Many many moons ago, after dropping out of several community colleges and having no luck in figuring out what I "was going to be when I grew up (arg!)", I had a light bulb flash off in my head and I decided "that since I loved to cook that I was going to be the next Julia Child!"....and proceeded to enroll myself in culinary school. Not much forethought went in to this, one foray into the Cordon Bleu styled schools in LA were enough to convince me that neither my pockets, nor my parents were enough to get me through that. So I opted for the next best thing.
Santa Barbara City College, Hotel Restaurant & Culinary Program, circa 1997. John Dunn and his merry band of teacher chefs taught us how to chop, dice, slice (fingers sometimes), purchase food & supplies, account for our $$$, scrub a hood (blech!), flip a burger, serve our clients in a college cafeteria and a fine dining restaurant and try like hell to manage those who came after us. This over-simplifies the 2 year program, but many of my friends who survived can attest that when you graduated, you could pretty much do any damn thing in a food service capacity. Front or back of house, it doesn't matter, if it had to do with catering, hotels, restaurants or the local In 'n Out burger stand...we would rock your world.
Insane moment #1....when I graduated at the tender age of 21-3/4, I bought a restaurant. With my parents help I obtained a 50 (ish) seat restaurant in Ventura and jumped in feet first, eyes closed and hands clasped in prayer.
OK, I lied, I don't pray. But I did have very high hopes.
Long story short, I had the restaurant for a year and a half, worked my ass off and worked my ass in to the ground. Slept a little, worked more, drank too much and learned a whole hell of a lot. When people ask me about my experience I focus on the best parts of it as opposed to the worst as I have blocked much of the crappy part out. I met incredible people there, whom I am lucky enough to still have in my life....sat on my front porch composing limericks over bottles of wine with one of the funniest most wonderful men I have been blessed to meet...learned SO much about being "the boss" (had the sweatshirt to prove it)...especially when the boss is younger than almost all the employees except the dishwasher....found out about the mountain of paperwork and taxes that it takes to own and operate a business (serious yuck!) and best of all, I learned that I love to bake.
Coming from a family on both sides that loves to cook, I can attribute my love for baking to a few ladies...Sorry Mom, this time you are not on the list. :( Grandma Kenton, my Dad's mom, makes the best damn pie crust ever and the pie fillings are insane...cherry, strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue...the list could go one for a full paragraph. She is also well known for making a pie called "Sex Pie". Truly delicious and who the hell would not buy a pie called "Sex" from a sassy 80 something year lady???? Every time she makes it, it disappears in no time flat! My Nana, Marie McKaye-Mom's Mom, made a number of desserts that are in my arsenal and I channel her spirit every time I get in to baking mode (um...Special Treats anyone???). Lastly I give props to Chef Mayuri, our pastry teacher at SBCC who is a super slim, Taiwanese pastry cooking mother effer.
Too much salt? Chef knew it. Kneaded your bread to much? Chef ridiculed you. Added salt instead of sugar to your scones? God help you...you would never hear the end of it. Seriously, the woman is badass.
Since I have sold the restaurant and got away from the freedom of being able to bake whatever the hell I wanted on a daily basis, I have unfortunately gotten away from baking in general. I get the obligatory request for a dessert on occasion when someone wants to splurge or has a birthday. Not to mention, everyone and their mom is on a fricking diet nowadays (including me) and can't afford to splurge on the calories. I have honestly let my "skills" get a little rusty and it makes me sad to even write that when it is one of the things I really love to do.
And now we get to the point of my rant....Brock's dad, Bill, turned 66 this last week and had us over for dinner. As always, I asked what I could bring or contribute and Bill requested a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. My immediate thought was...that's it??? No fanciness?? German Chocolate? Caramel goodness? Fruit flavors layered in???? Nothing!!!! Turns out that this request turned in to a personal quest! I make everything fancy...can't make a simple dish without trying to "make it better" with some other fun and fabulous ingredient. So I made a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate (Buttercream...hello heart attack!) Frosting. It was seriously good and reminded me of how much I lovelovelove to bake and that I am damn good at it. Please enjoy...the buttercream is a bit of work, but so very worth it! I also made a couple of cupcakes with some remnants...testing out ideas for future baking forays. :)
Dark Chocolate Cake
2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghirhardelli please!)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 2 - 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.
Slice each cake in ½ lengthwise and trim top if you want a flat topped cake.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
8 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate (the good stuff please!)
7 sticks (3 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
12 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
12 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (prefer Ghirardelli or better)
In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate, stirring until smooth, and let cool. Cut butter into pieces and soften to cool room temperature.
In a heavy saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 248°F.
While syrup is boiling, in a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites with a pinch salt until foamy and beat in cream of tartar. Beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks and beat in hot syrup in a stream (try to avoid pouring onto beaters and side of bowl). Beat mixture at medium speed until completely cool, 10-15 mins. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until mixture is thickened and smooth. Beat in cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and a pinch salt, beating until smooth.
The frosting may need to be chilled a bit before frosting the cake….depending on how hot or humid it is, you may need to adjust. When frosting the cake, spread frosting on a layer, set in freezer until stiff, repeat until you are ready to frost the outside.
Decorate as you wish…I drizzled melted chocolate…it was easy :) And delicious! Happy Birthday Billy Boy! XXOO