Thursday, April 26, 2012

CLASSIC AMERICAN DOUBLE-RICH CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY 


From French to American. Films, tv series, books, news programs, politics and elections, board games, music and family vacations, a cultural back and forth like a ping pong game, the never-ending lazy tick tick tick of the small white ball flicking rhythmically back and forth across the table. Or the thunk thunk thunk of a tennis ball out in the scorching sun before we stop to catch our breath, pearls of sweat collecting on our brow.




Our constant, fluid switch from French to English and back again, even throwing in the occasional Italianism just to kick things up, baffles even the most cosmopolitan outside observer. Heads turn in our direction as we try to converse over a restaurant meal or stroll through the supermarket. One visit from a dog trainer, standing in the backyard in the center of our small family, observing our interaction with our pet as we tossed toys and called out commands: Sit! Couché! Vieni qua! His head whipping back and forth from one of us to the other, a pained, stunned look washed across his face as he asked “Can’t you speak to the dog in only one language?” Or mother and two young boys, one still in the stroller, standing in line at the checkout holding a normal, everyday conversation to pass the time; I notice all eyes turned upon us and I wonder what could possibly be wrong. Until I realize that as I spoke in English, one son answered only in French, the other only in Italian. Ah, such is life.

Intellectual flip-flops, cerebral seesaw, day in and day out we skip from French to American and back again with the ease and smoothness known only to multi-cultural families. No sweat, no thought, no biggie, just a simple way of life that seemed to come ready made, handed to us with the marriage certificate or that first bundle of joy. Over the years, we have collected jokes, objects of humor and discussion, historical tidbits, a veritable encyclopedia of cultural references that allow us to travel to France, then to America and back again with a natural fluidity that never seems to trip us up or make us stumble and fall in confusion.



And, of course, the same goes for food. Our kitchen, our table, may be a cultural melting pot, but each individual dish has resolutely retained its own personal identity. I have often written about how food has always been one way that we keep our children grounded in their roots, one tool used to teach them who they are, where they come from, each dish the tunnel leading to a single road back to a unique destination. Food, like language, like customs and so many tiny, daily rituals, is their heritage, part of a history, a way to retain each individual, singular identity of their own. And so we slide through a repertoire, from French, Italian, Moroccan, American and back again, from Blanquette or Quiche to Focaccia, Risotto and Eggplant Parmesan, from Tagine and Couscous to beef stew or pancakes until we start the circle over again. And desserts from Tiramisu and Panna Cotta, from Galette des Rois and Frangipane Éclairs to simple, homey American treats to warm a son’s heart and cravings, just simply reminds us of home.

So after a run in with an oh-so French Vanilla Custard Berry Tart, my son, who despises all things creamy, gooey or fruity in a dessert, clamored for one of his favorites, each more American than the next. “My turn!” he seemed to be saying, my little American. A simple pan of brownies or a coffee cake, if you please. Or, better yet, a chocolate layer cake. Comforted as he is by the same old familiar treats time and time again, we are often locking horns over my choices for baking. While I want to try out new recipes for posting on my blog, he just wants something to eat that he is sure he will love. Comfort on a plate. So a new recipe must be packaged to look like the old even though I know he is and has never been one to be easily fooled, if ever.


A week neck deep in the French elections and richly ensconced in everything French in the kitchen, the Beouf aux Carottes or a Cauliflower Potato Gratin, the Vanilla Custard Tart, the Tender Cooked Beef and Carrot Cannelloni and the Orange Cointreau Tiramisu, Simon requested an all-American Chocolate Layer Cake filled with his favorite Chocolate Buttercream. I turned to my mother’s 1973 Reader’s Digest Secrets of Better Cooking and found a Double-Rich Chocolate Cake. A bit cakier and fluffier than my favorite dense, moist, dark chocolate layer cake, it is nonetheless a wonderful cake, light and delicate, very chocolaty and the perfect backdrop to a rich cream filling. And, as all great American desserts, it is open to a little spontaneity, creativity and diversity by simply adding some ground cinnamon or some powdered instant espresso, replace the vanilla with orange or almond extract, grate in the zest of an orange, fill with any flavor buttercream or smear each layer with jelly or jam before piling on the whipped cream.


