Today was a difficult day.
I now know what it feels like to 'survive a round of layoffs,' a phrase that I've heard so many people say before but now know the gut-wrenching reality of it.
The inclination is to think, "I should feel thankful that it wasn't me." But it doesn't feel right to have emotions like thankfulness and relief when people who you know, people who you saw for 40+ hours every week, who you walked with every day to get coffee, just won't be there any more. With no warning that today they would have a job and tomorrow they wouldn't. People with bills to pay and a tough economy to face.
Beer and pub food was in order. Check.
Cracking some jokes and blowing off steam was in order. Check.
Chocolate cake is in order. The kind of chocolate cake that can make you forget for the span of one slice - or maybe two - and realize that tomorrow is a new day. And things are always better, even if just a bit, with a fresh day ahead of you and leftover chocolate cake in the fridge.
This is a chocolate cake recipe that I've only recently discovered, and yet managed to make three times already. Don't be fooled by the short ingredient list or its homely appearance. This cake makes the world a better place. It's the kind of cake that will get recipe requests at dinner parties. Which of course you give out readily, because you cannot deny someone the ability to make this most delicious cake. You never know when someone will need it.
The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
Or, Our Wedding Cake
~from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
This recipe is as simple as can be: all it takes is five ingredients, a bowl, a spoon, and a cake pan. Because it’s all out chocolate, you’ll want a good one whose flavor you love, with 60 to 70% cocoa solids. I like Scharffen Berger quite a bit, but in a pinch, I’ve also used Ghirardelli 60% chips. They have a nice flavor and are very inexpensive, and you don’t have to chop them, which save a lot of time.
Also, not that this cake freezes surprisingly well. In fact, its texture and flavor are actually improved by freezing. Try to make it far enough in advance that you can freeze it for at least a day or so, and be sure to allow 24 hours for it to then return to room temperature before serving. It’s worth the trouble.
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ¾ sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter; cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the over to 375° F, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. In the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper too.
Put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring often, until just smooth. When the mixture is smooth, add the sugar, stirring well to incorporate. Set the batter aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition. Add the flour and stir to mix well. The batter should be dark and silky.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, of until the top is lightly crackles, the edges are puffed, and the center of the cake looks set. I usually set the time for 20 minutes to start with, and then I check the cake every 2 minutes after that, until it’s ready. At 20 minutes, the center of the cake is usually still quite jiggly; you’ll know it’s done with the center only jiggles slightly, if at all.
Remove the cake form the over to a cooling rack and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully turn in out of the pan and the flip it onto a serving plate, so that the crackly top side faces up. Since the cake is fairly delicate, this can be tricky, but I’ve found that the easiest way is as follows.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan and place a large, flat plate – not the serving plate – or the flat back of a cookie sheet on top of the foil. Hold the cake pan and plate firmly together and quickly, carefully, flip them. The pan should now be on top of the plate, with the foil between then. Remove the pan, revealing the cake, which is now upside-down. Remove the parchment paper. Place the serving plate gently atop the cake. Wedging your index fingers between the plates to keep from squishing the cake, flip them so that the cake is now right side up. Remove the foil. Cool completely before serving, preferably with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
*See in that picture up there where there are THREE sticks of butter? And do you see in the recipe how you only need TWO sticks of butter? Just pointing that out so that none of you find yourself with more melted butter than you know what to do with...like someone I know.