Chocolate Cake for Ginger

chocolate cake for ginger

My old high school friend Tammy started reading In Praise of Leftovers in the spring.  She told her friend Ginger about it, who quickly became Leftoverist Fan #1.  Tammy contacted me this summer with an idea--for Ginger's 40th, could I come and surprise her?  So we've been planning since then.  Mostly Tammy, actually.  She invited Ginger's friends, set a beautiful table, faked getting lost on the way to the party.  And we were not disappointed.  Not even a little bit.  When Ginger knocked, I opened the door.  She looked at me, looked back at Tammy, then said, "Is this Sarah?"  When Tammy nodded, the freaking out ensued, and it was easily one of my 2009 highlights. Screaming, hugging, laughing, jumping up and down.  All of us.

There were so many things about the evening that I loved--seeing Ginger's friends love and celebrate her; seeing Tammy's sheer delight in surprising her in such a thoughtful way; meeting new people and getting to be part of their lives for a night.  Even more, though, I'm so honored that they wanted me there.  More than my food (which we ate plenty of), they invited me so we could cook together, rub off on each other a little bit.  Ginger said a few times, "If I were you, I'd be feeling really good right now." And I was--in every way.  Thanks for a memorable night, ladies.  And Happy 40th, Ginger.  Such good things are in store for you.

me and the birthday girl

One of the prerequisites was chocolate for dessert.  That's a pretty wide boundary, but I knew right away I would make Molly Wizenberg's Winning Hearts and Minds Cake.  It's in her book, and I'm sure it's all over the blogosphere.  But no one has made it for Ginger's 40th before, I'm willing to bet.  This almost-flourless cake is dependable, easy, perfectly silky and rich, and can be dressed up any way you want.  This photo with a bit of orange zest is from a few weeks ago.  I've also poured a balsamic reduction around it, and last night, I served it with candied Meyer lemons and lightly sweetened whipped cream.  I cut it into very small wedges, as it's akin to eating a truffle--you just need a bit.  Plus, by that time, we were hardly hungry anymore.

I keep Molly's book up with my cookbooks, and it's all dog-eared and grease-stained already.  I join the thousands of other food bloggers who say things like, "I started my blog after reading Orangette," or "I was inspired by Molly."  Though her posts have been infrequent the last few months, I'm still drawn there--her humor, descriptive (but not overly) prose, and the light she shines on her little corner of the world.  In many ways, the joy of last night could be traced back to one winter day last year when I sat down to read her blog for the first time.

Molly Wizenberg's Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
I used nicer chocolate this time, but I made this before with Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate and it turned out just as good.  I wouldn't advise using semisweet chocolate chips, though.  Too sweet and chalky.

7 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 60%, and Molly says you can even use Ghiradelli 60% chips)
7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter  cut into ½-inch cubes
1 c plus 2 Tb. sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tb. unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees, and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment, and butter the parchment too.

Finely chop the chocolate and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler, stirring frequently to combine. Add the sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well until dissolved, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition before adding another. Lastly, add the flour. The batter should look silky and luxurious (though it might not look that way 3 eggs in--don't worry).

Pour batter into the buttered cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the center of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. (I usually set the timer for 20 minutes initially, and then I check the cake every two minutes thereafter until it’s done. At 20 minutes, it’s usually quite jiggly in the center. You’ll know it’s done when it jiggles only slightly, if at all.)

Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a flat dish, remove the parchment, and flip it back over onto another flat dish, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.

You can keep this fresh on the counter for 3 days, wrapped in plastic wrap, or tightly wrapped in the fridge for 5 days.  And you can serve it with a million different twists depending on what's in season.