Growing up, the only time I ever ate homemade cake was when my grandmother made it. No one else I knew, least of all my mother whose idea of cooking was Chef Boyardee and slice and bake cookies, made cakes from scratch.
When my grandmother did make one of her special cakes, which was usually for party or gathering, it was the equivalent in my family of a national event. Word spread like lightning that she had arrived and with a cake. Grandmother brought a cake. What!? Grandmother brought a cake! O my God, what kind? WHAT KIND OF CAKE?
Once at a party, my uncle and mother hid my grandmother’s beautiful lemon chiffon cake so we could have it all to ourselves. Later, after the last guest had left, my uncle pulled the cake out of it’s hiding place and we ate fat slices, thrilled that there was still plenty leftover for us to enjoy later.
No matter what we were doing, everyone was much more excited about the cake than whatever reason we were together to celebrate – a wedding, a bride, a birthday, even a new baby. The cake always reigned.
Which then made homemade cake, in my mind at least, a big mystery. How does one make a cake? What are the special techniques needed? Were does one buy the ingredients to make something as special and complicated as a cake?
I had no answers to those questions for years and years. But then one day, I saw an actual cake recipe in a cookbook. And I realized that the level of difficulty in making a cake might not be the same as say, parting the Red Sea, which is always how I imagined it to be. I mean, a cake only consists of mixing together flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. It does not involve parting tons and tons of water, sustaining sea life, and rescuing a group of slaves pursued by a terrifying army.
Maybe I could actually make a cake?
I have been experimenting with cake making ever since, trying new recipes here and there. And I have a new one that I love. Partly because it does not involve sifting the dry ingredients half a dozen times, which is such a pain.
This is what you will need: 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, 1/2 cup of softened butter, 16 oz light brown sugar, 3 large eggs, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 8oz sour cream, 1 cup hot water, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
To start, melt the semi-sweet chocolate morsels in the microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. Then stir until the chocolate is all smooth.
Beat the butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well-blended. Then add the eggs, 1 at a time. And the melted chocolate.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add it to the chocolate mixture alternating with the sour cream. Start and end with the flour mixture and mix at low speed. Gradually add 1 cup of hot water in a slow stream and mix together. Stir in vanilla.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10′ tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a long toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar on top.
And if you want to make it even more decadent, add a chocolate ganache. Microwave 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate morsels and 1/2 cup of whipping cream for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 3 Tbsp. of butter until smooth. Let the sauce sit for 20 minutes then serve it with the cake. And as always, strawberries make everything better.