Christmas, once again, snuck up on me this year. While I had decked the halls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I just wasn’t catching the holiday spirit. Everything seemed so…what’s the word? Obligatory!
A week and a half before the big day, I shook off my doldrums and picked out a family photo to feature on our annual seasons greeting (which reminds me – I’d like to give a big shout out to our local drug store for their same day service and most lucrative coupon). I had our Christmas cards addressed and inserted into the post office’s drop box the very next day. Go me.
My husband and I spent the remainder of the week procuring the rest of the items on our family’s wish lists. But, I just couldn’t shake the blahs despite having so much to look forward to: singing with the church choir on Christmas Eve, watching my youngest sing with the children’s choir, opening presents Christmas morning, and going to my oldest sister’s afterwards for brunch (and more presents).
It all seemed so routine this year. While I didn’t let my mood degrade into a full-fledge “ba humbug!” (I did, afterall, bake some delectable Bohemian Christmas cookies to set out for the big guy), I just felt so ho-ho-hum.
Then my other sister, the one who had joined us for Christmas dinner with our parents last night and the very same one who could knock the spatulas out of all those sad reality show pastry chefs, served dessert – a Woodward Reserve Chocolate Cake.
As my loyal readers well know, I am as fond of chocolate as a fish is of water. But this cake, decadent and delicious, cast a spell over all who ate it. After the first bite, my father – normally, a stoic, reserved, and sometimes grouchy man was possessed by a mischievous Christmas elf.
My mother sat to his right, dutifully reading my middle child’s article that was prominently featured in his student newspaper, a piece of cake on the table before her. After my father downed his piece of cake, unbeknownst to everyone except my eldest, he swiped his wife’s.
Realizing that his deed did not go unnoticed, he winked at the witness. This, in turn, prompted a round of giggles I haven’t participated in since the Great Sock Fight of 2001.
Before long, my eldest was able to parlay what had just happened to my sister who, in turn, told me. But, having just taken a ginormous bite of my own piece, I was unable to relay the tale to my spouse seated directly to my right.
By the time I could verbalize again, my mother had finished reading my boy’s literary effort, put the paper down and asked, “What happened to my cake?” which prompted an uproarious round of laughter. At this point, my dear old dad’s face was contorted into a wince and his eyes were watering. Knowing he couldn’t pull off an innocent expression to save his life, he did his best to tame his grin into a serious one.
Laughter. It is the best medicine. And just so you have plenty to go around at your own table, here is a recipe for the tonic*:
Woodford Reserve Chocolate Cake
Serves 16, generously
1¾ cups strong coffee
¼ cup Woodford Reserve bourbon
½ pound unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 well beaten, large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine coffee and Woodford Reserve, butter and chocolate and simmer over very low heat till butter and chocolate have melted. Whisk mixture to incorporate.
2. Add sugar and stir till dissolved. Let mixture cool 10 minutes.
3. While mixture is cooling, sift remaining dry ingredients together. Using a whisk, incorporate flour mixture into the liquid, making sure that all flour is dissolved.
4. Whisk in beaten eggs and vanilla extract.
5. Place finished batter into a 9-inch springform pan that has been buttered and dusted with cocoa.
6. Bake at 275 F for 1½ hours or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out just holding a couple of crumbs.
7. Cool cake entirely before removing from the pan.
8. This cake has never met an icing it didn’t like! Woodford bakers prefer caramel.
3/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa (I use Ghirardelli)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 stick of softened butter
3 – 4 tablespoons of half-and-half or heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift together cocoa and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl. In another bowl (I use the bowl of my stand mixer for this) combine 1 cup of this mixture with the butter and a tablespoon of cream and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Add the rest of the sugar mixture alternately with cream all the while beating well. If mixture seems dry, add more cream carefully until the consistency is just right for spreading on the top and sides of the cake.
*My sis, who originally pulled this recipe off of shine.yahoo.com
, put about two to three tablespoons of bourbon in the frosting, even though the recipe doesn’t call for it.