Thursday, May 07, 2009


Devilish Cake
Devil’s food cake.

It was a simple assignment, really, and I readily volunteered: Make a devil’s food cake for one of SWMBO’s colleagues, to be shared out at a Communal Birthday Observance.

I suppose devil’s food got its moniker from the contrast with fluffy white angel’s food cake. The Country Reuben vision of Heaven, with white-robed angels, enhaloed, fluttering about in a firmament bedecked with snowy clouds, does not admit of the dark, sensuous nature of a serious chocolate cake. All that chocolate would just dirty the place up, whereas in Hell, it would be just so much smudgery amongst the ashes and soot.

But I am here to tell you that while devil’s food may be the sustenance of fallen angels, angels they be, nevertheless.

This recipe uses Dutch-process cocoa, bloomed in boiling water to bring out its flavor to the highest degree. It is not a wimpy cake. Moist and packed with powerful chocolate flavor, it is not for those who are wishy-washy about their chocolate. You want a red velvet cake? This is not a red velvet cake.

Devil’s Food Cake

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, strained
¾ cup boiling water
¼ pound (one stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs (large or extra large)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

To start with, preheat the oven to 350°F and get two 9-inch round cake pans. Butter them and dust with flour, tapping to remove any excess.

Add the cocoa powder to the boiling water and stir until smooth. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter. Then add the vanilla, salt, and sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to make sure everything gets mixed well.

An a small bowl, add the baking soda to the sour cream and stir to mix. Now, add a third of the flour to the butter-egg-sugar mixture and beat only until smooth. Add half the sour cream and beat in. Now add another third of the flour and beat in, followed by the last half of the sour cream and the final third of the flour, beating until mixed after each addition. Finally, add the cocoa-water mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour the batter into the pans - try to get the same amount in each pan unless you want a weird-looking cake. Shale and rotate the pans to level the tops, then stick ’em in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the tops leave only a slight impression when touched with the fingertips. Cool for 15 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Devil’s Own Glaze

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp butter
½ cup less 1 tbsp milk (picky, picky!)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, strained
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave on a low setting. Over moderate heat on the stove, add the butter, milk, and sugar, stirring until the butter is melted. Keep stirring for another three minutes.

In a small bowl, beat the egg. Stir in a few spoons of the chocolate mixture at a time until you’ve added about a third or a half of the chocolate. Then stir the egg mixture into the rest of the chocolate. Add the vanilla and salt.

Now, place the goop in a metal mixer bowl and place the mixer bowl in a larger bowl containing ice water. You now want to use the electric mixer and beat the glaze for a minute or two at high speed until it starts to thicken. I use a KitchenAid, and it’s impossible to keep the bowl in the ice water bath as I beat, but the trick is to cool the mixture down enough to let it start setting up as you beat it.

Now to glaze the cake. Place four strips of wax paper onto your cake plate so that you can keep the glaze off the plate. Maneuver the bottom layer (bottom side up) onto the plate. Dump one-third of the glaze on top of the layer and spread with a spatula. Now place the top layer (top side up) atop the bottom layer and dump the rest of the glaze on top, spreading it over the top and sides. Give it a few hours to set, then carefully pull away the wax paper strips. Voilà! Devil’s Food!

(And you’ll have the Devil’s own time trying to keep from eating the Whole Damned Thing.)

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