Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Which There is Chocolate Cake That Won't Break the Bank (But First, a Rant)

I'm sitting here baking a cake.

Ok, not entirely accurate. I'm taking a break from baking a cake, because really it's impossible to bake a cake while sitting. I have a cake in the oven, and I am now sitting and I've got a rant coming on. There aren't going to be many pictures, unfortunately, and I know some of you may wonder what good there is in a blog entry if there aren't any pictures, so I'll do my best to find some stock photos.

There. Happy?

As some of you may know, I like to watch listen to TV while I bake, to fill all this damn silence. And, as I am in the midst of super fancy cake (goal is layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, maybe raspberry jam filling, and if I have time some chocolate meringue thingies and shavings), I thought, I know, I'll watch The Great British Bake-Off. I'll even watch an episode about cake, and then I'll be inspired, and everyone will be happy, yes?


I. HATE. the Great British Bake-Off.

Many, many people have recommended I watch Grrrreat Brrritish Bake-Off. They thought I would love this show. They love baking...I love baking...perfect match, right?

If you do not roll the Rs properly they will put you into a pudding and serve it to the queen.

Here's the thing about that show. Two things, and I hate both. One - IT'S NOT A COOKING SHOW. It's a reality TV show. It's a 'let's make people feel bad about themselves, and how their cake crumbs aren't the PERFECT SIZE cake crumbs, and now let's talk about how their mother didn't raise them right because OMG they can't make a perfect croquembouche.

Second, and it's closely related to the first, that show makes me feel like I don't know how to bake.

Let me reiterate that. It makes ME feel like IIIII don't know how to bake.

It is full of stupid game show people saying stupid things like, 'oh, if you don't whip that cream precisely right, it's going to be a complete disaster. That cake is soooo delicate. It is so difficult to make that sauce. Buildings in China are going to collapse and kill five million little children if she doesn't get that sauce right.'

Here's what I have to say to TGBB-O:

Calm the fuck down.

Here's else I have to say to you, dear readers, who may also be feeling like they don't know how to bake because if you don't get that crumb right then you are single-handedly responsible for the apocolypse: 
a) bake a cake if you want to, buildings aren't going to collapse;
b) If you want to bake a $#@ cake, and you're afraid it's going to be a disaster - well, guess what. Baking isn't rocket science. Cakes can be fixed, myriads of evils can be covered up by whipped cream, and powdered sugar fixes everything else. 

I can't even begin to tell you how many imperfect cakes I have made in my time. Underdone, overdone, slightly burnt, slightly falling apart, melty imperfect ganache - and guess what. They have all been eaten. Not a single one was so terrible that I did not get accolades afterwards. And it's NOT about me being such a great baker. It's about using a decent recipe, and following it within reason.

Here's the main things you have to know about not ruining a cake:
  1. Don't burn it. If you do burn the top, cut it away.
  2. (This is the important one. If you make this mistake, there truly isn't any saving it.) Don't confuse the salt with the sugar.
That's it. Now I'm going to go back and bake a probably imperfect cake, but before I do, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite cake recipes. Favorite because it uses no eggs - which I care about not because of vegan tendencies, but because it's cheap and I'm stingy.

If only I had a cake to feed to my starving children.

Depression-Era Chocolate Cake

(From Food.com. I don't think I've even made any changes)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda* 
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla*
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups water 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

 *pet peeve alert! 1 and 1/2 tsp is EXACTLY equal to a 1/2 tbs! So why the $#@ don't they just write that and save me having to use another measuring spoon! ARGH.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In an ungreased 9 x 13 pan- yes UNgreased, sift all dry ingredients. Despite the fact that, yes, this makes for fewer dishes, I don't like doing this. It's harder to sift. I recommend stirring in a bowl with a whisk if you have it, a spoon if you don't.
  3. Add the liquids and stir just until blended.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until passes the toothpick test. (Tookpick test = stick toothpick in the middle of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If it comes out a little gooey, stick it back in the over for 5 more minutes, continually until it's no longer gooey.)
  5. Frost with your favorite frosting, cake is extremely moist so care must be taken that you don't tear up the top of the cake.
 Here is my favorite cheap cake topping recipe. Credit to my friend and former flat-mate, L.  
Cheap Cake Glaze: 
  1.  Take powdered sugar. Mix in a cup with a fork with a little bit of water until it's runny enough to spread on the cake, yet not so runny it's like a liquid. If you want to get fancy, use a bit of cocoa or alcohol instead of the water. Done.

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