The first thought I had when I read the final ingredients list over at Tomatilla! was of the Maya Gold chocolate bar from Green & Black's that I used for Pain au Chocolat not too long ago. It has hints of cinnamon and orange and I had been waiting for an opportunity to incorporate it into another recipe.
I pored over my books and the web, and I decided on a dessert that seemed easy and quite posh. HA! Don't ever say that, even to yourself, if you've never tried the recipes(s) before and plan on working under any sort of time constraint. Also falling under that category would be the thought, declared quite boldly (and rather insanely) in your head, "I can make this previously untested, easy yet posh dessert whilst also putting together a roast chicken dinner for my darling loved ones!".
I absentmindedly tried to whip egg whites with vanilla and sugar, instead of vinegar and salt. I completely forgot to incorporate the 1/2 cup of oil that belonged in the batter, which ending up being a bit of a problem. As for the filling instructions, "whip the creme fraiche until it holds a soft peak" was translated by me into, "whisk the creme fraiche for a brief amount of time and pay no attention whatsoever to the end result". This would also prove problematic.
Two and a half hours, eight eggs, three cups of cream fraiche and one expensive bar of chocolate later, I had the saddest, most unpresentable, most inedible dessert I'd ever laid eyes on. Of course, the competition-induced fugue I was under meant that I didn't actually notice how bad things were until I looked through the lens of my camera. Strangely, yet somehow appropriately, I also chose last night to test my new double-stemmed, 1,000 watt halogen light. It banished not only every shadow around the cake but also throughout our end of the neighbourhood, and I finally saw the truth of things. I sat there, smelling like goose fat from the roast potatoes and getting a sunburn on the back of my neck from the lights, and really saw what was in front of me. To say that it was not pretty would be like saying that James Beard was "pleasantly plump". I would not be participating in this month's Paper Chef after all.
Surprisingly enough, I got up this morning and had a change of heart. A little voice kept saying "cut your losses and give it a try again next month", but I refused to listen. O.K., the voice was actually that of my husband and it wasn't so little, but I still didn't want to give in. I'd used up my supply of creme fraiche, Maya Gold chocolate and wheat flour, but it seems like Owen is the forgiving type, so I plowed ahead. I adapted a recipe from epicurious and added a simple cinnamon whipped cream and hot chocolate as accompaniments. It ended up being really easy, not posh in the least, and very, very tasty.
When I looked through the lens this time, with my son by my side eager to press the shutter button, I liked what I saw. When I took a bite, after shoveling one into his gaping mouth and hearing "mmmm", I liked what I tasted. In the end, I had restored some sense of order to my kitchen and come up with an entry that I was pleased with. Now, as for the photo, that's another story...
Mexican Chocolate Cake
2 sticks UNSALTED BUTTER
1/2 cup COCOA POWDER
1/4 cup COFFEE
1/2 cup WATER
2 cups GRANULATED SUGAR
2 LARGE EGGS, lightly beaten
1/2 cup SOUR CREAM or CREME FRAICHE
2 teaspoons VANILLA EXTRACT
2 cups PLAIN FLOUR
1 teaspoon BAKING SODA
2 teaspoons CINNAMON
1/2 teaspoon SALT
ZEST of 1 ORANGE, finely grated
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9" cake pan, line bottom with parchment and dust sides with cocoa, knocking out excess.
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add the coffee and water, and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in, separately, sugar, eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined. Stir in orange zest.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45-55 minutes.
Cool cake in pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.