The school's Spring Festival is tomorrow, and I've committed to bring a cake to be used as a prize in the cake walk. As I looked around the room and saw the mothers signing up and saying blythely, "I'll bring two more cakes," I realized I was the only one to whom bringing a cake meant first making the cake. Sign of the times; call me a diehard.
I remember bringing a huge three-layer Devil's Food Cake to the Fall Festival a few years ago. There were lots of homemade cakes there, lavishly decorated, but I don't think one of them was created without using a mix. I don't want to be a snob about this. It's happened in my lifetime, this universal acceptance of a cakemix cake being a homemade cake, but I am stuck in the time warp in which homemade is synonymous with made from scratch. And it's so easy, and so much more rewarding, I can't see why any stay at home mom could resist the siren call of baking. (I will say this, most of those mothers are not stay at home moms and have every excuse for taking any shortcuts they choose in any and every endeavor.)
But I went to my recipe books to find a guide for baking a Devil's Food Cake. What has happened to "devil's food"? Politically incorrect? And the old recipes always used buttermilk or sour cream; some used brown sugar. All the newer books have myriad recipes for chocolate cakes, but the name Devil's Food is not among them. You have your Fudgey Chocolate Layer, your Very Moist Chocolate Layer, and so forth. Luckily I have a couple of vintage editions of The Joy of Cooking -- they're sure to have a classic recipe. Nick Malgieri has one: "1942 Devil's Food Cake Layers." I think that's the one I'll go with. However, he suggests frosting it with fluffy white icing or whipped ganache -- both of which might be fine, but not the thing for an authentic Devil's Food.
The real thing must be iced with a cooked chocolate frosting, like a fudge, one of the trickiest things to pull off in any kitchen. You see, the effect you want is a cake and candy combination, that texture of the very moist cake layer topped with a firm fudgey chocolate. It's difficult because the icing has to be cooked until it will firm up, then beaten slightly, then spread onto this moist cake before it hardens. And then it has to harden but not be quite as hard as fudge. Wish me luck.
Why I would produce this masterpiece and give it away for the cake walk is a mystery even to me. I have cooked for years as an excuse to lick bowls and spoons and then to sample the product. I've tried to change my ways as my aging metabolism makes it ever more difficult to ward off then ensuing obesity such indulgence portends. No doubt I will take a swipe of tongue against spoon as I put it into the sink, but for now I am enjoying the mere anticipation of the fragrance of chocolate melting in my kitchen and permeating the air throughout the house.
Sometimes we have to be grateful for very small blessings. And wish the cake walkers well!