Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick After-Battle Triple Chocolate Cake

Today's recipe is Quick After-Battle Triple Chocolate Cake!

This one is somewhat related to dragons, actually, being from the Enchanted Forest. Not to mention being loaded with chocolate, which the dragons I know all adore. You can find this recipe in the appendix of Patricia C. Wrede's Book of Enchantments, a collection of 10 excellent short stories on various topics. The last story in the book is 'Utensile Strength', the tale of the Frying Pan of Doom and the source of this recipe. I highly suggest reading the book!

So let's get started!

There are quite a few things we need for this, not the least of which are three different kinds of chocolate. Since it's a cake, we need flour (the larger copper canister in the back). We also need both brown sugar (bag with clothespins) and white sugar (smaller copper canister). Ruth has brought the chocolate milk (or 'milk from a chocolate cow, if you prefer) and stuck it behind the salt and butter. It's in a glass bottle because we've decided that milk from the local dairy tastes better than the store or national brands of milk. Red brought the vanilla extract, and Hi-chan has the bag of chocolate chips. Black rolled in the eggs and is getting them safely tucked between Hi-chan and the bottle of blackstrap molasses. Behind that, we have our third chocolate--unsweetened cocoa powder. We also need a little baking soda (on top of the cocoa powder) so we don't have a completely flat cake.

Here we have all the things we'll need to put the cake together! Ruth has brought two glass bowls, as
some of the dry ingredients need to be mixed separately before getting added to the whole thing. He's brought along his favorite spoon as well, and decided that the scale makes a good stool. We don't precisely need the scale, but it's good for conversions. Next to Ruth and the bowls, we have cooking spray for greasing our cake pan. We're using a 13" by 9" (33 cm by 23 cm) rectangular cake dish--glass because that's all I have. I've set my electric hand-mixer in the cake pan, as it's a bit too heavy for any of the dragons. Hi-chan has measuring cups, and Red has the measuring spoons he so adores. Black seems to be having fun pushing in the liquid cup-measure.

The instructions say to begin by having the prisoners get a good fire going and pile shields around it to hold in the heat, since you're expected to be making this after a good battle. Being in a mundane kitchen, Black takes care of setting the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Now we need to grease and flour our cake pan (which we're using in place of a shield). This is a working-together job, as Archi holds the pan still while I hold the can still and Ruth gets to push the spray-nozzle. After the pan is well-greased, we put a bit of flour in it and shake it around to coat.

We need 1/2 cup (113 g) butter or margarine, which is an entire stick if you're using stick butter. Hi-chan is getting the butter out of its wrapping while I hold it still. A neatly wrapped stick is a lot easier to deal with than trying to measure out a spear head's worth.

Once the butter is in the bowl, beat it until it's fluffy. Even Ruth isn't big enough to handle the hand mixer well, so the dragons hold the bowl still and watch while I beat the butter into fluffy submission.

Red adds 1/2 cup (80 g) packed brown sugar. He's using the 1/4 cup measure twice, because the 1/2 cup measure didn't fit into the bag of brown sugar very well. Since I know my fist is smaller than Archi's, there's no chance of it being the right size to measure the sugar! I'd rather not play guesswork too much in baking, it can upset the chemistry and result in failed cake.

Hi-chan gets to add 1/2 cup (100 g) white sugar. The 1/2 cup measure has no problem fitting into the sugar canister.

After making rather a mess in the attempt to beat everything together with the hand mixer, Ruth took over with the spoon to mix the sugars and butter. More control, less mess, sweet mix. I think the whole mix is too dry for the mixer to deal with happily.

Everyone watches as I crack two eggs into the bowl with no dropped shell. You do not want stray bits of eggshell in your cake. They may be an excellent source of calcium, but they don't taste very good and tend to poke your tongue in a rather uncomfortable manner.

With the eggs added, the hand mixer is cooperating again. Fortunately the dragons are content to hold the bowl and watch the batter spin as I mix it for them, as each of the next few ingredients needs to be mixed in thoroughly before adding the next.

Red adds 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract. He was able to pick the spoon back up when he dropped it. The 'good splash' of vanilla will enhance the taste of the chocolate.

Black jumps at the chance to add the 'Secret Magic Ingredient'--2 tablespoons (30 mL) blackstrap molasses. Do make sure you get blackstrap molasses, which has been boiled three times and has a more robust flavor than regular molasses. I'm sure regular molasses will work, but it won't taste quite the same. Once this is all mixed up, we set it aside and grab the other bowl.

