For this month’s Family Recipes event, my sister posted a recipe of mine. I was really floored, completely complimented. But she also took our little event in a brilliant new direction. After all, I have hardly been making Vietnamese Bun my entire life. But I do make it regularly now and she and I talk about Vietnamese food (well, all food) a lot. 50 years from now I can totally see her making it for her family, telling her (as yet unborn 😉 ) children that this is one of Aunt Laura’s favorite dishes…
Family Recipes is an event hosted by myself and HoneyB of The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch; you can check out the rules and requirements here. You have until Saturday, August 29, midnight to send me your submissions.
This event has always been about emotional connections for me. Not what dish your family eats the most or what dish did your grandmother actually invent, but rather what dishes are emblematic of the bonds we have within our families. In light of that–and inspired by Josie’s seemingly unorthodox but actually pretty perfect choice, I made a somewhat strange dish myself this month. I have been wanting to make a dish from my in-laws; my first choice was not season appropriate (holiday candy), and after that I was a little stuck. My mother in law is a wonderful cook, but like me she likes to keep changing and evolving, so every time I ask my husband about recipes–a childhood favorite rhubarb pie springs to mind–she no longer has the recipe or he cannot think of what she made repeatedly. It has been brought to my attention that there is a shrimp dish I could make, but we all know *I* am picky about seafood dishes since I don’t like shrimp–we’ll just blame that one on me. So instead of asking John for more suggestions, I decided to contemplate what I associated with my mother in law–what dish, 50 years from now, would I be telling my grandkids that their mom’s grandmother really loved?
This cake immediately sprung to mind. Now this is truly an unorthodox choice, much more so than Josie’s choice, because I actually found this recipe first and made it for my in-laws one Christmas at their house. But the more I thought about it, I realized that for me this dish is totally about my mother in law, not me. First of all, I have only made it for them, never since (until now). Second of all, she loved it so much that I know she has made it since on her own. So from here on out I have decided I am thinking of this as Grandma Ellie’s Favorite Chocolate Loaf Cake. OK, she never told me it was her favorite, but I am guessing since I have never seen her eat or make any other chocolate loaf cakes. And “grandma” because, well, once you have kids your parents pretty much become grandparents, not parents, at least in terms of how they are referred to around the house.
I discovered something while making this cake this time around. I have come a long way as a baker. I remember being intimidated by this recipe and thinking it was rather fancy. I have no idea why. It is dead simple. I did overbeat the eggs this time–be sure to mix gently rather than beating until light and fluffy (unlike me), but otherwise this is so simple you will want to make it for a weekday treat. And if you do overbeat, as I did, the cake still turns out great, it just sinks a little more in the middle than it would normally (but it will sink some no matter what–this is a damp, rustic, heavy, gloriously chocolate cake).
Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake aka Grandma Ellie’s Favorite Chocolate Loaf Cake
Closely adapted from Nigella Lawson, How To Be A Domestic Goddess
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups (375 g) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs — beaten
1 t vanilla extract
4 oz/100 grams bittersweet chocolate — melted, good quality (I used Scharffenberger)
1 1/3 cups (200 g) AP flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup milliliters boiling water
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Put in a baking sheet in case of batter overflow while baking; line a 9X5 loaf pan with parchment paper. The lining is necessary because this cake is quite moist and heavy. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until well blended and somewhat lightened. Add the eggs and mix in thoroughly, but use a low speed, such as 2, if using a mixer. Do not overbeat. Add the vanilla and mix in completely. Next, gently mix in the melted and slightly cooled chocolate–mix well but do not overbeat, use the lowest speed or fold by hand. Add the flour mixture, alternating by spoonful with the boiling water, mixing on low speed (or gently by hand). I did this in about 6 additions of each. The batter will be smooth and fairly liquid. Pour into the lined loaf pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 F and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. This is not a cake you check for doneness as the toothpick would come out messy, so just trust that it is done and remove it from the oven.
Place the loaf pan on a rack, and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. Nigella mentions (and I can confirm) that it is better the next day, like gingerbread, so I like to make it a day in advance. Don’t worry if sinks in the middle.
Slice and serve with whipped cream (or ice cream or strawberries or…).