Monday, April 13, 2009
Earthquake Cake: My first post-Lent chocolate experience
This cake (yes, that is a cake) is the reason that mothers teach their children to never judge a book by its cover. While it looks about as appetizing as the brown specked bananas on the 50% off rack at Ralph's, it is actually one of the better chocolate cakes my taste buds have encountered. And not just because it was the first bite of chocolate I'd had in six weeks.
When I spoke to my mom before leaving LA on Saturday morning, she warned me that the chocolate layer cake she made for our Easter eve dinner had fallen apart. I laughed, thinking that she meant a couple pieces crumbled off.
She didn't laugh along with me.
"No Diana, it completely fell apart. I don't think I can serve it!"
"Well... uhh...." I hesitated, torn between telling her it would be fine and telling her to make me something that would be a worthy first post-Lent chocolate experience. "Maybe we can whip up the chocolate chip bundt cake? That's so easy and everyone likes it." I suggested selfishly.
"Maybe. The cake does taste really good though. It's just... not very pretty." She said sheepishly.
I wasn't convinced it could be salvaged. Especially when I arrived home and saw the globby, chocolate-frosted mess. It was worse than I imagined, and I didn't try to hide my opinion of its undesirable appearance. I gasped. I made funny throat noises. And then I guffawed in slight horror.
My mom's lips turned up into a mischievous smile as she watched my contorting face. "I'm calling it 'Earthquake cake!' Do you want to try it?"
I shook my head. "Not now! I just finished a run! I can't eat cake!"
I hadn't actually just finished the run. It had been nearly two hours, and I was a little hungry from the effort. The Rachel's yogurt and fresh fruit I'd eaten after were not keeping the belly beast content. But I didn't want to try it. Not then, not ever.
But then we had lunch. And then my mouth started doing that watering business that it typically does after I eat something savory. I was craving something sweet. Something over-the-top chocolaty. Something exactly like the Earthquake cake.
So I ate some. And then I ate a little more.
"You know, I think we can serve it tonight." I said to my mom through a mouthful of the supremely moist and decadent cake.
She nodded eagerly, scooping up another bite of her deconstructed "piece."
I licked a smear of chocolate butter cream frosting from my lower lip. "Nobody will know the difference if we top it with a little powdered sugar, whipped cream and raspberries."
She nodded again.
So, we served it. And my brothers, sister-in-law and dad ate it up without complaint. No one seemed to notice that the slices were a little messier than the pristine ones my mom doles out from her go-to chocolate chip bundt cake recipe. Only my mom and I knew what lay beneath the tin foil in the other room.
Or at least we were the only ones until my older brother Richard snuck a peak when he went back into the kitchen.
"Mother!" He called, his voice trembling with laughter. "What is this?"
Her face collapsed. He had discovered the Earthquake cake.
"It fell apart!" She pouted. "But it tastes good!" She added, quickly leaping to the defense of the poor cake.
Heads bobbed up and down all around the table -- it did taste good. So good in fact, that I wouldn't be all too disappointed if my mom made the Earthquake cake a new tradition on our Easter eve table.
But maybe next year I'll suggest she make it in cupcake form.
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake aka "Earthquake" cake
Recipe from San Francisco a La Carte
2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure all ingredients into a larg bowl and beat for 1/2 minute at low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat for 3 minutes at highest speed. Pour into greased and floured cake pans: 2 9 inch pans or 3 8 inch pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Frosting: In the top of a double broiler, melt butter and chocolate over barely simmering water. Remove from heat and cool. Add powdered sugar, then blend in sour cream and vanilla, beat until smooth.