Thursday, March 19, 2015

27. BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE & BUTTERCREAM FROSTING (GARBAGE CAKE)

One year ago this afternoon my grandkids Sophie, Parker and Ruby were helping me in the kitchen when the phone rang.  It was their dad, my son John, telling us that there was a new little Connors boy snuggled in his new momma's arms. We screamed, and jumped, and ran around in joyful circles.  This was day one of WWW:  the World With Walter.  Really, this world had been a little off kilter before Walt, but his little chunk of love added just the right amount to return it to proper balance.  So everyone, whether they know it or not, should celebrate this boy.

Today Walt's daddy was receiving this award from BYU.  John wasn't even going to tell us he was getting the Outstanding Professional recognition, except Ash made him.  
And so I graciously stayed home to tend so Ashley could go watch him be honored and hear him speak.  They were smart to give me the kids, cuz anything else and I was gonna drive down to Provo and sneak in.  Instead, Ruby and I decided to make Walter a Birthday cake.  Anyone who knows us knows that the go-to cake around here is what we call GARBAGE CAKE.  I've written the story of garbage cake in this blog before, so I won't recreate the whole story again.  Suffice it to say, this is a regular old fashioned made from scratch chocolate cake that is so good people like mayors and judges eat it out of the garbage.

Ruby crawled up on one of the black stools at my kitchen island. I gave her a one pound package of butter.

"OK, Ru,we're gonna do an experiment."  Her eyes twinkled and she leaned onto the counter ready to roll.  "Open this box, and take each stick of butter out."  She opened the box and pulled out four cold butter sticks. She unwrapped each stick and laid the cold cubes on top of their wrappers.
"Now lets cut two of them in four smaller pieces, and leave the other two whole.  Which ones do you think will get soft faster?" We talked about the air temperature and the temp of the butter and the temperature of the granite.  "Well, my mom usually just uses the microwave."  "Yeah, well, this is our experiment."  So for the next hour we played with Walt and ate a cheese quesadilla and did a little swinging out in the yard.  When Walt finally decided to submit to his heavy eyelids and take a nap, we got back to the butter.

"We were right, Gummy!  The smaller pieces are softer than the big chunks!" Hypothesis proven by a kindergartener.

So we mixed that soft butter with some sweet sugar.  She cracked four eggs, her little hand tapping the milky white shell against the edge of the bowl, her little thumbs crushing the first one.  She looked up at me with that "I think I did a bad job" kind of expression, and I explained how her thumbs were used to pull the shell apart, not to push the shell in.  The next three were perfectly intact as she broke them.  She whipped this eggs for four minutes (well, I took over for a couple of those.  She is, after all, a kindergartener).

Ruby does not love chocolate.  I know, that's almost unbelievable.  She likes sweets, just not chocolate. She didn't lick the beaters.  Gumpa did when he came home for lunch.

Ruby asked if she could eat a
Gingerbread Man today.
Can you tell which one is hers?
Now, frosting; that's another story.  Ru is my frosting girl.  Ru and her cousin, Bella, I should say.  The most important part of any cake or cookie is the frosting. It was a sore disappointment for her when we decided to serve my birthday cake hot out of the oven.  
Seriously, this Garbage Cake is fabulous warm without frosting.  The crust on top is sticky and so yummy all by itself.  Sometimes, to even out the cake before frosting it, I trim the outside edges with a knife.  Dave and I sit and moan as we devour those pieces of top crust.  Best part of the cake in my opinion. Sherry and I like the middle soft parts of this cake.  Kate likes the corners.  We were all meant to be together in this family.


This heavy cake can sink in the middle.
To even out the top for frosting, I sometimes trim it with a sharp knife so it's level.
(OK, so maybe I do this so Dave and I can eat the yummy top.)
Give it 15 minutes in the freezer if you trim it,
so the crumbs won't mix into the frosting.
One time I made this cake for a funeral luncheon. I frosted it and went upstairs to shower and dress for the funeral.  When I came down I discovered there was a piece taken out of the middle of the cake.  Right out of the middle of that rectangular cake pan.  I searched the house, and called through doorways, but no one was there.  It was late morning and all the kids were in school and Dave was at work.  Frustrated, fuming, and more embarrassed than I should have been, I took the cake to the kitchen at the church and apologized, suggesting they cut it up and serve it.  Turns out Johnny had decided to come home for lunch and thought the cake was up for grabs.  Seriously? (Outstanding Professional Cake Thief!)

One day Ruby will be all grown up and Walter will never again have a first birthday.  This nicely balanced earth will continue to spin and so much wonderfulness will be memory.  Still, I think people with the Connors gene will be whipping up garbage cakes for birthdays, for Sunday dinners, for funerals, and for no reason at all.

Note: I use a good quality French/Belgian cocoa for this and all my chocolate recipes.  I order it in 50 lb bags from a bakery supply store. Plain old Hersheys cocoa will work with this recipe, but if you want divine, go for the French.  My sister Ann Marie and I split the last bag I bought, dividing it up into big Ziploc bags and storing it in a cool place in the basement.  I figure this is good emergency preparedness planning.  In an emergency people without chocolate will be going through withdrawals.  We will be able to trade good quality chocolate for wheat, or water, or just about anything else, don't you think?

Cori Connors’ Chocolate Garbage Cake

1 c. cocoa (bitter, not the drinking kind!)

1 c. boiling water

1 c. buttermilk or sour milk (milk plus 2T vinegar to equal 1 c.)

2 ¾ c. flour

2 t. soda

½ t. salt

½ t. bkg. powder

1 c. butter - softened

2 ½ c. sugar

4 eggs

1 ½ t. vanilla

Use three bowls, one for dry ingredients, one for cocoa and liquids, and one mixing bowl for butter and eggs, etc. Combine cocoa and hot water in one bowl, mix well and let cool.
Sift dry ingredients in another bowl.
In a mixing bowl beat butter, then add sugar, then eggs & vanilla. Beat about 5 minutes.
Add cooled chocolate mix. Be sure it's cool or it will melt your butter.
Add dry mixture, alternating with milk. (1/3 dry, then 1/2 milk, 1/3 dry then 1/2 milk. End with dry)
Pour into pans that have either been lined with waxed paper (round pans) or grease and flour a rectangular pan.
Bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes in rectangular pan, or 25-30 minutes in round pans.
Yum.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING RECIPE

1 cup butter

3 - 4 cups powdered sugar

2 t vanilla

pinch salt

2-3 T milk, cream or half-and-half

1  Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
2  Add confectioner's sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
3  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
Add milk, heavy cream or half-and-half until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar, a ¼ cup at a time. For a softer frosting, add more milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time

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