Trifles Make Perfection, and Perfection is no Trifle*

I should say straight away that there are no recipes for trifle in this post. Sorry. As much as the neat lead-in appeals to me, I am trying not to be such a, well, perfectionist.

A few years ago I was making a lemon meringue pie for a special family dinner and what should have been a pleasant evening introducing my sister's then boy-friend to us all. Unfortunately the evening ended up as, what I can only describe as, "Cornflourgate"(yes, my behaviour was bad enough to make it a "...gate".

The fundamental mistake was trusting my (often red wine addled) mum when she told me that she had "packets and packets of cornflour in the cupboard". There was none. I blame myself. I should have checked the cupboards; I should have assembled the ingredients before starting. All this I now know, but there's something about the maternal bond that makes you want to believe a woman when she looks her child in the eyes and tells her that there is "without a doubt, plenty of corn-flour in the cupboard".

A more mature person would have turned the already juiced lemons and the hand-made pastry case into a lemon tart. A slightly more balanced person would have asked someone to go to the shops and get the wretched flour. Unfortunately, as a someone who suffers from Perfectionism** I did neither. I got angry. I lashed out and I declared in between stifled sobs that "I didn't want anything to do with the damn pie". If it wasn't going to be perfect, I didn't want my name on the bill. My mum continued with the sorry mess and the result was edible, though runny. To me it didn't matter; it was ruined and I was embarrassed to have ever been associated with it.

I realise that this story doesn't show me at my best and I assure you that I usually conduct myself with more grace than the average sugar-high 4 year old. I haven't been such a brat for a long time now, but the Perfectionism is still here.

My first post leads you to believe that I decided I wanted to start a blog and so I did. Carpe Diem! Go getting blogger-to-be gets started. No. I couldn't get the website right. I don't have a SLR camera. My photos are snap-shots. It was only when I was holding back tears of frustration when I couldn't get the header to fit on one page (there is code behind these pages, people, real computer speak complete with "<>") that I realised that I was likely to miss living my life while I checked to see that the towels were properly folded.***

In the time between conceiving the blog and actually giving birth I've missed posting many recipes. So, I decided to go back to August and post the recipe that I intended to start with. Using numerous bowls, and having numerous steps that I'm not sure it necessarily merits this cake is not perfect, but, this time, that's fine.

Quarter of a Century Chocolate Cake
The chocolate cake is taken from the Magnolia Bakery cook book and is billed as a "devilishly rich" cake. I beg to differ. I think, as with many American cake recipes, the sponge is a lighter vehicle for rich icing. I chose a chocolate ganache to provide some extra "oomph" I would recommend this recipe for a cake which will provide a celebratory punch is not going to weigh heavy on the tummy if you want to do birthday dancing later on. I added the raspberries because I couldn't resist them when I saw them at Chapel Market on the morning of baking.

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1.5tsp baking powder
1.5tsp baking soda
3/4tsp salt
3 large eggs - separated
1.5 sticks unsalted butter - softened
2 cups of firmly packed light brown sugar
8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups of milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1.5tsp vanilla extract
2 small punnets of fresh, juicy raspberries

Chocolate Ganache Icing
24 ounces of dark chocolate (I used 50% cocoa solids)
3 cups of double (heavy) cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

  2. Grease and lightly flour two 9x2-inch round cake pans (I used loose-bottomed)

  3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda and the salt. Put out of the way.

  4. Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and pale. I use my hand rotary whisk for a few minutes.

  5. In a large bowl cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (use a wooden spoon).

  6. Add the egg yolks, beating well until they are incorporated.

  7. Add the chocolate and mix well.

  8. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract, beating after each addition until smooth. Try not to over-beat at this stage as you don't want to over develop the gluten in the flour which will make the cake tough.

  9. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (use an electric mixer to save your wrists!)

  10. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the batter (use a metal spoon).

  11. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and cook in the centre of your oven until the cakes are done (about 40-45 minutes - a knife inserted into the centre should come out clean).

  12. Once the cakes are done, let them cool in their tins and then turn them out to cool properly.

  13. To make the icing, pop the chocolate (broken into pieces) into a pan with the cream and stir over a low/medium heat until the chocolate melts and the mixture thickens (about 30 minutes). It won't become an icing consistency at this stage; you need to chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours. When I made this I was in a real rush so I popped the icing in the freezer for a while (checking up on it every 10 minutes or so) and it soon came right.

  14. Spread the icing on the top of one of your layers and add a layer of the raspberries. I shmushed the berries into the chocolate as well as leaving some whole. Add the second cake and then ice the top and sides of the cake as you please.

  15. Set aflame and celebrate!

* Michaelangelo
** Perfectionism. A dehabilitating disease which is still somewhat socially unacceptable. Symptoms include intense irritation and even panic when sufferers see papers at anything other than a 90 degree angle to the edge of a desk.

*** I favour the Anthea Turner method of towel-folding myself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks so delicious. I think it would make a great holiday serving when the family comes in from out of town. I will show this one to my wife. Thanks.
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