Friday, April 26, 2013

book it and cook it - the mitford cookbook and lew boyd's chocolate cake

I know I've mentioned it before, but growing up within walking distance from the local library was the best!  Minus a few years with foster siblings, I grew up an only child, so having a book in my hands was like having a dear companion at my fingertips.  My bed... the "secret passageway" in our basement... the car... in my closet with the flashlight... in the swing in the backyard...  Those were just a few of my favorite reading spots during my younger years.

It would only take about two pages in, and I was lost in my own world.  I devoured books, but only as fast as my imagination would let me.  It was extremely important I take moments, periodically, to close my eyes and envision the setting as I traveled through the pages.  I can remember doing it like it was yesterday.   

I felt like a kid again a few years back when a friend introduced me to The Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  Based on the life of a kind (and slightly roundish) minister, Father Tim, the town of Mitford is everything I would ever want in a home-place... small, quaint, and tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains - charm at its best.  And to top it all off, lovable characters in all their feel-good interactions are infectiously mingled with delicious references to wonderful food.  In my opinion, the books could not be more perfect for me.  It's almost as if Ms. Karon knew everything about me and sat and wrote accordingly.  

So, needless to say, when I finished the series and learned of the accompanying cookbook, I was ecstatic.  Not only had the characters been as dear friends in my mind, but they came to life through recipes written in their honor.  I was sold.

As I cook my way through this book - my favorite recipe collection and anecdotal compilation of all time mind you - I will look forward to sharing the outcomes with you.  I even think it would be kind of fun to have a "book it and cook it" club of sorts as we go.  If you're so inclined to share your thoughts about any of the Mitford books you've read or are reading, how interesting it would be to hear from you! 

Today's feature is the very best layered chocolate cake I've ever made.  The recipe suggests keeping it in an airtight container for up to a week.  Let me just tell you... Day Seven's slice was even better than Day One's.  

With an easily spreadable, perfectly rich icing, and moist crumb in between, this one - hands down - is a keeper.  Listen. to. me.  Cook the cake today.

Lew Boyd's Chocolate Cake
makes one 2-layer cake

For the cake
  • Unsalted butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour, more for dusting the pans
  • 1 cup double strength hot coffee
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup double strength hot coffee
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Chocolate shavings, for garnish
~ Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
~ Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment or wax paper, and butter 
    and flour the paper, shaking out any excess.  Set aside.
~ In a large bowl, combine the hot coffee with the unsweetened chocolate and let it melt, 
    stirring constantly.
~ Sift the 2 cups sugar, flour, 1/2 teasponon salt, and baking soda into a separate large
~ Add the oil, eggs, sour cream, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla to the bolw with the melted 
    chocolate, and whisk until well combined.
~ Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, in thirds, stirring well after each addition, until 
    completely blended.
~ Divide the batter between the pans, rap each pan on the counter to expel any air pockets 
    or bubbles, and place in the oven.
~ Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick instered int the center comes out clean.
~ Place the cakes on racks to cool for 5 minutes, then invert them onto the racks to cool 
~ Carefully peel off the waxed paper.

The frosting

~ In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the heavy cream, butter, 1/3 cup 
    sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Slowly heat the mixture, stirring, until hot.  
~ Add the semisweet chocolate and stir until just melted.
~ Remove the pan from the heat, pour the mixture into a large blow, and stir in the coffee 
    and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
~ Let cool, stirring occasionally, for up to one hour.  
~ Gradually add in confectioners' sugar, blending as you do so, until spreading consistency
    is reached.  

To assemble the cake

~ Arrange one cake layer on a serving platter, top side up, and frost the surface thickly.
~ Top with the second layer, top side down, and frost the top and sides.  
~ Garnish with chocolate shavings.
~ Let the cake sit for 3 hours or more before slicing.
~ Store, covered, at room temperature, for up to 1 week.

Recipe slightly adapted from the Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader