After a hard day when everything wrong seems to just keep on getting deeper and deeper, I find a decadent bite of chocolate to be a cure all. Maybe it's all pyschological or the endorphins being released by my pituitary gland (anatomy and physiology anyone?), but by God, chocolate has a power to soothe the angry heart, quell the tangles of the mind, and calm the huffing and puffing of the deflated soul.
While the taste of dark chocolate (let me be snotty: it's the only chocolate I eat) is my primary number 1, I also love chocolate for its beautifully profound scent. The aroma of chocolate itself is quite intoxicating, but imagine a real cake, steaming out of the oven and richly dark in its chocolate glory. A whiff of a cake like that can get you dropping onto the floor in no time.
I had just come back to my dorm after a distressful day of classes and all I could think of was "I need to eat chocolate cake". While I have had moments in life where a quiet urge dissipates by the end of the day, this sly one had grew intense by each foot step as I closed in towards my dormitory.
Yet, alas, life is never as simple as walking into a mind-blowing piece of chocolate cakes. College students (and me included) tend to find themselves resorting to boxed cake mixes as a way to compensate the true need for cake. No matter what they say, "add a pinch of spice" or "some extract will make it better", cake mixes never have had that genuine taste of love and comfort. Whatever additional steps to make the cakes more "home-y" seem to just be another fake mask, meagerly hiding the cake from its honest form.
Determined to bake a delicious chocolate cake that retained a comforting essence, I took out my bowls, a spatula, and some baking goods. I opted to do a vegan cake where I wouldn't need to be pestered to cream butter and add eggs. Living in a dorm setting, the most I could find myself doing it measuring and mixing.
Thus, came out this beautiful chocolate cake. The recipe comes from multiple websites (just Google it), but I adapted it to suit my own preferences and needs. The chocolate cake came out wonderfully and very economically. I didn't need a multi-layer masterpiece with tons of icing, so this single layer cake is perfect for a healing bite and leftovers to share (if you must, that is) and future comfort (as I'm typing this, I think I'll get another piece...)
Single 20 Serving Amazon Cake (Vegan and chocolate rich!)From The New York Times
Adapted from Cafe Beaujolais by Margaret Fox and John S. Bear
serves 6 to 8
1 ½ cup flour 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa 1 t. baking soda 1 cup sugar ½ tsp salt 5 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (or replace with vanilla if you don't have it or have allergies) 1 tbsp vinegar (whatever you have on hand) 1 cup cold water or leftover coffee
Equipment: 2 bowls (both large, but if you have different sized bowls, I've accommodated that situation in the recipe), a spatula, measuring cups and spoons (baking requires accuracy- guess-timating is not recommended), 1-9 inch cake pan (non-stick makes life that much easier), 1 oven, oven mitts or thick kitchen towels (cause taking out a hot cake pan is never a good idea...)
Pre-heat the oven 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a different and larger bowl, mix the oil, extracts and vinegar with water (or coffee). Whisk in the dry ingredients slowly until the batter is lump free
(Warning: Stop right when the batter is smooth, don't go gung-ho and whisk any longer
because the gluten in the flour will develop [this happens when you knead bread] and will
toughen the cake.)
Pour into a greased (spray with oil or rub oil around the pan with a piece of paper towel) 9-inch round cake pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
-Check the cake at the 20 min. mark, and assess:
-If you've got a toothpick (or chopsticks in my case), put it in the area with the most batter (usually the middle) and see if the pick comes out clean or with very few crumbs. If so, the cake's done!
-If not, give the cake 5 more minutes and check in 5 min intervals to avoid over-baking.
Let cool for 20 min. or until you can handle the pan.
The beauty of cake is that you can serve it whenever you feel like. Serve warm (as is my preference) with a dollop of cream or ice cream. Ah, the taste of the chocolate cake does wonders to comfort the tense nerves from a hard day...