OLD FAITHFUL, The Little Black Dress of Chocolate Cakes
Old Faithful got its name by being a never-fail. It always comes out delicious – even when it isn’t textbook perfect – and it’s very chocolate. I’ve been making it for years and was reminded to put up the recipe when Emma came for an overnight and wanted to do some cooking. Just made one the other day and was reminded again… this may not seem like baking weather but people continue to be fond of cake.
This person somehow became 16 when I wasn’t looking (or teaching her to cook), so we made roast chicken and chocolate cake, on my theory that armed with these two she would be ready for anything.
Truth is she can probably get pretty far on the cake alone. It’s extremely easy and quick to make, delicious plain with whipped cream or ice cream and also an ideal base to gussy up into grand gateaux. We split ours into 2 layers, then cut it in thirds so we could try three frostings: chocolate, honey and apricot.
The only remotely difficult things about this 1 bowl recipe are finding cake flour (it’s often in the cake mix area instead of with the flour) and remembering to take the butter, eggs and buttermilk out of the fridge several hours in advance. If you don’t have baking parchment, just flour the pan bottom as well as the sides.
A baking pan: 9-inch spring form, 2 8-inch layers or an 8 inch square ( see note)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 cup cake flour, plus a sprinkle for the pan
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp. salt
4 ounces (1 stick) very soft but not sagging butter, plus butter for the pan
½ c. room temperature buttermilk
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons corn, peanut or hazelnut oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1. Heat the oven to 350. Butter the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and dust the sides with flour, tapping out any excess.
2. Remove lumps by sifting or sieving the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the butter, buttermilk and egg yolks. Use a rubber spatula to mix just enough so dust won’t fly, then beat with an electric mixer on medium for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl sides frequently. Batter will gradually get fluffy and several shades lighter.
4. Add the whole eggs, oil and vanilla and beat 1 minute more.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Rap sharply against the work surface to dislodge any overlarge air bubbles, then bake until cake shrinks from the pan and a toothpick emerges with no more than a couple of fudgy crumbs, about 25 minutes for layers, 35 minutes for the spring form, 45 minutes for the square.
About is the operative word, pans and ovens vary. Start checking a little in advance and don’t forget to lower the heat to 325 if you’re using a glass pan.
6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a plate, peel off the paper and reverse back onto the rack to finish cooling right side up.
Note. About the pans: With the 9-inch you have only one pan to fiddle with. It produces a low-slung cake that is still tall enough to split in two. The 2 layers produce a taller two-layer cake at the price of more pan fiddling. The square produces the tallest cake, easy to split into 3 layers, at the price of its being square. An 8-inch spring form would be ideal except that the dense batter takes so long to cook the edges get dry before the middle is done.
For the curious: Emma is Lois’ granddaughter, hence some unknowable combo of my courtesy granddaughter and courtesy niece.
ALMOND JOY CAKE
Prepare Old Faithful (above), baked in the square pan dusted with coarsely ground unsweetened coconut instead of flour. Scatter big shavings of unsweetened coconut on top before it goes into the oven. I should have put more but not many more or the cake wouldn’t be able to lift them.
After cooling, split in half. Apply filling (below), using a pastry bag or other squeeze unit with a roughly half-inch tip; the mixture is a bit too thick to just spread. Replace top layer. Drizzle with melted chocolate.
It was great but not Almond Joy enough for me; not enough crunchy toasted almonds. Should’ve sprinkled some over the filling and plastered some against the outside. Next time.
Also good with butter cake and raspberry whipped cream or in a spice cake jellyroll or…
For an 8 inch cake:
8 oz. almond paste
1 egg white
6 tablespoons soft butter
pinch of salt
Whirl the almond paste in a processor until it’s more or less smooth, then add the egg white and process again. Then the butter and salt and a fast whirl and that’s it.