Friday, July 15, 2011

Chocolate = Antichrist

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte  (Black Forest Cake) No. 2
(cake No. 1 found it's way into the garbage disposal)

Chocolate is the Antichrist.

There I said it.  I can never take it back. 

Every foody, food blogger, and gastronomist on the planet has a nemesis.  Julia Child hated cilantro, Bobby Flay can’t stand lentils, and Guy Fieri disdains eggs…mine is chocolate.  I absolutely detest cooking with it.  I abhor melting it.  And I don’t go bananas over the taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a gooey chocolate brownie and go nuts for chocolate chip cookie dough, but it’s simply not my preferred poison; which is probably why my personal choice for birthday cake isn’t a cake at all but rather lemon meringue pie!

Chocolate seduces you with its luscious appearance and exotic aroma.  You take a bite, and the next thing you know you’re in a semi-conscious trance.  When you finally come to, everything in your kitchen is coated in a sickly, brown layer of sludge.  Your dishwasher is on its second cycle, after using every dish in the kitchen.  And you feel like you’ve gained 40 pounds.  Yep, sounds to me like the work of the Devil.

So when a colleague asked me to make his wife’s birthday cake this week, I was a little taken aback as to why out of my limited repertoire he would ask for my Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte  (Black Forest Cake).  But I suppose it’s tradition to have a decadent chocolate cake to celebrate one’s day of birth, so I semi-enthusiastically agreed.

After a quick trip to the supermarket and armed with my stained copy of the recipe for Bobby Flay’s German Chocolate Cake made on FoodNetwork’s Throw Down, I set out to make the best damn chocolate cake I could muster. 

Unfortunately, I have to admit that cake would eventually win this throw down.

In the preparation of the batter, my technique was flawless.  It was luscious, dark, and smelled of rich chocolate.  I even put a few dark chocolate chips and some aged rum in the batter to improve the flavor profile.  My pans were perfectly prepped with butter, parchment paper, and cocoa powder (if you’re making a chocolate cake cocoa powder often works better than regular flour).  My oven was pre-heated and ready to go.  After 30 minutes of baking, the cakes were done and had risen beautifully, like dense, dark soufflés.  It looked like everything was going as planned.

After approximately 30 minutes of cooling, I felt the cakes to check the temperature.  They seemed a little warm, but I’ve managed to cut warm cakes before and didn’t think twice. 

That was error number one.

My version of the Kirschtorte uses two 8 inch cakes cut into even sections for total 4 layers separated by three layers of filling.  As it would turn out, my cutting job was rushed and sloppy.  The layers were highly irregular, uneven, and one even developed an obvious crack.  But since I had to work the next day and it was already approaching 8:00 pm, I decided to ignore it and hoped that the filling would hold it together.

Enter error number two.

As I assembled the layers, I suddenly had the bright idea to put the cracked layer second to the bottom, again hoping that the filling would act like glue.

That was my third error.

After struggling with the uncooperative cake for what seemed like several hours. I finally managed to assemble the last layer onto the top.  As I turned my back to prepare the whipped cream frosting for the exterior of the cake, I heard a very unappetizing plop; almost like someone had taken a water balloon, filled it with Jello, then and dropped it behind me.  I froze, unable to look at what had happened. 

As I slowly turned around, my worst fears were confirmed.  The instability of the broken layer combined with the weight of the top layers had caused half of the cake to slide off the counter and land, not surprisingly, in a jumbled mess of chocolate, cherries, and whipped cream. 

So I did the only thing I know how to do in these situations.  I grabbed my chef’s knife from the counter and ferociously began chopping the remaining portion of the errant cake into a pudding-like mash of birthday wishes and festivities. 

That was error number four.

So now in addition to the cake on the floor, there was cake all over the counter and me!  My tiny apartment kitchen probably has about 3 square feet of counter space.  And every single square inch was covered in cake crumbs.  

This photo was taken from the entrance to the kitchen
 I managed to clean it all up, a Two Hearted Ale (Bell’s Brewery IPA) helped tremendously, and of course just when I’m walking out the door to go to back to the store and thinking that it can’t possibly get any worse, it starts to rain…Talk about cinematic irony right? (extra points if you can identify the movie)

Finally, at 1 am (8 hours after starting the project) I washed the last dish and went to bed. 

So needless to say Chocolate is the Antichrist!  From now on, I’m charging a chocolate handling fee.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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