Cake has always been something that has intimidated me. I’ve tried some in the past with equal measures of bravado, great ingredients and solid recipes only to end up with a lumpy sticky mess of a thing that may have gone through a teleportation device and a house fly.
I hosted three dinner events in my downtown Columbus storefront loft for Christmas. One of our guests, a Southerner who came to Columbus for school and work, was talking about the habits of cats. Eddie and I always called the kneading action of pawing it’s bedding, be it blankets or painfully (and briefly before tossing it away) your abdomen, “making pizza.” Our guest however referred to it as “making biscuits.” It was in that two word phrase I was glad to be in the company of a fellow cross country transplant.
Helen Corbitt, another transplant and author of the following cake recipe, moved to Texas penniless. She hated it at first, according to Kevin Garvin, but innovated her way from Austin to Dallas and became part of the State’s history; blazing her own trail across the dinner table. Oddly enough, the author cites Texas is where she learned to cuss. True enough… anyone who spends time in Texas is bound to pick up some extra color in his vocabulary.
I believe sharing stories is one of the most valuable things we have to offer one another. It’s, in part, what my previous career in the fine wine business taught me. No one will know why something is special unless you tell the story behind it. It’s in open dialogue where we have the opportunity to share ourselves with those around us. It’s through conversation that we realize the ability to make life less lonesome.
Making two cross country moves in a 6 year period on top of a career change were life events that took a measure of courage on my part. It was the strength of those around me through sharing stories that fueled my momentum at times. And so it was for Christmas dinner where I decided to “cowboy up” in honor of 2014 and try to finally break the cake. Using one of Helen Corbitt’s recipes from Neiman Marcus fame on a velvet style cake. I’m guessing at what makes velvet cake “velvet” here but I think it’s the vegetable shortening and sour cream… and of course whatever color folks want to use in the process.
And that’s the whole thing about conversation, sometimes you realize you share some stories but in wholly different ways. It is a wonderful feeling to realize that sometimes our differences are no more complicated than saying “pizza” or “biscuits.”
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour; plus additional for pans
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 ¼ cup milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
- Combine the sugar, sour cream and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle and add the oil, shortening and vanilla.
- Mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, until well incorporated and smooth.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and then add the eggs one at a time.
- Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour and cocoa mixture in one-third increments, waiting for each addition to be incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the bowl each time.
- Transfer the mix to the prepared cake pans and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes and then turn out and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup dark corn syrup
- 16 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- Place cream and syrup into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Place chocolate chips in a bowl and pour cream mixture into the chocolate, whisking until smooth.
- Let cool then transfer to an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Beat on high until fluffy.
- Spread frosting evenly between the two layers, top and sides of the completely cool cakes.