There’s new scaffolding up by the New York Life building. This time it’s far more imposing and permanent. Walking home late the other night, I noticed it and that it half obstructs the old “Interboro Subway Line” sign. A relic of the past, certainly, but a personal anchor, nonetheless.
At the very least, I liked seeing it.
Thankfully the neon glasses on 27th street are still there, bright as ever, reminding me at of Dr.T. J. Eckleburg.
Even so, there’s no doubt about it—the neighborhood is changing, again. If you can even call it a neighborhood, which I don’t suppose you can, since it’s mostly hotels and office buildings, but it suits me. And, it’s home.
You can’t stop progress.
I’ve been meaning to tell you about this cake and the story behind it for more than a month now.
Time gets away from me.
And, so, to go back to December 2011—each year, I cook my mother an elaborate birthday dinner. I’ve talked about it here before. It’s an all day affair. Think: cosmopolitans with freshly squeezed key lime juice, risotto, any manner of dessert, well, you get the idea. This year, however, owing to a new job with a different vacation policy, I only had a few days off around the end of the year which, among other things, meant less time visiting my family and by extension, less time to cook.
I suppose, then, my mother can be forgiven for suggesting that I make her birthday cake from boxed mix. Yes, boxed mix. I was incredulous—definitely not a good way to start a birthday meal. I couldn’t help it, for a birthday it seemed to defeat the whole purpose.
For me, cooking, opening up my table, is an act of respect and affection. The whole point is taking the time out, of telling someone that they’re worth the extra time and steps it takes to make something from scratch. So, a boxed mix simply wouldn’t do. Not for the occasion and certainly for my mother. After all, she was the woman who taught that baking was a meditation of sorts. To this day, when things get stressful, she takes out her measuring cups.
It’s getting cold here and the work shows no signs of abating. I’ve taken to leaving my own measuring cups on the counter, rather than putting them away.
Make of that what you will.
Chocolate Fudge Cake
Adapted from here
For the Cake
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract, divided
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cup boiling water
For the ganache
18 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, cut up
1 tsp vanilla
To Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Dust with flour, tap out excess.
In a large bowl, beat together 3/4 cup butter and sugar with electric mixer or medium speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended. Add melted chocolate and beat 1-2 minutes; set aside.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture in two additions alternately with buttermilk. Beat until well blended. With mixer on low speed, add boiling water and beat until smooth (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then unmold onto racks and let cool completely.
To Make the Chocolate Ganache:
In a 2 quart glass measure, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream. Heat in a microwave oven on HIGH 3 minutes or until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour, or until ganache holds its shape and is thick enough to spread on cake.
To Assemble the Cake:
Cover a cake layer with a little more than 1/3 of chocolate ganache. Set second layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining ganache. Refrigerate cake 3-4 hours, or until ganache is firm, before serving.