I officially went outside my culinary comfort zone and baked – for the first time – a two-layer chocolate cake from scratch! This cake, aptly titled “The Best Chocolate Cake” – David Lebovitz’s recipe, via Cucina Nicolina (which I had bookmarked long ago under ‘maybe?’ but never had the courage to attempt it, the recipe equivalent of a tight red dress that sits in your closet and mocks you with its impossibility) – has a subtle taste and a huge, light crumb. The frosting is dense but not sugary. This is the perfect cake to be sliced alongside vanilla ice cream. In fact, I insist upon it.
But honestly, parts of the process was farcical at best. First: I couldn’t find a proper sieve and ended up sifting my dry ingredients through a mesh screen – and made a gigantic mess in the process. Second: Do NOT try to cream butter and sugar by hand. It will take eons and it is not worth a sore bicep the next day. Third: Do NOT allow the ganache that clings to your dirty dishes and pans to set overnight. It is a nightmare to remove the next day and frosting is less delicious when you have tennis elbow. Fourth: Do not add water to the ganache recipe. I forgot to, and honestly, I’m so glad I didn’t. The frosting is rich and shiny and dense with just chocolate and butter. No water needed. Fifth and final: the Lebovitz recipe calls for cake flour (not self rising) but I used regular all-purpose flour and was fine.
Other than those pretty minor caveats, you MUST make this cake. It was so simple and rewarding. I was seriously proud of my creation – “roast chicken proud,” as some would say – that I posed with the final product in a rare food-chef pairing photo op. Sure, it had deflated some and I had done a laughably bad job of frosting it, but I masked most of the mistakes with fresh sprigs of lavender from my mom’s garden.
It was the perfect conclusion to one of the richest, most decadent meals I’ve had in a while: grilled beef tenderloin marinated in champagne mustard and crushed coriander seed; potatoes gratin with cream, beef stock, rosemary, and brandy; shiitake mushrooms sauteed in red wine, scallions, garlic and ginger; and a watercress salad dressed with oil and lemon (because SOMETHING has to be light on the menu). There was a lot of crazy wine and we listened to the debut Love album but I think my bragging about the cake overshadowed everything else. Moral of the story: BAKE THIS CAKE TODAY.