Friday, February 12, 2010

Sweets for the Sweet: Devil's Food Cake

I say "The devil is in you" and to resist you I try...
- Lorenz Hart, "Lover" (1932)

I'd planned to make a carrot cake as my first adventure in "Top Stove Baking" in the Guardian Service Kettle/Canner... but the approach of Valentine's Day inspired me to bake a Devil's Food Cake for my beloved. For Andrew, if it doesn't contain chocolate it's not truly a dessert...

"Top Stove Baking the Guardian Way Brings a New Fascination to this Art," begins the cakes section in the Guardian Service Tested Recipes cookbook. As I lowered the two-tiered rack of cakes into the Kettle/Canner unit, I was fascinated—baking an entire cake on one burner, in an aluminum canner seems like a hare-brained scheme/mad culinary science project... but the results are moist and tender, with a savings in fuel.

I've posted a quick slideshow of the highlights below the recipe to help walk you through the process.

for the Guardian Service Kettle/Canner
Baking Time: 30-40 minutes. (Two 9-inch layers)

3/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter*
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted cake flour

*The original recipe calls for shortening... to lighten it, I substituted 1/4 butter, 1/4 cup applesauce and three minced prunes.

  1. Assemble all ingredients so everything is handy and at room temperature.
  2. Mix cocoa with brown sugar.
  3. Heat milk in unit over medium heat (a trio pot, or the 1 1/2 or 2 qt dome cooker work well). The recipe says "scald," but it only needs to be warm enough to dissolve the sugar. Add gradually to brown sugar/cocoa mixture. Beat until smooth, cool.
  4. Cream together butter, salt and vanilla. Add granulated sugar gradually, cream until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Sift baking powder and soda with flour. Add to egg mixture alternately with cooled cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth. Pour into greased layer pans.
  6. Meanwhile, remove rack from unit and preheat—(place covered unit over high heat for 15 mins). Bake on medium heat 20 mins or until batter is firm, then shift positions from bottom to top and visa versa (This maneuver takes a little careful planning: make sure you've got a place to unpack the hot lid, the hot racks and two hot, filled cake pans before you disassemble and pack it up again. You may also want to give the heat a boost for a minute or two to recoup any loss during this transition). Cook until a tooth pick stuck into center of cake comes out dry. (Cake should be slightly shrunk from sides of pan).
  7. Remove from Kettle oven, let stand about 5 min. on a cake rack, then turn out, finish cooling.
  8. When cold, ice as desired. "(Don't become impatient and go ahead of the game," writes GS Director, Betty Gay, "The icing will be come thinnish and the cake soggy—very, very sad for the two of 'em)."
  9. Try icing this cake with Caramel Icing, sprinkle with chopped nuts or coconut. (It's what later came to be known as a "German Chocolate Cake," originally published as "German's Chocolate Cake" in a local Dallas, TX newspaper in 1957. I frosted with the Caramel Icing, sprinkled pecans between the layers and finished the fondant with a mixture of more pecans, shredded coconut, grated chocolate, cocoa and spices (nutmeg, mace, clove, cinnammon, cardamom, white pepper, ground sea salt).
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canned milk or cream*
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
Confectioner's sugar
optional: 1 cup chopped nuts or shredded coconut or chocolate, etc.
  1. Combine brown sugar, salt and cream in unit. Bring to the boiling point and leave on medium flame, about 5 min., or until slightly thickened.
  2. Remove from unit, add butter and vanilla, cool slightly. Add sifted confectioner's sugar to give spreading consistency (about 1 cup). Beat until smooth.
  3. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake. Cover with cocoanut, if desired.
NOTE: Don't worry if icing becomes too thick, beat in cream or milk to give spreading consistency. *I used half-and-half, then brought it back up after cooling with a little more... plus some brandy...

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