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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Devil; You're a Darn Good Chocolate Cake!

I know, beat me with a wet noodle. I'm just under the finish line for National Devil's Food Cake Day. I have an excuse, honest I do. You see, I have had this unquenchable desire for fudgy chocolate "something" for what seems like months now. I do believe it "struck" me when I moved to Pennsylvania in January. Anyway, due to circumstances beyond my control, so I thought, it just wasn't happening. Oh, I did manage to do a bit of baking here and there through the months but I knew a decadent, fudgy moist cake was way out of my league. I'm baking challenged. (Actually, I'm beginning to think I'm cooking challenged too but that's for another day:)

Oh, I had huge plans for National Devil's Food Cake Day. I'd say they were Mile High anticipations. I was going to bake the infamous Ebinger's Black-out Cake. I even had a recipe, which before the days of the internet, was worth its weight in gold. Yes, yes, I know, Black-Out Cake does not fall into the category of Devil's Food Cake. Black-Out Cake is in a classification all its own; Chocolate Heaven on Earth, with a history! However, Black-Out Cake would more than consummate by burning desire for decadence. I didn't think you chocolate loving visitors would object either. I mean really, a thing of beauty, isn't it?

So what happened? Right off the bat, I made a boo boo. The first step to making Black-Out Cake is the making of the pudding. I suppose, I should remind you, Black-Out Cake goes by an assortment of names. Some, like Joelen, call it Chocolate Blackout Cake. Others call it Brooklyn Blackout Cake and still others, such as myself, call it Ebinger's Black-Out Cake, a namesake of the beloved Brooklyn institution, Ebinger's Bakery. What ever happen to Ebinger's Bakery anyway?

...Named for wartime blackouts, their famous and beloved chocolate-pudding-filled Blackout Cake was a chocolate layer cake filled and frosted with dark fudge and dusted with chocolate cake crumbs...

Although, I grew up on Entenmann’s Black-Out Cake, I never found myself entwined in the never ending question; which of the two bakeries baked the very best Blackout Cake? No not me, not I. I wanted no part of it. I have so many wonderful memories of both Ebinger's and Entemann's, which in themselves would make a most delectable post, I refuse to get sandwiched in the middle. I don't care how much creamy pudding you entice me with! As you may have surmised, there's more to Blackout Cake than meets the eye or the tummy for that matter:) Which, leads me to my next excuse. I just couldn't bring myself to post unless I included a bit of history. Oh, the history of Devil's Food Cake is scattered all over the world wide web. That wasn't the problem. However, the history of Backout Cake is a wee bit more sketchy and apparently involves "buried treasure." Well, kinda sorta. So, I procrastinated, dawdled and yes researched. You think I would have just gone to the sources. (I have a copy of The Brooklyn Cookbook which has a dollop of Blackout Cake history in it. After all, Blackout Cake is Brooklyn's Long Lost Dessert:) No, not me, I have to check, recheck and dig deeper. Now, that wasn't helping my craving none. So, I decided to tackle the cake and get back to the history later. Sure:)

Why is the cake called Devil’s Food?
Folk lore says that a group of Pilgrims that lived next door to a Chocolate House in Amsterdam in the late 1600’s, witnessed chocolate house patrons cavorting and making merry while they consumed chocolate.  The Pilgrims were convinced that chocolate was made from the devil.  They named chocolate “Devil’s Food.”   Later on, when dark chocolate cake gained in popularity, it was named Devil’s Food Cake for its sinfully delicious nature.

Devil’s food cake is moist, airy, and rich.  It is multi-layered and covered in lots of thick chocolate frosting.  Yum!

There are different variations of Devil’s Food cake such as Red Velvet, Red Devil, Waldorf Astoria Cake, and $100 Dollar Cake. Red velvet cake has a more pronounced red color because the high concentration of baking soda caused a reddening of the cocoa powder when baked. Today, red food coloring is sometimes used. Chocolate University Online

Armed with my edition of America's Best Lost Recipes published by the editors of Cook's Country Magazine, I began at the beginning; the pudding.

Blackout Cake Pudding
Pudding:
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half 
1 cup milk 
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in a large saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and whisk constantly over until the chocolate melts and the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer the pudding to a large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to avoid creating a skin, and let chill for at least four hours or up to one day.

