A Chocolate Cake for Grandma
For my Grandmother’s 80th birthday we all wanted to make it special for her. In the divying up of food duties somehow I ended up with the charge of baking a chocolate dessert to go with a the summer fruit shortcakes my auntie was making, and the black bottom cheese cake my cousin was making. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that the chocolate dessert also needed to be a cake. I found myself then seeking a chocolate cake recipe that would be special in every way. I’ve made many a chocolate cake, chocolate being the favorite of most of the family (except one cousin who inexplicably prefers vanilla in cake and ice cream– I fear she has received some recessive genes), but I wanted this cake to rise above the others in honor of Grandma and her special love of chocolate. Now if I could of made a cake from See’s candy that would of been ideal. I also thought of making her the cake that she always makes for our birthdays when we are visiting, a strawberry cake with chocolate ganache frosting, but decided to try something new instead. I’ve made a few times the Devil’s Food White-Out Cake from Dorie’s Baking book (I make just the cake part and frost with chocolate frosting), and always as a standby you can’t beat the Hershey’s cake recipe from their tin, but this time I wanted something a little different. So I hauled out my Tartine cookbook.
Now while I have had good luck with everything I’ve baked from their cookbook, I always feel a little anxiety everytime I contemplate baking from this book because of my experience not with their recipes, but at their actual bakery. I live in a very rich “foodie” area and it is only about an hour from my house to this bakery. About two years ago I decided we should take advantage of this great eating area we live in (as much as our budget will allow) and we made a day trip to the city, culminating in a visit to Tartine Bakery in the afternoon. All was going well as we parked, and proceeded to a nearby upscale grocery to grab some sandwiches before getting the chocolate cake and cookies that were swimming in my imagination. After lunch we got in line at the bakery and started looking at our choices. It all looked so good, but I especially had been wanting to try their chocolate cake I had read about. When I reached the counter I found that I could only buy the cake whole as they had run out of pieces. I was crestfallen, but decided to be adventurous and try a passionfruit cake (a flavor I had never had). We settled down outside at a sidewalk table, the kids happy with their cookies and hot chocolate, and I cut my first bite of cake. I had waited all day to make it here and my expectations were very high. I took my first mouthful and discovered I do not like passionfruit. In the midst of my dissappointment I looked up and saw our car being attached to a tow truck. What ensued was far from what we had imagined as our last stop for the day! We had to grab a taxi and track our van down at the impound lot and a couple bedraggled hours later finally loaded ourselves in the van for the now very long sounding hour drive home.
My associations with Tartine are now fraught with anxiety and disaapointement, but I decided to forge through these and give their chocolate cake a try for Grandma.
The baking went better than the visit, but I did, for some unknown reason, turn the oven to 325 instead of 350. This resulted in a longer baking time for the cake and, I think, in a much dryer cake than I was expecting. The flavor though was very nice. This cake also has a carmel filling and ganache throughout. It is exceptionally rich; a true chocolate lovers delight. In the future I would double the caramel filing amount– no one could tell there was caramel in it.
Since my first visit to Tartine I have been back, but I have yet to try their version of this cake. Although my second visit was not quite as dramatic, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps sometimes the best way to visit a famous eating place may indeed be through their cookbook. Hence my very large (and always growing) cookbook collection, and very infrequent day trips.