Whether Marie Antoinette truly uttered the offensive phrase, “Let them eat cake,” or not—and for argument’s sake it doesn’t matter, I take this opportunity to impress upon you what the French have known and spouted for years.
Cake is good.
It’s even better when somebody else makes it.
Find/raise that somebody.
Make sure that somebody has tasted both the stuff Betty Crocker seals in a box with an expiration date well past yours and one that left her with tears streaming down the sides of her face because she realized it was now time to die—she’d discovered the meaning of life.
Request the latter.
Saying my daughter is a perfectionist is a little like admitting Gordon Ramsey can get moody. Extremes aside, I find her repeated need to achieve meticulous skill in the kitchen a neuroses best left alone. She’ll have to work that bad habit out for herself, but I’ll be right by her side cheering her on as she grapples with the disorder.
Her latest feat falls under the Martha Stewart “You can too!” campaign, where one can learn both taxidermy and personal hygiene with Martha’s latest ten step kit. This may save precious minutes if you’re late for work and are lucky enough to come across some road kill.
Having tasted this cake multiple times over multiple days, I’d have to agree with the French ‘when times are tough’ mentality. Peasant or Princess, we should all be given a slice of the results from below.
From Martha Stewart Living, May 1997
Great swoops of glossy frosting make this a wonderfully exuberant cake with a dark backdrop for birthday candles. But this cake is just as suitable for afternoon snacks or a Sunday supper.
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
- 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with cocoa powder; tap out any excess. Sift cocoa into a medium bowl, and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides twice. Beat in vanilla. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating between each addition until the batter is no longer slick, scraping down the sides twice.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk milk into reserved cocoa mixture. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and cocoa mixtures to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture.
- Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans for even baking. Transfer layers to wire racks; let cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and return to racks, tops up, until completely cool.
- Remove parchment from bottoms of cakes. Reserve the prettiest layer for the top. Place one cake layer on a serving platter; spread 1 1/2 cups chocolate frosting over the top. Add the second cake layer, and spread with another 1 1/2 cups frosting. Top with third cake layer. Cover outside of cake with the remaining 3 cups frosting. Serve.
The cake keeps well for several days stored on the counter: Cover with plastic wrap or a glass dome to keep the cake from drying out.
The frosting is from one of our favorite sources—Smitten Kitchen.
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible
Yes, it’s true: A chocolate frosting recipe without any butter, whipped eggs and barely a modicum of added sugar. Oh, and you don’t even need an electric mixer to make it. What are you waiting for?
Only cooking note: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.
Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake
15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.
Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.
Now, since you’ve made it this far, you should be rewarded with a little cake humor. Eddie and Legos. It doesn’t get much better–unless you’re eating cake while watching it. 🙂
(If the video doesn’t show in your browser, click below on the link.)