Easy right? Wrong. For some out of this world reason, I grabbed the wrong unsweetened chocolate. Instead, I judiciously chopped semi-sweet chocolate to perfection. (My son let me borrow his mini food processor which worked so wonderfully, I may not give it back. Can mother's get away with such things?) Unbeknownst to me, la di la di la, I stirred and stirred until the ebony of smoothness gently covered the back of the spoon. I whisked it into a bowl, covered it ever so tightly, not leaving any air bubbles on the shiny pudding wrap enclosure, and placed it in the fridge. I didn't even taste it. Seems, I should have because, when I went to clean up the mild mess for the next step, I discovered the words semi-sweet on the box of Baker's Chocolate as I tossed it in the garbage. Uh, Oh. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure it would be an actual disaster. How bad could it be? I happen to adore bittersweet chocolate. I suppose it wouldn't have been so utterly sweet had I not used so much sugar. I'm not sure about that because, once again, I'm not a baker. I can only guess that when you use semi-sweet chocolate, you cut down on the sugar. Although, the complexities of chocolate confuses me much like wine so, it could be the composition of both are not the same:) Whatever, the pudding was just to sweet to my liking. It looked good though:) Blackout Cake

Needless to say, I'll just tell you anyway, I was quite distraught. I had a short nonsensical talk with myself, something to the effect of I should just stop trying to bake, I'll never get to bread at this rate AND, what kind of blogger am I, I can't even bake a simple Blackout Cake for National Devil's Food Cake Day! No, I didn't cry. But boy oh boy, I wanted to. (I'm not a good cryer:) Then, miraculously, Marion came to my rescue.

"What's going on in here? she said kindly.

"Are you experimenting again," she smiled.

I explained my dilemma to her and quite off hand-idly she said, ""You need a break." "Why don't we have a cup of tea?" she continued. "You get the cups, I'll make the tea." As we sat to chat, I exploded with all of my blog worries of the day. She listened carefully. (You must remember, Marion is 90 years young and blog talk sometimes sends her in a whirl:) And then, it happened, I got an epiphany! Not only is today National Devil's Food Cake Day, it is also the birthday of one of my very best favorite authors, Nora Ephron! I jumped for joy!

A while back, I stumbled upon an article in The New York Times titled, The Cake Doctor Makes a House Call

...Nora Ephron, one of the most accomplished and least snooty home cooks in New York, bakes plenty of cakes from scratch, though she's not above making one that includes devil's-food cake mix, sour cream and chocolate chips. A variation of it appears in ''The Cake Mix Doctor,'' called Darn Good Chocolate Cake.

''People will do anything to avoid sifting flour and measuring it,'' Ms. Ephron said. ''And people will do anything if only one bowl is involved. Sifting and bowls -- that's it.''

Ms. Byrn agreed. ''People think that if they use a mix, they don't have to measure,'' she said. ''That's a big mistake, but the No. 1 mistake is the oven temperature. If it's not right, it won't work...''

Not only did I make note of it, I bookmarked it!!! Delight. Why? I remembered that Darn Good Chocolate Cake was going to be my go-to-cake when I could no longer stand my insatiable desire for fudgy goodness. And, I just happen to have a copy of the book. Gee, I thought, if Darn Good Chocolate Cake made from a Devil's Food Cake Mix is good enough for Nora Ephron, who am I to quibble? Scratch the Black-Out Cake for the time being and get to that other darn cake, I thought out loud. Marion agreed:) I was going to post the recipe, but, I found it over @ Cake Central and, at The Cake Mix Doctor website, I found an interesting variation. (I'll be trying this next time for sure! I did contemplate substituting Kahlua but after the semi mix-up, I decided to stay the course:)

"Amaretto Darn Good Chocolate Cake: Following my directions for Darn Good Chocolate Cake adding ¼ cup (or more to taste) Amaretto and ¼ cup of water instead of the ½ cup water.

Funny thing about this Darn Good Chocolate Cake recipe. It didn't include a frosting. Could the cake be so dang good that it didn't need a frosting? YES!!! Of course, you could whip one up if you so desire but don't ask me what kind. (I didn't tell you about the simple layer cake I made the other day and the horrible frosting I saddled it with for exactly the same reason. The cake would have been a success if I hadn't messed up the frosting. And you thought I was dramatizing:) Okay, the darn cake doesn't look over the top but I'm telling you, it was just what this ol' girl needed.

Just for "Kicks N Giggles," and because I'm trying to conserve on waste, yeah sure:) I dolloped a bit of that darn good sweet pudding on an oversized piece of Darn Good Chocolate Cake and ate the entire thing!!!Darn Good chocolate Cake

May all your devilish desires be sweet:) Happy Devil's Food Cake Day! Louise:)

Resources:
1. Steamed Devil’s Food Cake @ Serious Eats
2. Devil's Food Cake Recipe (made with coffee) @ David Lebovitz
3. The Devil and The Monk Cupcake Recipe (adaptation @ the Cupcake Project from David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake Recipe)
4. Product Review: Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Devil’s Food Cake @ Gluten Free is Life
5. Darn Good Chocolate Cake ( Cake Mix Cake) @Recipezaar
6. Darn Good Chocolate Cake @ Julie Cooks
7. Entenmann’s Black-Out Cake discussion @ Chowhound
8. Blackout Cake (if you want to buy online but I don't vouch for it:)