My father’s marble cakes stand out in my memory, nestled between images of him, dressed in white t-shirt and Bermuda shorts, his body immersed under the hood of a car, tinkering with an engine, or scratching at the sandy Florida dirt with a rusty rake at the side of the house, coaxing up his precious plants which would eventually bear an abundant crop of splotchy tomatoes.
Watching him measure, stir, pour, marble with a passion and artistry rarely seen in any of his other activities which he always approached with a clean, calculating engineer’s precision and emotional distance, baking brought out a creative side of him that I adored. His every movement mesmerized me. The cake, beautifully marbled, moist, delicate, bursting with chocolaty flavor mellowed by the touch of vanilla was the epitome of perfecion for me and required no adornment or fancy trimmings, needed nothing more than a fork to reach utter ecstasy. My dad’s cakes may have come from boxed mixes but oh how he could perform magic from such mundane, humble origins, confections infused with love and homemade goodness that wiped away all traces of the common. He served up each carefully sliced square with pride and from a very early age I understood what utter pleasure could be derived from baking for those one loves.
And since that time, I have been baking. I prepare ethereal choux puffs from his recipe, puddings thick and luxurious, just as he loved them, and cakes galore, sponge and Bundt and dense layers sandwiching sweet, chocolaty frosting. Yet the perfect marbling, his special pride and joy, eluded me. Time and time again I tried, oh yes I did, measuring, stirring, pouring as he did, albeit with from-scratch batter, splotching chocolate atop vanilla, yet the movement of my knife cutting through the creamy thickness of dark and light created nothing better than idle banter and frustration, goopy trails of ill-defined black masses trapped in white. I attempted over and over again, I tried different methods, changed knives for finer, ever sharper points, carefully controlled my movements, worked gently, slowly, concentrated and precise. Even conjuring up memories of dad, invoking his spirit, begging the baking gods to inspire me did nothing towards answering my prayers for producing spectacular, well-defined, graceful swirls of color.
Until now. A gift of Chah Matcha Green Tea Powder from my friend Arthi filled me once again with the desire to follow in dear old dad’s footsteps. My imagination swam with images of gorgeous swirls of dark chocolate and pale green, my tastebuds tingled with the thought of chocolate mingling with the delicate sweetness of vanilla and matcha, and the memory of moist, tender mouthfuls of my father’s marble cake urged me back into the kitchen with yet another recipe to try just one more time.
Matcha and Chocolate Marble Loaf Cake, a stunning work of art both visually and for the palate, I worked from a recipe by Chef Marcy Goldman published on the Food & Wine website and, with the patience and intense concentration of an engineer and surely my father’s ghost hovering just beside me, peering over my shoulder and guiding me gently yet persistently as he always did, I finally achieved the joy, the magic that I experienced all those long years ago as I kept him company in the kitchen as he himself baked.
I inherited my sweet tooth from my parents. A passion for chocolate is in our blood. Good old fashioned Hershey’s Kisses or perfect discs of Nonperiels studded with tiny white pearl candies, Tootsie Rolls and candy bars of every ilk hidden away from tiny hands in the back of the freezer fed my childhood along with dad’s Tunnel of Fudge Bundts, Chocolate Cakes and bowls of chocolate pudding topped with mounds of whipped cream. Thick slabs of icy chocolate cream pie added the perfect finishing touch to family outings at one of a handful of favorite restaurants. And each and every one of these chocolaty treats, these childhood memories feed my passion for creating and recreating chocolate confections of every sort in my own kitchen for my own family. And I keep myself surrounded by chocolates, from the store-bought treats from my youth that I collect like precious coins and rare stamps on each trip home, hidden from my own children, as my mother before me, in a secret drawer. Or handcrafted, artisan chocolates from one or two master chocolatiers here in Nantes.
And I am proud and thrilled to announce that Hotel Chocolat is one of the generous sponsors of From Plate to Page which I am hosting with Ilva, Jeanne and Meeta this month in Weimar, Germany. Hotel Chocolat will be offering a special decadent, indulgent, surprising gift to each participant, helping make our workshop a truly delicious experience!
MATCHA AND CHOCOLATE MARBLE LOAF CAKE
Based on a recipe by Chef Marcy Goldman on Food & Wine. The marble cake can be made without the addition of Matcha tea powder if you like, but boy is this a fabulous way to use Matcha! And the results are both beautiful and delicious!
2 cups (280 g) flour
2 tsps baking powder
¼ tsp salt
12 Tbs (3/4 cup/175 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature +
3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups (270 g) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup (125 ml) whole milk
1 ½ tsp Matcha tea powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter an 8 x 4 inch (about 20 ½ x 10 cm) loaf pan. Cut a long strip of parchment paper the width of the pan and long enough to line the bottom of the pan as well as up the two narrow sides and press neatly into the pan.
Stir or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk the melted butter into the cocoa powder in a small bowl until completely blended and smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and the sugar until blended and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Beat in the vanilla.
Beat the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar in 3 additions alternating with the milk added in two, beating in each addition just until blended and smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Scoop out 1 cup of the batter and put into a small bowl. Stir the cocoa paste into the batter until well blended and smooth. Stir the Matcha tea powder into the remaining vanilla batter.
Spoon half of the Matcha batter into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan, smoothing it evenly in the pan all the way to the edges and into the corners. Plop tablespoons of the chocolate batter down the center of the pan on top of the Matcha batter then spoon the rest of the Match batter on top, gently smoothing the surface of the batter to mostly cover the chocolate but trying not to blend the two batters too much.
Using a clean, sharp knife with a narrow blade, make about 5 deep and cleaning swirls through the batter to create the marble effect.
Bake the Loaf Cake in the preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 25 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C) and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Loosely cover the top of the cake with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until just set in the center and a tester stuck deeply into the cake comes out clean.