Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Southern Living's Mexican chocolate cake (and -- jubilare)

Originally published April, 2013, At First Glass.

A cacao tree, snapped in a backyard in Peru. Look carefully for the cacao pods growing directly from the trunk.

This cake comes from the November 2010 issue of Southern Living, and wouldn't you know it? -- time flies so very fast that since baking it for the first and only time, I have misplaced the actual magazine which carried the recipe. The food styling and photography, I remember, were beautiful -- dark chocolate cake poised against a background of aqua-blue fabrics, rough plaster walls, and pottery.

For the present, "Buttermilk-Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake" at Southern Living's website seems to be approximately the same animal. The editors attribute this recipe to a hard copy issue from 2007. Recycle much? But they would have to, as surely must the editors of any food or drink magazine anywhere. There simply can't be that many new food ideas ....

You see how even the cake batter, the photo of which I did not misplace, looks so scrumptious. It tasted scrumptious, too. Of course it's the inclusion of cinnamon that renders the cake "Mexican." Given chocolate's chest-thumping past it's rather a timid nod to Mexican-ness, I think. According to the delightful and informative Chocolate and Coffee Bible (Anness House, 2002, 2008), when its original connoisseurs, the Aztecs, "took" chocolate, they took it as a cold, bitter, frothy drink heavily flavored with chili pepper and thickened with cornmeal, which was meant to sop up the floating grease from the cacao bean's naturally high fat content. Upon shipping cacao to Europe, the Spanish too drank it cold, frothy, and abundantly peppered, though also flavored with cinnamon, cloves, or aniseed. In time, as chocolate moved north, the French, Dutch, English, and Austrians learned to add sugar to the food of the gods, along with vanilla, milk, and eggs. Chocolate became less a weird pre-Columbian tonic and more the sweet luxurious indulgence that all sensible people adore. Europeans learned also to separate the fat from the solids of the cacao bean to begin with, thus creating plain chocolate for baking and candy making. Meanwhile, chili and black pepper both were banished from the kingdom. Wherever the sweet spices, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, still hang on, a chocolate recipe perforce remembers it is Mexican. 

We'll bake in just a minute. But first.  




It may seem wrong to put it here, but I must ask. Am I the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the photographs posted this weekend, along with AP's story of the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber? Perhaps you saw them, too. You could click a link inviting you to look at "the day in pictures" upon accessing your email along with AP's headlines. I looked, and I liked all the pictures. I liked the faces of the Americans in Boston, cheering the bomber's capture; they were of many ethnicities and both sexes, and mostly young. I liked the faces of the cops. They were of many ethnicities, young and not so young, and armed to the teeth; they were tense during the chase, relieved and "jubilant," crinkly with huge grins, afterward. I liked the thumbs-up signs flashed between them, and the handshakes. I like that word, jubilant. From the Latin jubilare, to shout for joy. And I liked the video of the crowd singing the national anthem at the Boston Bruins' hockey game on the Wednesday night. Talking heads and pundits may tremble as they like, but those who brought out their flags and sang the song -- who says no one knows the words? -- knew also: this is jihad. And this was a small but much-needed victory. From the Latin vincere, to conquer.

Pardon the interpolation, and now we can bake. 

Southern Living's Mexican chocolate cake
  • 1 (8-oz.) package semisweet chocolate baking squares, chopped
  • 1 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  •  
    Microwave the 8 chocolate baking squares in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute and 15 seconds or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring every 15 seconds.
    Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in melted chocolate, chocolate syrup, and vanilla until smooth. 
    Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. 
    Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan or a 12-cup Bundt pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack, and let cool 1 hour and 30 minutes or until completely cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

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