DOUBLE-RICH CHOCOLATE CAKE
From Reader’s Digest’s Secrets of Better Cooking

3 oz (90 g) unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups (260 g) sifted pastry or cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¼ cups (250 g) superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp orange extract, optional

1 single recipe of my Favorite Simple Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and line two 8-inch (20/21-cm) cake pans with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or over a pot of gently simmering water just until melted. Remove from the heat, stir until smooth and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour before measuring out the 2 cups (I stick my measuring cup right into the flour box or sit it on a large dinner plate and sift the flour directly into it, leveling it lightly with a knife) and then stir in the baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter with the superfine sugar until well blended, light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and orange extracts.

Add the melted chocolate to the creamed butter, sugar and eggs and beat in to blend. Beat in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions, beating just to blend after each addition.

Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or just until set in the center (I may have let mine go a few minutes too long). Remove from the oven to cooling racks, allow to cool in the pans for 10 or 15 minutes before running a thin-bladed knife around the edges to loosen the cake and turn out of the pans. Peel off the parchment paper and turn upright and allow to cool on the racks completely.

Set one layer of the cake on a serving platter, spread thickly with the Chocolate Buttercream, set the second layer on top and dust all over with powdered sugar before serving.

27 comments:

Rambling Tart said...

I had a similar craving this week and just HAD to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. This looks so good. :-) I too know that feeling of being stared at since the moment I open my mouth here people stop what they're doing to listen, trying to figure out if I'm Irish or American even though I'm neither. :-)

Jamie said...

@Rambling Tart: Krista, it is funny how many multi-cultural friends I now have that just so understand!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I'm just like you. At home we switch from one language to another (French/English/German)...

That cake looks irresistible. A wonderful classic!

Cheers,

Rosa

Jeanne said...

LOL - I remember my school friends being amazed at the ease with which my family would flit between speaking English and Afrikaans to each other when I was a kid - while we just thought of it as totally natural and something everybody could do! It's a wonderful gift to give children. Love the cake too!

Barbara Bakes said...

Looks like a perfect cake to satisfy his craving. Although I'd love all the others you linked to in the post too.

bunkycooks said...

Too many chocolate cakes and too little time to enjoy them all! Or more like, not enough notches in the waistband to be able to do so.

I always wished I could speak fluent French, but it would never happen. I learn just enough to travel with and then forget it all once home since I do not use the language here at all. I have always envied people that had the knowledge and use of several languages.

Mr. B said...

Make mine with raspberry filling and I will be stopping in.

It's funny how those special foods linger with our memories of people and places.

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

I'm always envious of those who speak multiple languages and can effortlessly switch between them. I'm very proud of my daughter who can speak French, Japanese, and English. Your little American has the right idea when it comes to the sweet things in life ;)

Lora said...

Those American food cravings all those years in Germany drove me nuts sometimes to recreate my favorite desserts. It's wonderful your boys can switch between languages so effortlessly. Although I get by in German and can re-engage my Spanish when pressed, I so envy my husband who speaks (and practices medicine) in 4 languages. That chocolate cake looks perfect!

Javelin Warrior said...

I have to agree with your son - I love traditional comforting standbys, although they don't have to necessarily be American cuisine. There's just certain flavors, textures, and pairings that I gravitate to over and over and over. I'm envious of those who have the gumption to search out new cuisines, new flavors, new textures - and sometimes I even want emulate others like this - but in the end, I always end up back with tradition, back with old comforts...

Dewi said...

Marvelous looking cake. Simply irresistible!

Spencer said...

Looks absolutely delicious! I love chocolate cake and know I would love your wonderful creation.

