the incredible, edible cake: recipe and backstory
This is a well-loved cookbook. When I pick it up to bake a cake--it's usual purpose--I can tell which page I need based on how the pages feel. Can you tell that this page is where my favorite cake lives? It also happens to be the cake that was selected as most edible in the most recent DMBLGIT? competition and I've been promising the recipe so I'd better get on with it.
From what I can tell, most people have a favorite cake. The one that is requested for birthdays year after year--even somewhat apologetically at times, as if every occasion requires a visit to the Land of newThings. While I love new recipes as much as the next food blogger, I also have to put in a word for the nostalgia of an old favorite, especially if it's chocolate cake. And this cake is nothing if not an old favorite. I've been having this cake at least once a year for most of my life. I am sure that nobody fed it to me when I was an infant, but I'd be willing to bet that by the time I could toddle it was on my short list of yummiest things ever!
Better than that, it's one of those special treats that I've been lucky enough to eat at the the place that made it famous, The Nut Tree in Vacaville, CA. I see they have closed, which is a major loss, but there are rumors of reopening so perhaps all in not lost. As a restaurant, it was magical: not just kid-in-nice-restaurant magical, but truly--they had their own railroad and airport! Sadly, I never got to fly in just for dinner, but it did put the thought into my twelve year old head and I've since been lucky enough to fly other places just for dinner. (My, does that sound decadent or what?) When you sat down at The Nut Tree, they delivered a miniature loaf of freshly baked bread with its own adorable little knife (which was probably just a steak knife, but who cares when it's next to bread still warm from the oven) and a tub of whipped butter if I recall correctly. Is it any surprise that this is the same time in my life that I decided to learn to bake really good bread?
But I digress...back to the cake. I've introduced a couple of friends to it and gotten them hooked to the extent that one just says, "will you make that cake?" when she's coming to visit. No additional description or request needed. And the cake gets made, because I think she might hurt me if I didn't.
What's so special about ths recipe, you ask? I am not sure, but I think it's air. Both the cake and the frosting have beaten egg whites and it produces this amazing texture, light enough to offset the richness of the chocolate without lightening the flavor at all. The scribbles are for a variation I've been trying that uses 70% cocoa bittersweet, and it says "3+ oz" because I've been melting 3 oz of chocolate into the batter and then tossing in an extra handful of bittersweet flakes.
More stiffly beaten egg whites in the frosting--I am telling you, it's the air. One warning, don't make the frosting too far ahead of time, it will weep on you no matter how hard you try to avoid it. I usually bake the cake the day before I am serving it--oh yeah, in my dreams I am that organized...sometimes I am darned near blowing on the cake yelling, "cool off!" as company pulls in the driveway--and save the frosting for my day-of-party to-do list. Luckily, my friends find my chocolate smeared face fetching. Maybe they don't get enough homemade chocolate cake. Poor them.
The finished cake, I believe those are bittersweet flakes pressed onto the icing, but I am not positive because I didn't make this one, Brynna did. (can i have round of applause for the oh-so-capable apprentice?) The mint is from my garden, and the raspberries are from Jessica and Sunrise's place--which is about the most beautiful bed and breakfast I've ever had the pleasure of hanging out at.