Musical pairing – Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves by Aretha Franklin (with The Eurythmics)
‘An Adventure to the Classics‘ – As kids, my sister and I fell into two camps. I was the adventurous eater, my sister the picky one. I would pile on the spicy Indian sauces whereas my sister wouldn’t eat jelly on her peanut butter sandwiches. I’m sure I made a nuisance of myself as a preachy big sister, always insisting that the broccoli really was good, or that only fraidy-cats wouldn’t try gyros.
Thankfully, she seems to have forgiven my youthful lecturing, and grown out of her pickiness as well. Now just as willing to try new things as I am, my sister in fact sometimes encourages me to try new things. New things that oftentimes seem so simple that I wonder why I’ve never tried them before. New things like chocolate cake.
Of course, I’ve tried chocolate cake. But baking one was a different story––though I’ve stir-fried tofu and made vegan peanut butter cookies, I’d never baked a simple chocolate cake. So when my sister asked me to bake a cake for a party she was throwing with her friends, I went out on a limb and made a classic chocolate cake. The recipe, coming from the cookbook Classic Southern Cakes, requires multiple steps and some patience, but certainly pays off in the end with its rich chocolately flavor and decadent three layers, all tied together with a frothy white cream filling. Perhaps this comes as a no-brainer considering that my culinary venture was a chocolate cake, but the end result was lusciously delicious, and just confirmed how good it is to try something new.
SMITH BITES NOTE: The Professor and I were drooling over this cake so we had to bake one ourselves . . . problem was that it’s just us two chickens here and so we made a half recipe and baked it in two, 6-inch pans . . . the pictures you see in this post are that of the 6-inch cake. While the components of the cake are perfect, getting it assembled was another deal entirely . . . to say that it tested my patience is an understatement . . . it literally fell apart while I was trying to get it frosted, then crumbled as we were taking the photographs. Hats off to Avery for taking this one on as her first attempt at a layer cake!
I learned one trick today that will change how I frost cakes from this point forward. Gail wrote a couple of ‘how-to’ posts on frosting cakes; if you’d like to keep your level of frustration to a minimum, I suggest you click here and here to learn more.
And just for fun, thought we’d share the truth, the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth, so help us Gail . . . this is why you need to read the tutorials above! 😉
HELEN HUDSON WHITING’S CELESTIAL CHOCOLATE CAKE
from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup cocoa
- 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 2-1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
CREAM FILLING INGREDIENTS:
- 1 cup very cold heavy cream or whipping cream
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
OLD-FASHIONED CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- To make the cake, heat the oven to 350 degree oven; grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans, set aside
- Pour the boiling water over the cocoa. Stir well with a fork until smooth, and set aside to cool. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well
- Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until well combined. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one until the mixture is smooth and light. add the flour mixture in 4 batches, beating after each addition only until the flour disappears. Add the cocoa mixture in 2 batches, beating just enough after each addition to combine everything into a smooth, luscious batter, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl
- Divide the batter among the 3 cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center and are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans
- Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans on the wire racks or folded kitchen towels. Then gently turn them out onto wire racks or plates to cool completely, top side up
- To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine the whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla, and beat until thick and luscious. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to complete the cake
- To make the frosting, combine the sugar, cocoa, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan, and stir or whisk to mix everything well. Add the butter and the milk and place over medium heat, stirring to melt the butter and mix everything together into a smooth, brown sauce. Stir well, and bring the frosting to a lively boil, stirring often. Adjust the heat to maintain an active but gentle boil, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. When the frosting begins to thicken, remove it from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and set it aside to cool for about 20 minutes. Beat the frosting just until it thickens and looks shiny, and then spread it over the cake or the layers you want to ice
- To complete the cake, place the first layer, top side down on a cake or serving plate, and spread half the whipped cream filling almost to the edge. Cover with a second layer, tops side down, and spread the remaining whipped cream filling almost to to the edge. Place the third layer, top side up, over the filling. Spread the chocolate frosting over the sides and then the top of the cake
Avery Olund-Smith is going into her sophomore year at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where’s she’s studying English. She’s from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She loves biking to Findlay Market and writing with the Cincinnati organization Women Writing for (a) Change, and considers food, writing, reading, and the beauties of both the city and the natural world amongst her passions.