Granny's Famous Chocolate Cake
I think I have mentioned that my grandmother was an amazing baker. She was an all round amazing cook, but I always loved her chocolate cake. It was moist, never dry, and of course, made from scratch. My granny didn't believe in using mixes.
Her icing was never too sweet, and the finished cake looked like it belonged in a magazine. It wasn't until years later, that I managed to pry the recipe from my sister's hands.
Granny's cake was always present at birthday celebrations, afternoon teas and the many bazaars that she attended and baked for. Personally, I think the main reason Granny was so popular with her church and the Eastern Star was because she produced the most amazingly scrumptious cakes and pasties.
I often wondered why she didn't open her own bakery, until I was old enough to help her in the kitchen! Her kitchen staff would have quit on the first day when faced with all the clean up. I'm positive that she used every single utensil and pan in the cupboards!
One memory that stands out vividly is having to tip-toe around the house while granny was baking. Because she made everything from scratch, she was worried that if anyone banged or thumped, her cakes or bread would 'fall'.
For those of you who don't understand what I am talking about, I will do my best to explain.
There are many reasons that cakes baked from scratch can fall. (Most mixes are pretty fool-proof.) Sometimes it is due to improper temperature - too high or too low, too much oil, flour or sugar, or it could be that it was over-beaten. This is why it is so important to measure and mix according to the recipes.
My grandmother always followed the recipe. She would know the ingredients, and she would measure, but as she was so familiar with the recipes she could gauge some of the ingredients, using a pinch of this and a dash of that instead of teaspoons. However, the main reason that one of her cakes might fall, would be due to the amount of air in the batter.
To this day, I still use a trick that she taught me to keep a cake from falling. When you have the batter in the pans, pick them up approximately an inch from the counter top and drop them. This causes the air bubbles that are caught inside the batter to rise to the top and pop, which reduces the chances of the cake falling.
Personally I think the main reason we had to tip-toe when granny was baking was so she could have at least an hour of uninterrupted quiet.
Don't forget to pre-heat the oven
- CAKE INGREDIENTS
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon cocoa, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/4 cups self rising flour, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon or vanilla
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- MOCK CREAM FILLING INGREDIENTS
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 2-3 drops vanilla
- milk optional
- CHOCOLATE ICING INGREDIENTS
- 1 cup icing sugar, sifted with,
- 3 teaspoons cocoa
- 1-2 drops vanilla
- 1 teaspoon butter, dissolved in
- 1 tablespoon hot milk
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans To prepare cake:
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and cocoa and beat well.
- Stir in the dissolved baking soda and milk. Add the flour and lemon flavoring, beating lightly with a fork.
- Add boiling water and mix until well blended. Place mixture into cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in pan before transferring to wire rack. When cold, fill with Mock Cream and ice with Chocolate Icing
- To prepare Mock Cream: Cream butter, gradually adding icing sugar
- Beat mixture until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla. (A little milk may be added if mixture is too thick.)
- To prepare Chocolate Icing: Mix icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla and dissolved butter and milk mixture until smooth.
Real vanilla is actually the inside seeds of a vanilla bean. It mostly comes from a Mexican species of Orchid. It's name is derived from "Vaina" which means "little pod".
You can boil or heat the bean in almost any liquid to infuse its flavor, but vanilla extract was traditionally made using an alcohol base. (Many supermarkets pulled vanilla extract from their shelves due to the alcohol.)
You can also put vanilla beans in a sealed container of sugar to make vanilla sugar.
Vanilla is quite expensive and in demand for not only baking, but for flavoring of medicines and beverages as well as for its fragrance. Many perfumes, candles and deodorizers use vanilla, however, because of the cost and demand, many companies use synthetics instead of natural vanilla beans.
Just to give some perspective on vanilla's cost, next to saffron, vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world.
I never saw my granny use vanilla beans, she always had a bottle of vanilla extract in her cupboard. I can remember being told to "never, ever, touch this" although I didn't know why until I was much older.
I understand why my granny was concerned about my tasting the wonderfully fragrant extract, but she needn't have worried. Even though vanilla smells divine, and can stimulate (and suppress,) the appetite, my all-time favorite flavor is chocolate.