There are very few people who know this but the key to my heart is cake.
Cakes do evil things to me. They make me conniving. They make me whine with cravings. They make me eat ten times the normal amount of food I would normally eat in one serving. They make me suck spoons, bowls and my fingers sloppily to get every extra ounce of frosting. They make me wake up in the morning wanting a slice for breakfast to dunk messily into tea. They make me drive across cities. They make me order dessert at restaurants after full meals. They are the absolute one thing I can never say no to. And if there is a cake nearby, chances are I will find a way to make it mine. or at least a portion of it.
That being said, I am very picky about cake. I DO tend to try cake whenever there is the opportunity to. I DO manage to eat it all even when it’s sub-par too because it’s one of those food items that even messed up can still be satisfying. But my list of requirements for a cake that will make me swoon is as follows:
It has to be dense and moist.
No dry, fine crumbed cakes for me.
I want it to sink down while my fork goes through it, not hold up like a fortress.
I want the cake part to be rich.
I want the frosting part to be in perfect ratio to the cake part so I get an equal amount of both in each bite.
I want the frosting to be fluffy and light, although completely, sinfully buttery and creamy in flavor.
I want at least two layers, no sheet pan scrawny square for me.
No need to muck it up with fruits, or jellies, or weird liquid fillings unless you are the bakery Portos and the cake is the Milk and Berry cake, then I’ll fold.
I want chocolate cake and I want chocolate frosting as a given.
I will take any other cake besides that if chocolate with chocolate frosting is not available and be perfectly happy, too.
I am particularly fond of white coconut cupcakes but am hard pressed to find really good ones, although I gladly continue the hunt.
I’m also a carrot cake with white sugar cream cheese frosting whore.
My daughter inherited my love of cake. When she was little she used to beg me to buy her the whole chocolate cake at Kentucky Fried Chicken (which wasn’t even that good). The sad part is that I mostly caved in, knowing that I would be sitting in bed with her later as we watched awkward Kirsten Dunst cheerleading movies during both of our “that time of the months” forking cake into our mouths until the entire thing was gone. The even scarier thing is that we still re-enact this freaky girl gorge fest like the time last summer we sat in a Santa Barbara VONS parking lot in my car using plastic forks to devour a large fudgy slice we had just driven across town for.
The saddest part about this whole cake obsession (or perhaps, according to my thighs the luckiest) is that I don’t actually know how to make a cake. So when my daughter was scheduled to visit this past week and the first thoughts that sprung to my mind were: BIG. CHOCOLATE. CAKE. CUDDLE. COUCH. The first thing I did was find the Cute Gardener, give him a kiss on the lips, followed by a hug, and ask as sweetly as possible: “Will you help me make a cake for my daughter?” (I was hoping the fact that I had driven through freeway traffic recently to buy him a coveted pie during pie season would score me points.)
Out came the Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Recipe” bible and after spending a morning in the kitchen together, I had managed to watch the CG whip up the most lusciously perfect Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting*. It was perfect and is my new favorite cake to date. The way the sour cream adds a consistency of melting fudge to the cake layers as they fold into the soft buttercream frosting that adorns them is something I won’t be able to erase from my mind for a while. And, of course, my daughter and I spent shortly under 24 hours with two pieces each inside our guts together in bliss, including some binge television watching on the couch, just like old times.
A week later and we still had frosting to spare so this morning the CG whipped up a smaller, yellow cake built up into a neat cube for our football watching day. With a huge dollop of frosting on my fingertip about to licked, I told him that he had found the key to my heart: all he had to do was continually make me cake. See how easy I am.
- Instead of the buttercream frosting that came with this recipe, we used another basic buttercream one that the CG had used before and liked better with the addition of chocolate. It is as follows:
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Melt the chocolate until smooth creamy, mix in the vanilla. Set aside. Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy, about one minute. Reduce speed to low and add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating 15 seconds between each addition. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate and vanilla mixture and egg: beat on low speed to combine. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. (Buttercream may be covered and kept at room temperature for several hours or refrigerated in an airtight container for a week. Bring to room temperature before using.)