Ruth takes charge of adding 1 cup (140 g) flour to our smaller bowl. This is the base of the dry ingredient mix. I still don't think my fist is a good measuring implement. (The original recipe wants 'two or three fistfuls of flour'.)

Hi-chan adds 1/3 cup (33 g) unsweetened cocoa to the flour, the first of three types of chocolate getting everyone excited.

Red added the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but the spoon got away from him just as Archi snapped the picture, so he's pouting, and ignoring my reassurances. The original author of this recipe must have huge hands, because he describes this measurement as a 'pinch'.

Since he was upset about dropping the spoon, I let Red add the 1 teaspoon baking soda, even though he'd just added the prior ingredient and I try to make sure everyone gets an equal turn. Black didn't mind, though, so it was all good. Red got his confidence back as he was able to hold the spoon steady this time.

Ruth's turn now, stirring it all together! I think we probably should have used a slightly larger bowl. Oh well, Ruth is good at being careful not to spill. This is how your mix should look when it's done, a nice even chocolate colour all the way through. Don't get too worried if you miss a spot, though, you'll have another chance to get it all mixed up in a minute.

Now we add a little of our flour mixture into the butter mixture we'd set aside. Don't add it all at once or you'll have quite the mess on your hands when you go to beat it in.

Measure out 2/3 cup (160 mL) milk from a chocolate cow, or chocolate milk if you can't find a chocolate cow. This is chocolate form number two, so add it bit by bit to the mixture, alternating between flour-mix and milk and mixing after each addition, until both are completely mixed in.

Archi and I decided we had to try a little of the chocolate milk to make sure it was yummy enough, so he poured us each a cup. Hi-chan decided she wanted a sip of mine. Red wants a sip too, but isn't sure he can manage to grab one without falling in. I got a smaller cup out to let the little ones have a taste. Ruth was more interested in getting the milk into the cake.

Once all of the flour-mix and milk is mixed in, it should look about like this. Now it's starting to look like it'll actually make a decent-sized cake!

Hi-chan is very excited to add our third chocolate--a full 6 oz. (170 g) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Since I don't have a second-best sword to hack a hunk of chocolate to bits with, I buy the chocolate already in bits. Red and Black both appear to be trying to figure out if they can get away with stealing a chocolate chip.

The dragons watch me mix everything in together one last time, making sure that the chocolate chips are well-blended with the rest of the batter. Now we're ready to pour it all into the baking pan!

Now to make it look like a cake! Everyone grabs a good spot to watch from, Black finding a nice perch on the handle of the pan, and Ruth grabs a spatula to help him coax the batter out into the pan while I hold the bowl still for him. Mmm, chocolatey.

This isn't a runny batter like most cakes, it's thicker and more like brownie batter, so Ruth uses the spatula to spread it across the pan and tuck it into the corners. This way we'll have a nice smooth cake, instead of a gooey mess in one spot and burned edges from the unbalanced way it landed in the pan.

Now we put the cake into the oven. Ruth doesn't seem to be sure he wants to let go just yet. I have to close the door or it won't cook, silly! Dragons really like chocolate.

The cake needs to bake for about 35-40 minutes, so Black sets the timer for 35 minutes (it starts counting down right away, Archi just wasn't quite fast enough with the camera today). Anytime a recipe gives a range, always start with the shortest time and add more if needed. You only want to bake something for as long as it needs, no longer. Now, we wait.

The timer went off, so it's time to pull out the cake. Ruth is having fun helping! Remember, dragons may be heat-resistant, but you aren't! Make sure to use an oven mitt or towel to keep from burning your hand when you pull something out of the oven.

Red grabs the cake tester and marches out to the middle of the cake to use it. Since our cake is flat and solid, there's no record of his passage. If it were a fluffy cake he would've left marks. The cake tester came out clean, so we know our cake is done, and it just has to cool. Make sure it's well cooled before trying to cut it, or the pieces will fall apart and the gooey chocolate chips will get everywhere and make a grand mess. Chocolate stains are one of the harder ones to get out of clothing, so you're better off waiting just that little bit longer so that you can eat your cake without getting it everywhere.

Cut the cake and dig in! Yummy! Anyone want some whipped cream or powdered sugar with that? Guess not, they're too busy eating cake.

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