Saturday, March 20, 2010

Food Fetishism: Cake vs. Pie

There was an epic debate on Google Reader this week on whether cake or pie is better. My stance is that the ideal cake defeats the ideal pie, with the caveat that pie is easier to pull off. You can order a pie just about anywhere, and it will be edible. Cake, however, is alchemy. Combine disparate elements, apply heat, and you end up with something magical that is more than the sum of its parts. With so many steps and so much science to the art of baking, it's easy to screw  up in myriad ways. You can end up with something too dry, too sweet, with too much frosting or not enough. Not to mention, cakes are so versatile - you can even make them look like other food! In fact, there will be another post later about Food That Looks Like Other Food (I'm kind of obsessed with it).

And please, could there ever be a show called Ace of Pies? No, don't even play.

Here's what really settled it for me, though:


After seeing that video yesterday, I was inspired to make a LOST mm . . . cake! for our weekly LOSTnite. I basically improvised and made a kitchen sink cake - thus Blueberry Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Sort-of-Ganachey Frosting.  It turned out very nicely - very moist and not too sweet. The  frosting was the best part. Don't judge the decorating - I didn't have any fondant on hand and had to use whipped cream. 

For the cake: 
2 c flour
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c buttermilk
2 sticks unsalted butter
4tbsp cocoa
1 c water
2 eggs
1/2 bag of frozen blueberries (or fresh when they're in season)
cinnamon to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the flour & sugar. Boil water, butter, & cocoa in a sauce pan, then add to dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients (careful not to scramble your eggs in the hot cocoa!). Pour into an 8x8 pan, & bake at 375 for about half an hour. I always test to see if it's done VERY often - I'm paranoid about dry cakes!

Now for the "sort-of-ganachey" frosting. This part was really made up, and all measurements are  approximate. I used the last of my cocoa in the cake, so I grabbed a chocolate bar. I didn't have any heavy cream on hand, so I used buttermilk. The texture was a little too liquidy, so I added just a touch of confectioner's sugar. I added the mayo as an emulsifier, as per Alton Brown's suggestion. Sounds gross, but you can't taste it at all, and it's much easier than using eggs.

1 bar of Ghirardelli extra dark chocolate
Handful of Hershey's cinnamon chips
About 1/2 c buttermilk
Mayonnaise as needed
Enough confectioner's sugar to stiffen the mixture (not much!)


  1. Kitchen Alchemy: Things Nicholas Flamel wishes he could have done. Great title for a cookbooks! Sadly, my transmutation skills are lacking, but the art of 'pinch of this, handfull of that' I've got down. I took the liberty of finding that appalling-sounding recipe for brownies with black beans etc. Here it is:

    Nonstick cooking spray
    1½ cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
    ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 tablespoon espresso powder
    ¾ cup egg substitute
    2 tablespoons low-calorie sugar-free chocolate syrup, such as Walden Farms
    2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream, such as Breakstone's
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
    24 packets (84 g) Truvia or 8 tablespoons granulated Splenda
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

    Combine the beans, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and egg substitute in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl halfway through.

    Add the chocolate syrup, sour cream, butter, Truvia, and vanilla. Process until all of the ingredients are combined, about 1 minute.

    Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, turning the dish halfway through the baking time. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out with soft batter clinging to it.

    Let the brownies cool completely in the baking dish on a wire rack. Then cut into 12 squares and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

    If you're brave enough to try it, let me know! I'm usually a 'try it' person, but that just sound filthybad and vomit-inducing. Prove me wrong, oh master of kitchen alchemy! ;-)

  2. ladies, could you advise on what kind of wok to buy? i am in the market.