Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's snowing. Make a cake.

We had a freeze.  We had a thaw and lots of rain.  Now it's been snowing all day, big thick flakes.  Gray, cold weather seems to require something to cheer things up.

For some reason I was thinking about the "Delicious Death" cake in Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced.  Next to Esther's Orange Marmalade cakes in the Mitford books, that's probably the literary cake I've always been most curious about.  It turns out that about three years ago there was a big AC birthday celebration, and to mark the occasion they created a real, actual recipe for "Delicious Death," a rich chocolatey flourless cake with fruit and rum in the middle and sugared fruits and gold flecks and who knows what else.  Actually I never envisioned it quite as posh as that, especially if the baker in the story (Mitzi the hard-done-by maid) had to struggle just to get the post-war butter and eggs and chocolate together.  The cake in the Joan Hickson BBC version of the story looks more like a white cake with a thick chocolate glaze over the top.  So I guess you can imagine Mitzi's cake any way you like.

Besides the Small Chocolate Cake, which we still make regularly for birthdays etc., we have another 8-inch cake that I make if I have some chocolate to use up (which I did, just a bit left from Christmas baking).  It calls for two squares (ounces) of unsweetened chocolate, and I was a bit short but made up the last bit with part of a (dark, barely sweet) Polish chocolate bar.  I grated up some more of the bar for the topping.  And that is close enough to "Delicious Death" for us.

Here's the recipe. It came from a Kraft What's Cooking magazine, Fall 2001.  (You can see the whole thing here on their site, under "Mix Easy Snack Cakes."  The recipe gives three other variations, but this is really the only one we liked.)

One-Pan Chocolate Cake, Not Mitzi's But Not Bad

This is my version of the directions.  If you want to see Kraft's, click on the link above.

Preheat the oven (a toaster oven is fine, if it keeps steady heat) to 350 degrees F.  Put 1/3 cup cooking oil and 2 ounces (squares) unsweetened chocolate in an 8-inch square pan.  Kraft recommends non-stick but I don't have one, I just use Pyrex.  Put the pan in the preheated oven for about two minutes or until the chocolate is soft.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven (use mitts!) and stir with a fork until oil and chocolate are blended smoothly.

While the chocolate is getting soft in the oven, you can be assembling the other ingredients:

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda.

When the pan comes out and you have blended in the chocolate, beat in the other ingredients with a fork. Keep beating it for about two minutes.

Before baking, top the cake with any combination you like of grated chocolate, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool before cutting.

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