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Chocolate cake can be tricky thing

Back when I owned my shop downtown we always served a dessert of the day with coffee. Everybody who came in had a favorite. If I was serving “Annex Tea Room” chocolate chip cake all I had to do was put it on the sign out front and it will sell out. Having a dessert every day certainly helped the catering business and soon we were making more desserts to sell whole than by the slice.

It wasn’t long before Jennie and I knew we needed a chocolate cake on the menu. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting can be a tricky thing. Not enough chocolate flavor and it will taste chalky, too much sugar in the frosting and no one eats the cake. We tried many cake and frosting recipes, pored over cookbooks, hunted down customers’ childhood favorites; we even began mixing frosting recipes from one person with cake recipes from another. Nothing was quite right. Then I remembered a bakery David and I had visited on a trip to Massachusetts. He wanted to see Cambridge, I spotted the bakery and the rest is fate. After some searching I found the bakery was still open and she had printed a small cookbook. After calling every bookstore in Boston I finally had the recipe in hand. Jennie and I baked for days, tweaking, tasting, and retweaking. This is the cake we ended up with, and I think it is the best chocolate cake you can possible have.

Rosie Chocolate Cake

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot strong coffee

1/2 cup sour cream at room temp

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork at room temp

Preheat the oven to 345 degrees (yes, the temp is correct). Lightly grease two 8-inch layer cake pans with non-stick spray and line them with parchment paper circles. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water, then turn off the heat. Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt together into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, blend the hot coffee, sour cream and vegetable oil with a whisk. With the mixer on low speed, add the coffee mixture in a stream to the dry ingredients and mix until blend about 35 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl at least twice during this time.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium low after you add each one and scrape the bowl each time. Add the chocolate and mix until the color is uniform, about 10 seconds. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place them on the center rack of your preheated oven. Bake approximately 35 minutes, you want them just done, not over baked. Test at 30 minutes with a knife in the center.

Cool the layers in the pan for about 10 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Fudge frosting

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Cool slightly. Blend the evaporated milk and sugar in a food processor for about 2 seconds. Add the chocolate to the sugar mixture and blend on high speed until the frosting is thick and shiny, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Spoon the frosting into a bowl and let it set at room temp for 30 minutes. Then cover the frosting with plastic wrap and let it set for an hour before using. Don’t refrigerate the frosting even if you make two days ahead.

I found many things that I could do with this cake. Often I would split the two layers and put about 1/3 cup of raspberry preserves between them, then layer and frost as usually. Also, I would sprinkle a little coffee liqueur on the layers before frosting.

Christina Hall writes a weekly columns for The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.