Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Now, I know that some of my more peevish, antsy followers are just about to start demanding recipes. I guess they want me to stick to the facts, ma’am, like this is Dragnet, or something.

And just how do you know this? you might be wondering. Because at least one out of the three of you has mentioned it to me, that’s how.

Well, just settle your horses, mister. You can’t hurry a good story along.  And as a matter of fact, I wasn’t through yet. The story of the Great Lemon Hubcap Calamity does NOT, in fact, end in failure like you might think.

 NO. There is a lesson to be learned here, but it is NOT that one screw-up means we’re doomed to total failure and should just go sit in the corner and cry — although, that’s just exactly what I did for about 25 years after the Easy-Bake Oven Incident. But don’t get me started on THAT or we’ll never make any headway.

So back to what I was saying: I think we left off last time by concluding that you can’t always turn your disasters around like Pollyanna Stewart so that you wind up having your cake and eating it too. That’s right, only people with rich friends can do that.

What you can do, however, is square your shoulders, take on the What-the-Hell attitude that Julia Child recommended, and launch straight into plan ‘B’. Of course, that only works if you’ve actually got a plan ‘B’ lined up, otherwise you’re pretty much hosed. Fortunately, I’ve got just the cake for you.

Well, looking back on it, the recipe that I had in mind for plan ‘B’ is probably the cake I should’ve baked in the first place. To begin with, this little cake is chocolate, and what could be better than that? It also happens to be plain looking on the outside with a complex, bittersweet character – kind of like me. Yes, plan ‘A’ would have been more like it, but I guess that’s all water under the floorboards by this time.

Now, before I go on (as I will do, Mr. Ants N. Yourpants, trust me), I want to make one thing clear: this cake is hardly “second-string.” Yes, it’s only slightly more trouble to make than one of Betty Crocker’s, but it tastes a hundred times better. So don’t be fooled into passing it by just because it’s uncomplicated. Simple is just one of its many virtues – albeit the one that makes it a good choice for plan ‘B’.

The way I see it, this cake is the Little Black Dress of the culinary collection. Spare and understated by itself, it can easily be accessorized to suit your tastes. Chocolate buttercream makes it lush and voluptuous. Cabernet chocolate glaze gives it a haughty, sophisticated air. Accompanied by a big pearl of vanilla ice cream, it’s a study in contrasts: chiaroscuro on a plate – and on your palate. It’s your choice.

Whatever you decide to do with it, this versatile, dependable little cake will come through for you. It’s not fussy and fractious like some cakes (ahem), and it doesn’t take a degree in culinary arts to make, either. Plus, it’s a cake that a lot of people can eat – from people trying to keep Kosher, to people with milk or egg allergies, to vegans, to people trying to reduce their cholesterol intake. Heck, if you make it with olive oil like I’ve suggested here, it’s practically good for you!

And, as if all that isn’t enough, the LBD Chocolate Cake has another virtue: It’s a great recipe to have on hand when you’ve run out of eggs because you typically forget to buy half the things you went to the store for. In fact, I’d even be willing to bet that most of you already have the necessary ingredients sitting in your cupboards right this minute. Like to see you beat that, Miss Betty ‘Needs-3-eggs’ Crocker!

And so with that, I’d better give you the recipe. (Yes, I know it’s about damn time, Mr. Hurryup N. Wait. Matter of fact, I’ve made a special index page called The Recipe Box just so you can cut right to the chase like you’re so fond of doing.)

In the immortal words of the French Chef herself,

The only stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell’ attitude.

~ Julia Child

So be fearless and try it.

LBD Chocolate Cake

An Everyday Cake With Attitude

 ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 heaping Tbs instant espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

⅓ cup oil (I prefer light olive oil, but any oil with a light taste will be fine)

1 Tbs vinegar (balsamic preferably, but any will work)

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease an 8 × 8 inch baking pan, or a 9-inch round cake pan.
  3. Combine cocoa and coffee powder in heat-proof bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water and stir.
  4. Cool this mixture to room temperature (HINT: speed this process by placing bowl in refrigerator or freezer).
  5. Combine flour, brown sugar, soda, and salt together, stirring well to thoroughly combine and remove lumps.
  6. When cocoa mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add to dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  7. Combine olive oil, vinegar, and vanilla together and add all at once to batter, stirring to combine.
  8. Working quickly, pour batter into oiled baking pan and place on middle rack of oven.
  9. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

Cake can be glazed or iced, decorated with a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream, or served plain paired with good vanilla ice cream (one of the best choices, if you ask me).




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Rachel Laudan

A Historian's Take on Food and Food Politics

in vita esse

To be alive. Dispatches from the surface of the planet.

Kicking and Screaming into the Kitchen

and other thoughts on eating, cooking, living, loving, writing from an ex-circus sideshow performer turned elephant advocate and author