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef said...

I laughed at the English, French and Italian. You've done right by exposing them to the different languages. I wish I'd done it with my children.

I love your cake. I cook something decadently American whenever I get homesick. I think the time spent doing the cooking gets me over the hump.

Nuts about food said...

Your description is only too familiar: me speaking English, my children answering in Italian, throwing in the oddball word of German baby language from my childhood... or a family dinner with my relatives where we easily switch between all the above and add in some Franch or Spanish words when needed. That is the world of a multicultural family, where it becomes an effort to speak just one language, using the appropriate word in that language alone.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh what a beautiful cake and you are a clever woman repackaging a chocolate cake to become this beauty!

Lisa said...

Ahhh..to be multi-lingual. I really wish schools in America really pushed the envelope on REALLY learning another language, not just grammar based classes to fill our curriculums. That said, what a cute story, convos in three languages at once! The cake is yet another 'Jamie' masterpiece. I used to devour Reader's Digest every time it came in the mail for my father. I only wish I took more notice of the recipe section, Love the addition of cinnamon and espresso in the cake, and orange and almond extract in the vuttercream. I can only imagine how luscious it tastes!

Lisa said...

OK..now that I'm no longer blurry, I see you added the orange and almond extraxt to the cake with the espresso and cinnamon, not to the buttercream (printing it out). Please excuse my boo boo..I've been in such a fog. I did the same to Gwen, in her Honor the Animal post, this morning LOL.

BTW, let me rephrase my earlier comment about learning another language in America. It should be 'mandatory' to learn to speak another language fluently - with a trip or three to the country of the language chosen, paid for by the school, of course ;D I'm such a dreamer lol

Terra said...

I am behind on reading your beautiful blog, looks like I missed out on some gorgeous treats! This cake looks amazing!!! Hugs, Terra

vianney said...

How lucky, being fluent in many language is truly a gift. As a child we did this with our parents, great time and a even lovlier chocolate cake!

Jamie said...

@Lisa: Silly girl, look again. The vanilla and orange extracts were added to the cake batter but NOT espresso and cinnamon. Those were suggestions for variations of the cake :-) Go back to bed and rest up, baby. If I could I would bake you a cake. And I agree about languages being mandatory beginning in pre-school. It adds not only a language but an understanding of other cultures as well. xo

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I have a child who won't eat fruit desserts either? Where did we go wrong, Jamie? You found my weakness with this gorgeous chocolate cake and luscious buttercream frosting. Over the top, my friend.

Sara @OneTribeGourmet said...

I was always embarrassed when my parents spoke Urdu (language from the Indian Sub-continent) in front of my American friends. But now I do the same with my kids just to embarrass them! ha ha!

Such a decadent chocolate cake!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

There is comfort food even in dessert!

I remember going to Mexico and having a lunch with 12 people. I felt like an idiot, there were at least 7 different languages from Spanish to Russian going on at table and I could understand none. It was then that I knew my children MUST learn more than two languages. I felt like I wasn't fluent even in English. Of course, who will speak Latin to my oldest I still don't know.

Cherine said...

The cake looks wonderfil

Cake Duchess said...

I bet that book is filled with wonderful recipes. I adore a moist and delicious chocolate layer cake. The filling looks so rich and perfect. I hope my kids get a passion to learn more than Italian as they get older:)

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I had a childhood multi-cultural experience. I was sent to a progressive school when I was young and started classes in Spanish at age 11. Combined with my aunt being from Mexico...I found myself switching back and forth when around them. Which was no big deal in their house; they all did. But the killer. Their bird; yes that bird spoke both English and Spanish too. It may not seem like a big deal now but I sure was fascinated when I was a kid.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Yes, I would clamor for this cake, too. I always envied my friends who spoke more than one language at home. My own family is unilingual English, though my parents and grandparents would whisper in Yiddish when they didn't want us kids to know what they were saying.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...