I am not much of a baker. As I stated in my delicious almond chocolate brownie post, I leave baking to the realm of magicians and scientists, where each element creates a desired reaction.
I have an incredible weakness for chocolate, whether eaten in a bar form or in baked goods– cake, brownies, cupcakes, etc. It all makes me melt. I have been known to inhale cupcakes so fast that one time, the person who gave one to me didn’t realize she had already given me one because it was gone so fast. At parties, I’m the one trying every kind of cake. Chocolate, vanilla, red velvet or carrot is not a choice for me, it’s a yes/no question.
My inexperience aside, it is Valentine’s Day and I decided that I would reclaim the day for myself. Before all of the stress about finding a loved one or receiving gifts or flowers, I had my family. My parents would buy my sister and me a heart-shaped box filled with chocolates and a love note and we would treasure the candy in our pullout beds or our closets for some reason. We would write out Charlie Brown cards for our classmates and eat red, heart-shaped lollipops with white messages on them. It was an odd celebration of love and company, especially for my parents. These, for me, were the most romantic of days. The days gone by, the days with my family, when we were all together in a tiny house with nothing but hope ahead of us.
Today I decided to reclaim Valentine’s Day for romance. I chose an era most romantic to me, the pre-war Depression era and created an homage to a time where love was measured bit by bit, celebration was squeezed out of frugality. I made a scientific Depression-era chocolate cake that is as moist and delicious as it is easy to make, where vinegar and baking soda create a reaction as impressive as love itself. The two ingredients create a chemical reaction that makes the cake more moist and fluffy than if you had used the traditional combination of the usual suspects, eggs, butter and oil. I’ve actually tried this recipe using more eggs, no butter or no oil and the best result for me is the recipe below.
Adapted from Super Easy, Super Moist Chocolate Brownie recipe from simplerecipes.com.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup brewed coffee (optional, but it helps bring out the chocolate flavor)
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup brewed coffee (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position.
In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, butter and salt until there are no visible clumps.
In a separate bowl, mix together the coffee (or water plus coffee granules), vinegar, vanilla extract, egg and olive oil.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until they just come together. The mixture should be thin and rather lumpy.
Ladle the batter into a 9″x13″ baking tin and spread batter into an even layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes until toothpick or fork emerges clean.
Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, you can eat plain, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle or coat with frosting. This cake stands up just fine on its own.
While the cupcakes are cooking, make the frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in the cocoa until smooth. Sprinkle in about a third of the powdered sugar, stir, then sprinkle in about a half of the milk. Keep alternating with the powdered sugar and either milk or vanilla and coffee, stirring after each addition, until the frosting is the consistency you want. To add thickness, add more powdered sugar. If too stiff, add a little more milk, water, coffee or vanilla extract.