For Lisa, for teaching me how to knit
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This is one of the first chocolate cakes I ever learned to bake. I found it in Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook back when I was a graduate student in Milwaukee, and long before we had children! It’s always been kind to me, this recipe, predictable and easy to make, moist and tender. Now that I’m on a low carb low fat diet, that pretty much precludes eating this cake. But after reading a book called Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers I realized I can have my cake and eat it too. I realized I can bake individual servings of the cake, as many as I need for serving, and freeze the remainder.
To bake small servings of this cake, I used four 15.5 ounce cans and one 8.5×4.5 inch loaf pan. The cans have to be cut smooth with a can opener like the Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge, available on Amazon.com for $21.99. You need a smooth edge so as not to damage the cakelets or cut your hands. Each can should be filled approximately half full of batter. As they bake, the cakelet tops will develop an unattractive dome that you will slice off when they have cooled. Eat them, of course, to sustain you while you frost the cakelets!
One Bowl Chocolate Cake
Have at room temperature:
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (2 cups cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar [I used superfine or castor sugar]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening or butter, softened (total: 10 tablespoons)
1/2 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 fresh strawberries, fairly symmetrical in shape and an attractive red
2 tablespoons apricot jam (I used Polaner sugar free jam)
water for thinning the jam
Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt two tablespoons butter and add 1 tablespoon flour. Mix well. Using a pastry brush, brush this butter mixture inside four 15.5 ounce cans and one 8.5×4.5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Put all ingredients into a LARGE bowl. Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend on low speed until all ingredients are just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Mix on medium speed until just combined.
Bake the cake. Pour batter into the prepared cans and the loaf pan. Shift pans back and forth on countertop to release air bubbles. Space the cans 3-4 inches apart on a small baking tray. Bake 20-25 minutes for the cans, and 25-30 minutes for the loaf pan. Insert a skewer near the center of one cake to check that it is done. On removal, the tester should be dry or with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire cooling rack 10 minutes. Remove from the cans/loaf pan. To remove the cakelets from the cans, gently insert a thin metal skewer around the edges, invert and tap the can lightly. The cakelet should fall right out. Re-invert and cool completely on the wire rack. Freeze the loaf for later use.
Frost/decorate. Once the cakelets have cooled completely, trim the dome and cut each cakelet in half. Frost the top of the bottom half of the cakelet with chocolate butter cream then cover with the top half. Frost the sides and top of the cakelet. Repeat. Decorate with strawberry slices. Slice the top off a strawberry, then slice it vertically three or four times. Fan out the slices. Put the strawberry slices on a rack. Melt a little apricot jam with water and brush it all over the strawberry slices. Let it dry for a few minutes. Then using a small offset spatula, scoop up the strawberry and put it on top of the cakelet. Repeat as needed.
Cake Baker’s Note: I found that the cakelets were so high and narrow that the top tended to slide around on the frosting. If this happens, anchor the top layer to the bottom by inserting a toothpick all the way through. Be sure to warn people that they should look out for the toothpick.
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup butter or margarine at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk or half and half
In a small bowl, blend cocoa and boiling water into a smooth paste
In a medium bowl, beat butter or margarine until creamy. Beat in 1/2 of the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add cocoa paste, remaining powdered sugar, and milk or half and half. Beat until fluffy and frosting is a good consistency for spreading.
Cake Baker’s Note: Coffee deepens the chocolate flavor. If you wish, add a teaspoon of coffee granules or espresso powder with the cocoa. Adjust the consistency by adding more milk, a teaspoon at a time. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time. But be aware that adding more sugar will make the frosting sweeter.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
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