When Michael died it took more than a year before I could enjoy a little square of dark chocolate. When I started eating it again...in small, sporadic doses...I knew I was climbing out of my deepest trenches of grief.
With my more recent emotional bruising chocolate was again off the menu, substituted instead by fast food and poutine.
I suppose it makes sense. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine and anandamide--two whozzits that can mimic love's chemistry. Why would I want to go through the (e)motions of love when there was no one to love...or even be fond of.
After a couple of weeks it hit me like one of Lennox Lewis' right hooks: Chocolate cake NOW.
Well...I guess my bruising is fading.
Like many of us, I have dozens, if not hundreds of chocolate cake recipes, of varying pedigrees. This one is inextricably linked to Alton Brown's Chocolate Fudge cake is, quite honestly, the only one that will do to sweep away as much hurt as possible in bad times, and flood my being with happiness in better times.
The batter is quite thin--pancake batter thin--but don't let that worry you. If you decide to portion it out into cupcakes, the easiest way to fill the muffin bowls is by using a ladle. When baked, the crumb is tight, moist and midnight-like.
You can top it any way you choose. I topped one batch of cupcakes with vanilla icing and slathered peanut butter icing on another cake.
Really, I think peanut butter icing is the way to go.
I normally don't suggest particular brands in my recipes, but if you can get an organic product, that's the way to go. It's peanuttier and not nearly as sweet as the giant tubs adorned with characters and colours that appeal to six year olds.
Together, the cake and the icing is a salve for a bruised heart and is a sure sign that things are getting better.
adapted from an Alton Brown recipe
Yield 1 9"x13" (20cm x 29cm) cake or 24 cupcakes
45g (9Tbsp) cocoa powder
315g (2.25c) ap flour
1dspn (2tsp) bicarbonate of soda
1tsp salt (only if using unsalted butter)
110g (0.5c) butter
45ml (3Tbsp) flavourless oil
385g (2.25c) brown sugar
1dspn (2tsp) vanilla
250ml (1c) buttermilk
250ml (1c) boiling water
Preheat oven to 180C/350F; line two 12-bowl muffin tin with papers or butter and sugar a rectangular cake tin.
Sift together cocoa, flour, bicarb and salt (if using).
Cream together the butter, oil and sugar. Mix in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Mix in the buttermilk and sifted dry ingredients in the usual alternating fashion (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry). Mix in the boiling water.
Dose out into the papered bowls or pour into the prepared cake tin.
Bake for about 25-35 minutes (for cupcakes) 40-45 minutes (for the larger cake) or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean-ish. A bit of sticky crumb is fine.
Allow to cool completely before icing.
Peanut Butter Icing
110g (0.5c) butter, softened
250g (1c) peanut butter (not the kind with a load of sugar, preferably)
45ml (3Tbsp) milk or cream, (more or less, as required)
190g (1.5c) icing sugar, or to taste
Cream together butter and peanut butter until light. Beat in sugar about a quarter-cup at a time. Add enough milk or cream to achieve desired constistency. Beat for at least five minutes before using.
Food to mend a bruised heart part one: Poutine
Food to mend a bruised heart part three: Maple-glazed peppered bacon
I'm a quill for hire!