…(and, as I write this, seven and a half hours, but who’s counting) until the US presidential election is over, and whatever comes next, comes next, but in any case I should stop getting multiple daily polling calls and stacks of four-color glossy political ads.
Meanwhile, to keep us all going, a recipe – not a simple one this time, but one that I got from my father quite a while ago. It’s become my go-to recipe for when somebody phones up and says, “You will bring a cake to the bake sale, won’t you?” Obligatory writing reference: This is kind of like being asked to contribute a story to a charity anthology, except that you can’t keep re-using the same story from one anthology to another, but you can definitely make the same cake every time.
Anyhow, this is Marvelous Mississippi Mud Cake (or Triple-C Chocolate Cake, as I usually call it up here in far northern New England, where the marvelousness of Mississippi mud – providing, as it does, “the richest land this side of the Valley Nile” – is not exactly common knowledge):
- 5 ounces (the original recipe called for “5 squares”, but that was before the chocolate makers changed to half-ounce squares and didn’t warn anybody) unsweetened chocolate
- 2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup powdered instant coffee or instant espresso
- 2 T boiling water
- 1 cup plus 2 T cold water
- 1/2 cup bourbon, or rum, or amaretto, or cognac
(bourbon is the classic, but up here I use cognac, it being more in the local idiom)
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered (aka confectioner’s) sugar
- 3 large eggs plus 1 large extra yolk
- 1/4 cup sour cream or buttermilk
- cocoa or confectioners sugar (optional)
Generously grease a nine inch Bundt pan – 10 cup capacity. (This is a place where the recipe betrays its age and regional origins – I don’t think recipes say “grease” any more. My father would have used Crisco; I generally use Baker’s Joy spray.)
Position rack in center of oven and heat oven to 325 F.
Melt chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. (Another indication of this recipe’s vintage. These days, I melt my chocolate in the microwave.) Remove chocolate before it is completely melted and stir until smooth. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
In a two cup glass measure, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water, stir in the cold water and the bourbon or other flavoring and set aside.
Beat the butter with vanilla and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle beater until well blended and smooth. (Or, like me, use a handheld electric mixer because that’s what you’ve got.) Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the extra yolk and the sour cream. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat until the batter is smooth
Remove the bowl from the stand. (Obviously, if you’re not using a stand mixer, you can skip that step.) By hand, using a spoon or rubber spatula, stir in small amounts of the flour mixture and the coffee-bourbon liquid. Beat until the batter is smooth; it will be quite thin. Don’t worry if the batter looks slightly curdled.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake top is springy to the touch and slightly cracked looking and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean — about 65 to 70 minutes. Do not over cook.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Top with another rack or plate and invert. Lift off pan, Cool completely.
Top with light sifting of confectioner’s sugar or cocoa. Serve with bourbon-(or cognac, or whatever booze you’re using)-laced, slightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
This makes a decidedly grown-up chocolate cake. Treat yourself; after the campaign season we’ve all had, you deserve it.