Thursday, March 4, 2010

chocolate cake, part two

This is the email I got from my mother yesterday after reading chocolate cake, part one!

Hi Joanne,
Excuse me, what is part 2? And how much better can it get?
Love you, MOM
P.S. I'm crossing my fingers for all who try to make this cake--- trust me, it will turn out really, really well!

She makes me laugh....

Back to my story.... Probably a year ago I submitted the story and the chocolate cake recipe to AARP. I even sent a photo of me at my 6th birthday party eating the cake and licking the icing off the candles. Everything was under control with the magazine, so I thought. Or was it?

A few weeks later, the editor called, "One little glitch, we have to cut the story a little and edit the recipe. We ran out of room! We've got to squeeze the whole story onto one page."

"No problem, do what you need to!" I said.

Months went by and I completely forgot about the chocolate cake story. And then early January, the phone calls, texts and emails started trickling in. Friends, family, students and subscribers got the magazine and loved reading the oh-so-charming story I'd poured my heart into. Making the cake was something else. Let's put it this way.... The chocolate cake hit the fan!

The first comment was about the frosting. Seems in the editing, somehow it went from frosting between the layers and the top to that plus the sides. I knew there definitely wasn't enough frosting in the recipe to frost the whole cake. That brought a few dozen emails. I decided to test the cake and the frosting recipe to see if I could stretch the frosting to make it go around the sides. No way! You'd have to double the ingredients for the frosting!

And then what do you do with the boiling water in the first paragraph? The recipes says to "melt the chocolate and butter in boiling water over medium heat, until smooth." Maybe to an experienced cook that makes sense? To the novice cook, that's complicated. I got a hundred emails about that. So I tested the cake again. Yup, still perfect!

Then there's another cup of hot coffee added later. One person wrote and asked if it was a cup of ground coffee or hot liquid coffee. My, oh my! I had a hot flash!

Someone wrote and said they put the batter into two 8-inch cake pans and as it baked, it ran over the sides and cooked onto the floor of the oven? Oh, that's right, I originally wrote DEEP cake pans. And to think... Removing one little word can make such a difference!

A few people said the cake was crumbly.... And I thought that's what you're looking for in a delicious homemade chocolate cake?

Someone wrote and said "I haven't baked a cake in 53 years but I loved your story so much I decided to make your chocolate cake for my daughter. The flavor was delicious but it was a soupy mess. And my cake was much lighter in color than yours in the picture." I asked her what kind of chocolate she used? "Hersey's chocolate chips," she said. I checked the recipe again. Yup, I said unsweetened chocolate. "And my oven isn't really working very well. It doesn't get hot at all!" she said. "Riiiiiiiiiiiggghhttt!" I said.

"Why was my cake batter so liquid?" a few people asked. Another flash and I decided to make the cake again for the third time. Perfect, nothing had changed.

Someone asked, why was their cake filled with air holes and tunnels? That's easy, I thought, you beat it too much. When you add the dry ingredients, make sure you fold them into the batter gently just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. "Fold?" he asked, "I've folded clothes, how do you fold batter?"

The cake didn't come out of the pan? Did you grease and flour the pan well?
Did you run a knife around the edges before inverting the cake? Did you let it cool enough?

The emails have started to subside now. Little did I know that AARP magazine goes out to 5 million subscribers. I have to admit I kind of miss those emails. I really loved everyone who wrote and told their story, asked their questions. I learned a lot, they learned a lot. And I'm still holding out hope that every once in a while someone in a dentist office will pick up a dog-eared copy of AARP Magazine and see the story. They'll tear out the page, make the cake and write me an email.

So a little vote of confidence from me and my mother. I promise you, the cake is tried and true. I've made it, my mother's made it. We've eaten it our whole lives. Remember what she said in yesterday's email.... She's crossing her fingers for all who try to make this cake--- trust her, trust us, it will turn out really, really well!

photo credit Alexandra Grablewski


Tina said...

Loved this story, can't wait to make the cake. I'm glad you included the detail about the frosting - the photo in your heading as well as the AARP article shows the cake side frosted, so I'd have probably overlooked your instruction to frost only the top of each layer instead of the entire cake. Many thanks!

Cynthia said...

You are the best! I absolutely love your recipes. They always come out PERFECT!! Please, I'm dying to make your Moms chocolate cake and cannot find the full recipe, can you please help me? I've promised to make this cake for my husbands birthday (tomorrow).
Indiana, PA