winning hearts and minds cake
Let me clear here – I have never, not for a minute, in my life, planned any aspect of my future wedding, should I find that perfect guy and tie the knot. I know there are women who’ve been planning that day from the time when they were five and I think that’s lovely and wonderful. It’s just that I never did that. What I did do, as a child, was draw elaborate and to-scale plans of my dream kitchen. But then again, I was always hanging around kitchens, watching my mother and my grandmother cook – trying to get some small job, however, minuscule it was. There was this one time, my mother gave me scraps of dough and I tried to mold a little person out of it with raisins for eyes and a cinnamon mouth. I was doing well, until I decided to put a peppercorn for the nose, and was so insistent upon it that nothing my mother said made a difference. Eating it, of course, was a different matter altogether – and while certainly a curious flavor combination, six year olds rarely appreciate peppercorns in their baked goods.
In any case, I was never the girl who thought of the dress I’d wear to the wedding, and what the first dance song would be, or whom I’d have in my bridal party. As a child, I simply didn’t care. As an adult, I figured I’ll get to it when I really had to. But what I did think about (ok, so I guess I did think about it, I lied) was what I was going to feed people. And whenI did think about feeding my guests, I thought the most about cake. What kind of cake, what flavor and look. For awhile I wanted a pyramid of Krispy Kreme doughnuts – an idea my mother showed little enthusiasm for. Then there was the obsession with wedding cupcakes. Which I still think is cute. But ultimately, I wanted to feed people cake. Good cake at that.
People, I must say that I love cake. Cake is one of those things I just don’t turn down. Ever. I don’t care that refined sugar is bad for me, I’m going to eat cake if it’s put in front of me. And if you give me a cold glass of milk to chase it down, I’m your friend forever. But despite my deep cake love, I sure am picky – I eat most cake and I’m left, well, not totally fulfilled. Either I find there is too much frosting (yes, there is such a thing), or it’s overly sweet, or the cake feels too dense, or that pesky baking soda taste dominates (by far my biggest gripe!). But sometimes, you find a cake that is just right, perfect in fact, and you wind up making it not once but twice in one week.
It’s the kind of cake you make to take with you as a hostess gift for your hosts in the North Fork, or the kind of cake you make for a friend who comes over to dinner. The kind of cake, that after you send said friend home to bring a piece to her sister, makes her sister proclaim each time friend returns from my place back, “Well, do you have some cake for me?” The kind of cake that wins, hearts, minds and stomachs.
And the kind of cake that makes you decide upon tasting it, that this is the cake you want to serve your guests at your future wedding, the way the original cake creator, Molly, did. All you’ve got to do now, is find the lucky guy – but clearly your biggest dilemmas are already solved. This guy part is just a technicality.
Winning Hearts & Minds Cake
Adapted from Orangette
Serves 8 (ideally!)
7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate – I used Scharfenberger
7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted European-style butter (the high-butterfat kind, such as Lurpak or Beurre d’Isigny), cut into ½-inch cubes – higher butterfat = tastier cake!
1 1/3 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.
Finely chop the chocolate (a serrated bread knife does an outstanding job of this) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler (or in the microwave, but the double boiler is substantially better for this), stirring regularly to combine. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well until dissolved, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition before adding another. Lastly, add the flour. The batter should look silky and luxurious.
Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (I usually set the timer for 20 minutes initially, and then I check the cake every two minutes thereafter until it’s done. At 20 minutes, it’s usually quite jiggly in the center. You’ll know it’s done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.) In my oven, it took the cake to bake in 35 minutes, but some people’s ovens run hotter, and others’ cooler. Basically, when you cut into the cake (and I suppose you have to make it once to get the gist right) you should have a slightly gooey, fudgy center, not fully cake-like. That is how you know it’s perfect.
Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools. Mine even sinks a wee bit, but that’s okay – it’ll taste so amazing you’ll hardly remember its slightly droopy center.
Serve in wedges at room temperature with a loose dollop of unsweetened whipped cream (I find it more refreshing than sweetened) and some fresh cut berries. And since berries are getting to be so good right about now, be sure to have the berries with the cake. Trust me on this. And in case you’re thinking picnics (remember what I said about them recently?) – yes, this is a perfect picnic contribution. In fact, you will be the star of the show. No doubt.
Note: this cake tastes even better served the following day, but truth of the matter is, you will need exercise all self control not to eat it all at once. Consider yourself warned.