Thursday, August 13, 2009

American Chocolate Layer Cake, Part Two

Part Two is all about lack of equipment. I used to have the right equipment. Maybe it's just because I'm getting old, or have moved a few times over the past few years, but I seem to have lost, misplaced, or given away a lot of the tools of the trade.

Poor Pete spent the entire day yesterday at the hospital waiting for his mother to be discharged. Doctor didn't even arrive to discharge her until 4:00 p.m. After leaving work and picking up the kids, I took Natalie and Cassandra to the driving range to hit an $11 bucket, while Maddy and I went off for a long walk along the Sweetwater Trail. When we got home close to 7:00, Pete had just arrived home from the hospital with his mom and dad. While he put Mom to bed for a while to wait out the traffic, I ran into the house to make dinner. I looked longingly at the pile of cake layers and chocolate waiting there for me, but turned to the ingredients for chili and cornbread. Got Maddy on the cornbread, threw the chili ingredients into the pot, and then ran out to pick up Sam from soccer practice.

By the time we had all eaten, and Pete was finally on his way to his sister's house with Aurelia and Pedro, Senior, it was 8:20! And I discovered the first piece of missing equipment -- a double boiler. For melting chocolate, this is an essential tool. Otherwise, the chocolate just burns. Reviewing the options, I threw a bunch of water into the stock pot, threw the chocolate into a saucepan, and made an enormous double boiler. It worked beautifully, and soon I had a saucepan full of . . . ONE POUND OF MILK CHOCOLATE and 12 OUNCES OF SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE. Hmmm. One pound butter + one pound milk chocolate + 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate. I don't even want to THINK about the calorie content. Once that was melted, I threw in an entire tub of sour cream (the large size -- and yes, I used full fat sour cream just to add a few thousand calories more to the cake). Frosting is done and Maida was right -- it is really pretty special frosting. Creamy and lucious looking.

Stuck my brand-new cake plate (at some point, I had about 10 cake plates -- what the heck happened to them all?) on my brand-new cake turntable (never had one of those before, but it's super cool) and started the frosting process. The layers stacked evenly -- no Leaning Tower of Pisa here! But when it came time to do the final frosting I discovered another critical piece of equipment missing -- my favorite, expensive, frosting spatula. It is a special frosting spatula -- about 12 inches long by 2 inches wide with a curved top and an angle -- and is the only spatula that really works to frost a cake. I searched high and low and could not find it. So I used an ordinary spatula and a knife to frost the cake. Boo hoo. The cake turntable did make it 100 times easier and I highly recommend this piece of equipment. Although I cannot understand why anybody would pay $160 for one when the $19 I bought worked fine. When everything was said and done, the frosting was lumpy and bumpy and not at all smooth and beautiful, and the cake looked like this:

Now it was ready for the ring of Hershey's Kiss-size rosettes around the top. Except that all of my pastry bags were yucky looking and the one decent sized one I had failed immediately -- it squirted out a slug-shaped frosting tube onto my cake. So I tried to make one out of a plastic bag, with similar results. So, until I buy new pastry bags, my cake remained blissfully plain. But enormous.

Here it is on the Blue Minton:

Huge. That was the thinnest slice I could cut and still be able to remove it from the cake. And none of us was able to finish a slice that size.
Poor Pete didn't get home until 1:30 a.m., so his verdict isn't in. The rest of us declared the cake tasty but incredibly rich. I cannot imagine what it would be like without the walnuts, because they cut the richness.
I now have half of this cake left. Pete told me this morning that I have to eat all of the rest of it. Ha! I'll find somebody willing to eat this delicious, enormous, masterpiece. While carrying one quarter of it into the building this morning, I had several people literally drooling in the elevator.
My final verdict on this recipe: Maida is right -- if you are going to a very large party, or have a small army to feed, this is your cake. I would not suggest it for any party where there are fewer than 20 attendees. While it takes time to make, it is not difficult (assuming you have the right equipment . . .) And it is quite tasty (but rich and loaded with calories).
Can't wait to see how Maria modified this one.


  1. We found one of those long icing spatulas at The Ferry Building - $24! It is still there.