By Ash Adams
We don’t have many food traditions in our house; most days my husband Brian and I are trying to balance what we want to eat, the yearnings of our adult palates, with the desire that our children, whose wills are much stronger than ours, eat anything at all. So instilling any real sense that there are foods that define us or our family culture is on hold until further notice.
With one exception: Cake Day.
I first made this cake a little over a year ago because I had no flour around to make whatever else I had planned to make. It was easy and chocolatey and a big hit. And so I made it the next week, and the week after that. And the week after that.
Somewhere in there, Brian and I embraced the idea that we could have our cake with a little champagne, too. Something beautiful was born: Cake Day. We try to do it once a week.
Adapted slightly from this food network recipe , the cake is not messing around. (If you’re among the friends who have stopped by on Cake Day or come over specifically or accidentally for it, you know.) It’s dense like a torte, moist, and tastes like something with that much butter and chocolate should. Prepared with ingredients you can easily pick up or likely have on hand, it’s something almost anyone with the ambition to eat a cake can pull off. How you top your cake is up to you. Some weeks, I simply dust it well with powdered sugar when it’s fresh out of the oven, and others I smear on some quick ganache topping instead.
Then, whatever you do, top it off with whipped cream. Use whipped cream out of a can if you must, but homemade whipped cream is so easy and so much better.
For the cake:
1 ½ sticks good quality unsalted butter, plus more for pan
12 ounces good dark chocolate (Baker’s semisweet will work, too), chopped coarsely
1/2teaspoons-3/4 teaspoons flake sea salt (I use Sitka sea salt)
6 large eggs (buy organic and pasture-raised; I swear they make a difference in desserts like this one)
1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
Cocoa powder, for dusting pan
For the ganache topping:
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
About ½ cup heavy cream
For the Homemade Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
About 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extra (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9” spring-form pan with butter, and grease it well. Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder until evenly covered.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler (or a microwave, if you have one) with the salt, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.
3. In a standing mixer or using an electric handheld mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium for about 4 minutes. (The original recipe says to beat them for 8-10, which results in an entirely different cake that caves in and is hard, cracked, and meringue-like on top. It was good, but not the cake I wanted.)
4. Fold in the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, mixing to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire cooling rack. Top with powdered sugar or ganache, then serve with whipped cream.
Place the chocolate in a cereal/soup bowl. Heat the heavy cream over medium heat in a saucepan until steam rises from the surface but it isn’t boiling or scalded. Pour only enough of the cream over the chocolate to just cover. Let sit without stirring for 5-ish minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon starting from the center in small circles until the ganache is glossy and consistent the whole way through. Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, then stir again. Smear on the cake gently until you’ve covered the whole surface.
Pour the whipped cream, in a standing mixer or a mixing bowl and whip with a whisk attachment on medium-high speed. Sprinkle in the sugar and vanilla after a few minutes, and keep whipping until it looks right.
*Note: If you want to just follow the recipe on the food network site, go for it. Just beat your eggs for less time and add a pinch more salt, and you’ll have the cake.