My friends Elizabeth, Joo (Emmy and Peabody Award-winner! Woohoo!) and Mandi were here this past weekend, for our annual girls trip. We had tons of fun chin-wagging, making fun of Mandi, scaring me half to death on roller-coasters meant for toddlers, making fun of Mandi...
If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that we meet up every year, that these three ladies are women I knew in college, but with whom I grew much closer after I graduated and Bren left, because I realised that I had turned into one of those awful girls who had abandoned her friends in favour of her boyfriend. Ugh!
Needless to say, these girls are precious to me.
This trip, we marked Mandi's milestone 30th birthday. She's the baby of our little gang; the rest of us celebrated en masse last year. On their last night here, they came over to my house and, we all made dinner: Sheesh! kebabs and cucumber salad (oops, did I not post that recipe?! eeks!), mac 'n' cheese and to top it off, possibly the tallest chocolate cake I've ever seen, save a traumatic experience at Claim Jumpers.
You can kinda see it here. I think it's something to be quite proud of, no? It's only TWO LAYERS!
I have kept this recipe top secret for a while, mostly because I was trying to build a small baking business to supplement our income, but since that hasn't really taken off, I may as well share the "wealth". I adapted a recipe I found on Epicurious, by subbing in 1/2 cup of brown sugar which I think gives it a bit of rich, dark sweetness. Finding a good chocolate cake recipe is sort of like finding the holy grail these days; every tom, dick and harry has a recipe available online, but beware! Not every recipe is equal! This recipe contains a few ingredients that make it very, very special:
- Coffee: it heightens the chocolate flavour, but no worries if you don't like the flavour of coffee (you weirdo). You won't taste it at all. And yes, you can use decaf. I do.
- Cocoa AND real semisweet chocolate: recipes that only call for cocoa hardly ever come out chocolate-y enough for me. Use good quality chocolate if you can, and don't use chips; they are apparently coated in this weird waxy stuff that's yucky.
- Buttermilk: I've found that the key to a gorgeously moist cake is either yogurt or buttermilk. I don't know why, but trust me brotha-man, it works!
- Vegetable oil: The most bothersome part of baking, to me, is the creaming process. OH MAN! It makes me shudder thinking of the long minutes that pass by as my arm turns asleep whilst beating butter and sugar into submission. And, even when I was blessed with that kitchen superhero, the KitchenAid mixer, I could never get the sugar completely incorporated into the butter, even if I use fine baker's sugar. BORING! Vegetable oil eliminates this entire process.
There! I said it! (And quite appropriately, was first published in the recently-defunct Gourmet Magazine. RIP Gourmet. I loved you well.)