nosh friday: winning hearts and minds cake
Sometimes, you need a secret weapon. Like superheroes have their magic rings and lassos and whatever (I’m no superhero expert, surprise surprise), every person has a special dish that they whip up for one of several reasons:
- To impress, woo and generally mesmerize members of the opposite sex
- To say thank you when words can’t suffice
- To impress upon people the general aura of your mastery at the helm of the stove
- To celebrate a special day or occasion (because balloons and confetti are actually really boring)
I can’t lie, I’ve used this marvelous cake for all of the above reasons. Its name is derived from Molly Wizenberg’s theory that this cake has magical powers over the opposite sex; she recommends baking it for a man (or woman) for whom you’re feeling rather amorous. I’m not entirely sure how it works but in the end, I suppose it can only help you on your quest o’ wooing. (She even baked a bunch of these in place of wedding cake when she got married. An idea I fully plan on stealing, mostly because nothing is sexier than a crinkled, soft and fudgy chocolate cake.)
This is a favorite of mine to whip up for friends that I visit, because the ingredients and process are so simple and the results are so outstanding. I’ve been known to travel with my 9-inch round cake pan for exactly this reason. (You think I’m kidding? Just ask my friends. I’m not. I actually travel with a cake pan in my luggage.) I just made it for my mom and sister’s birthdays last weekend and along with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, plates were being licked. As for the wooing of the menfolk, my success rate is slightly lower. All I can say is that is might be more due to my awkwardness than the cake.
In fact, it was definitely not the cake’s fault.
Alas. I diverge. I think you’ll love this cake. You might love it so much that you find yourself ignoring the person you’re trying to impress and simply whispering sweet nothings into the cake pan.
Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
7 ounces best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
NOTE: For this cake, invest in the best chocolate you can afford. For me right now, that’s Ghiradelli. But by all means, if you can splurge on Valrhona or Scharffen-Berger, go for it. Just make sure to use bittersweet chocolate; store-brand semisweet chips won’t cut it. Don’t dishonor the cake like that. Now, to move on…
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with buttered parchment. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stir together the chocolate and butter until melted. Take off the heat and stir in the sugar, whisking well until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the eggs in one at a time, incorporating each fully before the next addition. Once the eggs are fully mixed in, add the flour and mix until the batter is thick, smooth and shiny. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center only jiggles slightly, if at all, and the top is shiny and cracked.
(Be warned, this is not a beautiful cake; it is rustic, knobbly and more than a little homely. But what it lacks in flash, it makes up for in taste. It has the most delicious fudgy texture and cuts beautifully. It is quintessentially the ugly girl in the movie who takes off her glasses and is suddenly hot.)
Let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack, then onto your serving platter, with the crackled side facing up. Let it cool completely, overnight if possible, before serving. It is very rich, so just a small plop of lightly sweetened whipped cream is perfect.