Two is better than one

I’m home for a visit in Keene now, and luckily I was here in time for my neighbors’ twins’ 2-year-old birthday yesterday. Our two families have almost always shared cake and a chorus of “happy birthday” for every birthday, which, between our two families, is a total of 12 birthdays and 13 cakes a year. My mom and I almost always made the cakes, though as my sisters and I are growing up, the number of cakes we all get to share each year is dwindling. Before I came home from the city this week, Grethe called to make sure I would be baking the cakes for the twins, to make sure I would let her help, and to put in her special request for “the chocolate one with the brown sparkly icing.” This cake is one of our favorite birthday cakes, and has been repeated many times over the years. It’s devastatingly rich and sweet, and I guess you could even say it sparkles. The cake recipe is from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, and the icing is from The Joy Of Cooking. Note that you must have a candy thermometer to make the icing. For the twins’ birthday cakes I made a recipe and a half of the cake and baked it in two deep 6 inch round spring form pans.

Rich Chocolate Cake

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350?F.
Butter and flour two 9×2 inch round cake pans.
In the top part of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Let cool until tepid.
Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at low speed, just until combined.
Add the butter and sour cream and mix on medium-low speed to make a thick batter, about 1 minute.
Add the eggs, melted chocolate, and vanilla and increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.
Stop and scrape down the bowl.
Resume beating at low speed and slowly pour in the water until thoroughly blended.
Spoon the batter equally into the prepared pans and spread it evenly.
Bake until the tops spring back when pressed lightly in the centers and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer the layers to wire cooling racks and cool for ten minutes before inverting onto the racks or plates and removing the pans. Invert again so they are right side up and cool completely before frosting.

Caramel Icing

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream, plus extra if needed
3 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour the brown sugar and 1 cup of cream into a medium sized heavy pot and mix until combined.
Cover the pot, and cook for about 3 minutes.
Uncover the pot and affix the candy thermometer so that the tip remains in the liquid, continuing to cook over medium-high heat without stirring until the temperature reaches 238?F to 240?F.
Pour the icing into a heatproof bowl and let cool for a few minutes, and then add the vanilla and the butter, beating with a whisk until thick and creamy. If the icing becomes too heavy, thin it by beating in a bit of cream.
Note: I like to ice the cake while the icing is still hot and smooth so that it cools with a nice smooth glaze. You can also ice the cake when the frosting is cooled and thick for a more textured finish.