Monday, May 27, 2013

Chocolate Cake

Aaaaaand we’re back!  Julie is home from Denmark and I (Mary) am on summer break, which means we have time to reignite the foodie flame! 

It’s been way too long, but we’re going to come in strong with a bunch of new posts.  I have a bunch of books to read for my MFA program this summer, and that means a bunch of food to cook from them!

I’m going to start out with a classic dessert: Chocolate Cake.  But don’t turn away just yet!  Everyone who tried this recipe told me it was the best chocolate cake they’ve ever had.  It’s moist, but light, and chocolatey, but not cloying. 

I found chocolate cake in a New York Times bestselling Young Adult novel, Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

Riding the Hunger Games wave (more like tsunami), Roth's book takes place in a dystopian society with the people segregated by a controlling government.  But this is not a Hunger Games rip off – it’s actually a great book in its own right, and if you aren't a fan of the gore of Hunger Games, this is a good way to get a thrilling YA without so much blood and guts.  The 3rd book in the trilogy, Allegiant, comes out this October, and the Divergent movie comes out in 2014.

16-year-old Tris Prior lives in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where the city is divided into 5 factions to prevent government corruption: Abnegation (for the those who believe that selflessness is the solution to corruption), Candor (for those who believe telling the truth would solve everything, Amity (for those who find kindness to be the panacea for the world), Erudite (for those who value learning and knowledge), and Dauntless (for those who value bravery as the fix).

Tris switches from Abnegation, where everyone eats really plain food because eating food that tastes good is considered self-indulgent and therefore non-abnegation, to Dauntless.  At Dauntless headquarters, Tris marvels at all the flavorful food she has never tried before.  The food she repeatedly dwells on is chocolate cake.  This is probably due to her mother’s recommendation, who tells Tris: “‘Have a piece of chocolate cake for me, all right?  The chocolate.  It’s delicious’” (Roth 187)

As I was reading the book, I was wondering what chocolate cake might taste like to someone who has never had it before.  I decided to make it to help me ponder over it. Because, you know, chocolate helps you ponder.

Confession: I normally make chocolate cake from a box.  Gasp!  I know, scandalous.  But it’s the only thing I bake from a box – I’m a total food snob** about everything else.  And lately I’ve been cooking a lot of made-from-scratch cakes, so I am going to be kicking that boxed cake mix habit to the curb.  This was a decision I made after eating this 100% homemade chocolate cake.

Chocolate Cake
Recipe from

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Heat oven to 350┬║ F. Butter two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter and 1 cup water and bring to a boil (the butter will melt). Add to the flour mixture and, using an electric mixer, mix until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
Transfer one of the cakes to a platter and spread with ¾ cup of the frosting. Top with the remaining cake and spread with the remaining frosting.

Flour/cocoa mixture.  You could sift it, but I didn't and it was lump-free.
boiling water and butter

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), at room temperature

Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over (but not in) a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often, until melted. Let cool to room temperature (do not let it solidify).  [Note: I just heated the chocolate chips in a glass bowl for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each heating, until they were melted.  Whenever I do the double boiler method explained above, I end up getting a tiny splash of water in the chocolate to seize and become useless.  It's infuriating!  The microwave is foolproof for me]

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. With the mixer running, slowly add the chocolate and beat until combined and smooth

Chocolate almost completely melted, before letting it cool and adding it to the butter

There you have it!  It was so completely delicious.  I will be making chocolate cake using this recipe from now on.  I love how simple yet delicious it is!

**Side note: While some people may think it’s bad to be a food snob, they never complain when I make stuff from scratch with real ingredients.  Basically, being a food snob is a good thing.  And because I’m a food snob, you should know that when I say a recipe is good, it’s truly good.


isabel said...

Girls, I'm addicted to your blog now! Inspired by the november cakes (on the book The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater) I mean to do a series of videos called "Receitas literárias" or "literary recipes" in portuguese. I came here because of the Ambrosia Squares, and I'm now addicted to everything you make! Congratulations, you are really creative! Could I, please, use some of your recipes (of course attribuiting credits?)? Thx for sharing all this with us!
{Sorry for my broken English, I'm from Brazil.}

Anonymous said...

Aww... Thanks! We're so glad you enjoy food from books as much as we do! Feel free to use any of our recipes. However, we do borrow a lot of recipes from other sites. If we provide a link for it at the top of the recipe, it might be good to follow the link and give credit to the original author. Good luck with your vlog!

(I'm having sign-in issues -- sorry for posting as "anonymous")

P.S. Your English is amazing! I never would have known you weren't a native speaker if you hadn't said anything!

Rachel said...

I can't say I want to read the book, but chocolate cake is always good! This frosting is a new one for me, and I like that.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog it is amazing!