for a while and it seemed like the perfect time. True to chocolate-cake-versatility, it fit right in with everything. Though the purpose of the event was to prepare for school in the fall, it was accompanied by an air of summer. Warm weather was playfully teasing us, dinner was cookout fare that is so anticipated and every year is met with such unmentioned excitement that it seems we've never eaten it before. But there's just nothing like it.
Friends, summer is near.
They say that the key to a perfect chocolate cake is coffee. I don't know how true this is- I've never tested the same recipe and switched hot water with hot coffee. But because I love coffee so much, I'm just going to agree with them- the inimitable them. Thus, the original recipe calls for hot water, but I used coffee.
Make sure to give the pans a good greasing and a generous dusting flour. That's also key. But I just say that, not them.
The icing on this baby is a chocolate ganache made with unsweetened chocolate and lots of delicious butter. When you boil and simmer the cream and sugar, it will bubble and foam a lot, which is okay. It all worked out for me.
One time my mom visited me at my house here at school and she helped me make funfetti cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing. The problem was that we had a ton of leftover ganache. So while she resided here, we proceeded to put ganache on everything we could find in my kitchen because we had to get rid of it, of course. So one night it was peanut butter and ganache toast on some of the most phenomenal homemade bread you could taste, made by my boyfriend's mom, while we watched The Intouchables. Another instance was triscuits. And when we ran out of all possible vehicles on which to put ganache, we used our fingers. It was a good visit.
Fortunately for you, I assure that excess ganache won't happen with this cake. Keep layering it until it's all gone.
Recently, my best friend told me about a book that just seems to fit our mold of desiring to create and give. Turns out it's by an author whom my mom and I already love- Shauna Niequist. She's a wonderful writer, full of honesty and a desire for and pursuit of vibrant life. She is good at facing life as it stands and then faithfully pursuing truth in hopes of claiming joy and freedom as her own. She talks about the table, and how the table is the only place in our world where people come together in true vulnerability, in need of fulfillment. The table is a place for real life, community, relationships, for rejoicing over delicious creations while setting aside walls that we so relentlessly build to make ourselves look and feel better in this world. The table says, "come, be nourished."
My mom sent me this book in the mail last week- I didn't know. What a gift. Already, Shauna's book has hit my heart in places I didn't know it would. God's using it to touch places of both joy and insecurity, to get rid of the insecurity and enhance the joy. And I'm only in the fourth chapter. People, I highly recommend.
I urge you to go create this for someone. Bake it and share it around the table with your favorite people. Or go bless someone and make their day. Drop it off on their doorstep with a note of encouragement. That's my favorite thing to do, because giving cake means giving love, I think. That's what I hope to communicate, anyway.
Here's to the coming of summer and to the celebration of friends and things in life that say, "This. THIS is what it's all about."
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup very hot coffee
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 stick butter, cubed
- 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda on low until combined. Add the beaten eggs, canola oil, and milk. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then add the coffee. It will be very thin.
Divide the batter between two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes (I did 30), until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then flip the cakes out of the pans and cool completely.
For the ganache, boil the sugar and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes (this is when it will bubble). Add the butter and chocolate and stir until melted. Transfer mixture to a bowl and then stir in the vanilla. Let cool until it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise.
Generously ice the cake with the ganache. I always choose to do a crumb coat first, which is when you ice the whole cake with a thin layer of icing, then pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or the freezer less time, until the icing sets. And then layer on the rest of the ganache, frequently dipping your spreader in hot water, which gives it a smooth finish.
Serve and enjoy!