Look, after you’ve done the great vanilla cupcake experiment, you kind of start questioning all your favorite recipes.
So when Matt told me he wanted chocolate cake for his birthday, my first thought was the recipe that’s been my go-to for years. But then I wondered… how does that recipe compare to other recipes? How can I say my usual chocolate cake recipe is great if I have no means of comparison?
And thus another experiment began.
I took a similar approach to my vanilla cupcake experiment: four different recipes, one battle arena, one winner.
I wish I could say a child were involved in the making of this. It would be better for my ego.
But no, this one was all me.
As I’ve said before, I don’t decorate. I aim to make things that taste good, not look good. So why would I make a cake whose execution depends entirely on decoration? Why would I let this happen?
Nostalgia might be the best explanation. Kate and I got to talking about the PBS kids’ show Zoom, which we used to watch when we were children. We both recalled one episode in which Caroline made a rainbow cake, which Kate had always wanted to make, and which my eleven-year-old self actually did end up making not long after seeing the episode.
And then, just like that, we wanted a rainbow cake.
This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe.
I was drawn to it from the moment I saw the pictures on Foodess, the recipe source. I remember being so stricken by the pictures because the cake appeared so deeply dark, moist, and chocolatey that it looked black. That’s my kind of cake.
The darkness doesn’t quite come across in my pictures. To be fair there was no recipe for the frosting, so mine was largely improvised; however, this was day one and I swear the frosting got darker as the days progressed. Much like my outlook on life.
This is a midnight cake.
I made this late one night, after a day of trying and failing to make treacle tart. Days when baking fails you are always disappointing–not just because a recipe didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, but because at the end of the day you’re left without dessert. And that just won’t do.
I suggest going the Ina Garten route for this one.
You know, the whole meme about her preference for quality ingredients, that if you can’t get it flown in on a private jet fueled by children’s tears, “storebought is fine”?
In this case, storebought, run-of-the-mill olive oil was fine. The cake ended up tasting delicious. But maybe, had I gone with some olive oil I didn’t get from Trader Joe’s at the bargain price of $6.99 for a liter, I might have been able to taste the subtle notes of olive oil. I could taste it in the batter–in fact, I felt like I was eating a dessert salad dressing and feared I’d added too much–but like alcohol it seemed to have baked out during its time in the oven, leaving me with a moist, lemony cake. I like to think the quality of olive oil used was the reason I couldn’t taste it in the cake–I admittedly have a fairly unrefined palate, but I do remember standing at an olive oil booth at a farmer’s market one Saturday, dipping cubes of bread into shallow dishes of olive oil and actually being able to taste the differences, some smooth, some peppery, all distinct from one another. I bought a bottle of olive oil that day, though I’ve since used it all (I’d go back for more but I have a standing appointment with my pillow on Saturday mornings. And afternoons).