"What kind of cake would you like for your birthday, Jeff? I'll make anything you want in here."
Jeff flipped through the book, quickly landing on a recipe for a chocolate mousse cake that loosely resembled The Chocolate Cake we had in Florence, yet another feat of Italian culinary excellence that has ruined a beloved food for us.
While in Florence, we spent two excellent evenings at an intimate, homey eatery called Trattoria da Tito. We gorged on delicacy-laden plates such as this one.
The Big Antipasti Sampler was loaded with a variety of marinated vegetables, including whole cloves of raw garlic, along with prosciutto, regular salami, and a mysterious "this and that" salami. Call me crazy, but salami has a weird, sort of intestinal taste component that I really have to force myself to ignore if I want to choke it down, and while I was all, "ooh ahh this is like so tasty," my little "also tastes gross" flag was waving. Within 12 hours of consuming all of that questionable salami, our respective digestive tracts had much to say to us.
It may have also been the syrupy limoncello shots that boss-man Bobo ("call me Bobo"), a gregarious big guy in the mold of Pavarotti/DeLouise, forced us to slam at the end of the meal. Bobo took a shine to us and guided us through the menu (see next photo in which Bobo and a dubious Jeff toast me).
I drank one shot to be polite, but after that those two were on their own.
On the first night, it didn't take much encouraging on Bobo's part to convince us to try some dessert. He rattled off a list of about eight items, after which psychic Jeff said, "I think Kelly wants the chocolate cake." You bet I did. By and by we were presented with this:
The photo does not do the miracle on that squarish black plate justice. I quote from the journal I kept during the trip:
"That was the end of my idea of what a chocolate cake even WAS. From now on, it will be the chocolate cake against which all others will be judged. We have decided to call it The Chocolate Cake. Period. I have no idea how it was created. [Here I illustrated a cross-section of the cake, labeled with crust-mantle-core, a la my all-time favorite science diagram.]
"Crust: tasted like the top of a brownie or meringue cookie, compressed into a 1/3 inch layer that was tough to cut into with a spoon. Beneath that, a cake-ish mantle that let you know it wasn't pudding but some kind of cake with maybe one tablespoon of flour, tops, but who knows?? Dense blackish brown. Finally the core, straight-up fudge. Out of control. Clinging to the plate, a thick black monster. If one were sinking into a vat of this stuff, one would not escape but die a happy quicksand-like death. Dusting of cocoa on top and on the rosette of whipped cream next to the cake. It will haunt Jeff and me for the rest of our lives, this cake, or should I say THE cake. I would give up a year of my life for the recipe. Probably. Something big!"
And so, one month later, I presented Jeff with an almost-reasonable facsimile of The Chocolate Cake. It is merely A Chocolate Cake, but it was still swoon-worthy and kind of easy to make. We loved it. We don't want to marry it or anything, but it's got a great personality and is two tons of fun.
- 11 oz best bittersweet chocolate <--i.e. a whole bag of Ghirardelli's 60% cacao chocolate chips, which gives you an extra .5 oz
- 2 oz best milk chocolate <-- i.e. one Hershey bar, which at a mere 1.55 oz makes up for the overkill of the Ghirardelli chips
- 3/4 C unsalted butter
- 8 large eggs, separated <-- OMG you will be seeing red by the time you separate egg #8
- scant 1/2 C light brown sugar <-- slightly packed
- 1/3 C sugar
- 1 T vanilla
- pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 and put the kettle on to boil. Line the inside of a 9" springform pan with foil, making sure you press the foil well into the sides and bottom of the tin to make a smooth surface.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler or microwave, and let it cool.
In another bowl beat the egg yolks and sugars until pale and really thick, like mayonnaise. Stir in the vanilla and salt, and then the cooled chocolate mixture.
Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a briskly beaten-in dollop of whites, and then fold the rest of the whites gently into the chocolate mixture. Pour the cake batter into the foil-lined springform which you have placed in a large roasting tin.
Add the hot water from the kettle to come about half way up the sides of the tin and put into the oven.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The inside of the cake will be damp and mousse-like but the top should look cooked and dry.
Let it cool completely on a cooling rack before releasing from the tin. Peel the foil gently away from the sides. Dust with powdered sugar!
6 servings if you're us; 8 servings if you're normal.