Monday, January 20, 2020

Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake

On Episode 171 of the Reading Envy Podcast, I spoke with Jen Nathan Orris about foodie recommendations - cookbooks, memoirs, and more. She brought up Julia Turshen, cookbook author and recipe developer extraordinaire, and recommended all of her cookbooks, particularly Small Victories. Julia actually appeared on Jen's podcast, Skillet, where she cooked Chicken Pelau. (I would later discover Turshen also has her own podcast called Keep Calm and Cook On, which is on brand for her reputation of making cooking accessible.)

I am always excited when I learn about an author or cook (or both) who I haven't heard of before, because it gives me an excuse to dive into something new. So of course I listened to the podcasts and hunted down the cookbooks. I would actually love to try making the chicken pelau at some point, because I am still feeling a bit tentative about cooking chicken and it has some unique techniques like starting with burned sugar. 

I'm not sure if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes I will encounter a recipe in a blog, Instagram post, or cookbook, and it will stick with me. When I'm thinking of my grocery shopping lists it will come to mind again, and I'll make sure I have the ingredients in case I feel inspired to make it. This cake is one Turshen makes for her wife. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and the strange (to me) ingredients in the frosting. I liked that it tasted better cold. The combination of chocolate and raspberry probably moved it up a few notches. And then when I needed to bake something to burn off some nervous energy, this was the thing. My husband was called home to Oregon at the last minute, and I must admit I've been eating this cake for breakfast (but you know, happy wife and all that.)

Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake
from Small Victories by Julia Turshen


1 1/4 cups (150 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3/4 cup (75 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (such as Guittard or Droste, sifted if lumpy)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 Tbsp (110 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (240 ml) strong black coffee, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract


3/4 cup (130 g) semisweet chocolate chips or roughly chopped semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup (180 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup (160 g) raspberry jam (seeded or seedless, whatever your preference)

Raspberries for serving (optional)

To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C). Use your hands to butter the bottom and sides of two 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans, then line the bottom of each with a circle of parchment paper. For good measure, butter the parchment paper. Set the pans aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the melted butter, eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla and whisk until the batter is smooth. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans.

Bake until the cakes are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cakes, still in their pans, to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Once cool, use a dinner knife to loosen the edges of the cakes from the pans and invert them onto your work surface (you might need to give the pan a little whack). Peel off and discard the parchment.

To make the frosting: Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Put the chocolate chips in a large stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl and set it over the pot (the water should not touch the bowl - if it does, simply pour some out). Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave in 15-second increments, stirring between increments.) Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and maple syrup. The frosting should be smooth and quite silky. Refrigerate the frosting until the cakes have cooled. It will thicken as it cools (a good thing).

Once the cakes are cool, put one on a serving platter upside-down so that the flat side is facing up. Spread the jam over the top. Put the second cake on top of the jam-slathered cake, again flat-side up—this way you get a nice flat top. (If the jam makes the layers slip and slide a bit, use a couple of skewers to hold the layers together while you frost the sides and then remove the skewers to frost the top). Using a small offset spatula or a dinner knife, spread the frosting all over the sides and top of the cake. There’s no need to be perfect with this; I like it kind of rustic looking. But if you’re more of a type-A person, go ahead and smooth the top and sides (and you could even stick strips of parchment paper under the bottom of the cake before frosting it to keep your serving platter clean). Whatever makes you happy.

Let the cake sit for about 1 hour before serving. There’s something about letting each element get to know the others that serves this cake very well. In fact, I prefer to make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight, and serve it cold. Either way, slice and serve with some fresh raspberries alongside if you’d like.

Note: If you only own a single cake pan, fear not! Simply pour the batter into the pan and bake it until a toothpick tests clean (it will take 10 to 15 minutes longer in the oven than the two separate layers). Once the cake cools completely, use a serrated knife to cut it into two layers. VoilĂ .  

Notes from JennyBakes:

I don't have a lot to say because the recipe is solid. I did specifically look for Dutch-processed cocoa at the store and even in the 21st century, I'd have to go to a specialty place for it, so I just went with a combination of the last of the Ecuadorian cocoa powder from Libby and the Ghiradelli I had in the cupboard. And it was fine. I also didn't wait for the coffee to cool and only quick thinking with the buttermilk saved my eggs from curdling, but all told this is a pretty forgiving recipe. The frosting was such an interesting texture from the start, and the tang of the sour cream is amazing with the raspberry.   

No comments: