It all started when I skipped two classes to bake a cake.
Maybe school hasn’t been stimulating enough this semester. Who knows. I guess I had to channel my energy somewhere.
My roommate’s half birthday was coming up, and it seemed like a fun excuse to celebrate. Plans for a faux-birthday celebration very quickly turned toward cake: obviously we had to have one. My plans grew more elaborate as the week went on, and starting Thursday morning, this cake was all I wanted to think about. Air pollution? Infectious disease epidemics? (Yes, my classes are kind of intense and depressing.) I don’t think so. I had baking to do.
So immediately after my first class (which was spent staring into space thinking about how best to stack two layers of cake together), I turned back down Bascom Hill on campus and straight to the grocery store. Heavy cream, eggs, buttermilk, pudding. My memory from that walk includes a bright, shining sun and a huge, ridiculous smile plastered on my face the whole way to the store and all the way home.
As soon as I got home, the music came on, the ingredients were laid out, and I spent the whole afternoon in the kitchen. It was wonderful. And at the end of it, I had a chocolate cake filled with vanilla cream and covered with chocolate ganache.
Of course there had to be a minor crisis, so when I came back from dance class ready to assemble the completed cake, it would not come out of the pan. To clarify: half of it did not come out of the pan. Obviously I call my mother, with chocolate all over my fingers and a note of panic in my voice. She tells me calmly to scrape the bottom half of the cake out of the pan and glue it all together with some of my chocolate ganache. I scoffed. I hung up dubiously, thinking that obviously I had failed and my cake would look sad and decrepit and my roommate would half-smile and say that it was ok – it’s the thought that counts (aka failure). And then of course it worked just fine. I was scraping and gluing happily when my friends Jenny and Kineret walked in. The second layer came out perfectly, I spread on gobs of vanilla cream, stuck them together, and dumped (or, artfully drizzled) the chocolate mixture over the top.
I was so proud, and so elated, and so so happy to present this cake to my beautiful roommate. I mean, if anyone deserves a cake for the always-ignored half-birthday.
There was no huge celebration. Just the four of us, big slices of cake, and some wine. But really? It doesn’t get better than that.
And then? I couldn’t stop. First it was a few birthday presents. And then there was challah, and oatmeal banana bread, and muffins, and biscuits, and cookies, and muffins, and cookies, and……. And somewhere along the way planning my next baking project became my favorite thing to do. Reading food blogs became an obsession. I feel drawn to the kitchen, driven to try new recipes and experiment with ingredients, and to always bring something delicious for my friends.
And I love it. I love the energy of the planning and anticipating. Reading about what other people have created, sharing in their experience, their excitement, and their stories. And I love creating something myself. The rhythm of pouring and measuring and mixing and folding. And sharing the simple, sweet results with the people I love.
So, if anyone’s out there reading, I hope you’ll enjoy sharing in my recipes and stories as I continue on this wonderful, unexpected baking adventure.
My Mom’s Foolproof Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook (1982)
Makes a 3 layer 8-inch cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (unsifted)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 8-inch round pans. (I only have 2, so I had some extra batter for cupcakes.)
In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
In a separate bowl combine the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add alternatively with the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, folding together after each addition. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.
Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For the custard, I combined a package of instant vanilla pudding with heavy cream instead of milk. Whipping them together creates a consistency somewhere between whipped cream and pudding.
The topping was just chocolate melted together with a little butter. My future posts will have more exact recipes…this cake was pre-blog!