My other grandmother (not Eleanor) told me once how, when she was a newlywed, she would make a cake for my grandfather every week, and they'd eat the whole thing by themselves in seven days, when she would make another one. “It's a wonder we didn't gain a hundred pounds that first year!” she said, shaking her head. Judson doesn't like cake, and they're kind of a pain to make, so I haven't been making one a week, but I have been making a lot lately. The thing is, cake freezes beautifully.
A professional baker I met once told me her secret was that she always froze her cakes for at least a day in between baking them and frosting them, because the ice crystals that formed in the cake would melt when it was thawed and made the cakes even moister. I don't know if that's true, but I do know I've had at least half of a frozen cake in my fridge for the better part of two months now, and I don't mind one bit. You really just never know when you'll be having a bad day and need a slice of chocolate cake to improve it, or a really good day and need a slice of cake to celebrate it.
(Also, Judson and I both tend to forget that we even have a freezer, so once a cake goes in there, it's temporarily forgotten until I reach in for ice, and then I spot the cake again and it's a cheery surprise, as close to having Santa's elves living in my kitchen and making cake when I'm not around as I'll probably ever get.)
All of that brings me to this cake, which is much more lovely than the slightly-sinister name would suggest. I made it last week in a fit of stress baking, on a day when I had already made a pot of blood orange curd, but I still wanted to be in the kitchen, where things are predictable, warm, and static. The recipe comes from the same Woman's Day Kitchen Collector's Cook Book #28: Chocolate Cakes and Frostings mini-book that the last chocolate cake I made came from, and it's dated May 1959. Since the recipe just calls for “fluffy white frosting,” I was on my own until I found a recipe in the box labelled, I kid you not, “Fluffy White Frosting.” Coincidences like this are how I know this project was clearly meant to be.
The cake itself is wonderful-- soft but still firm enough to bear the icing I slathered it with, and it had that amazing crisp-chewy ring around the edge that makes eating a piece of cake a totally transcendent experience. The frosting was also wonderfully, warmly vanilla (I love when “white” frosting becomes “vanilla” and has a depth of flavour beyond just SUGAR), but either I didn't make enough (a real possibility since I used a separate recipe for the cake and the frosting) or I didn't mix it long enough to get it as fluffy as its title boasts (also possible, as I detest making buttercream because it always covers my entire kitchen in a fine layer of powdered sugar), because I barely had enough frosting to cover between the layers and the top of the cake, much less to ice the sides. I increased the frosting recipe below by 50% to account for frosting the sides, too but if you are not a frosting fiend, feel free to reduce.
All that said, we're happily eating it, frozen or not, and I still recommend it... just not for the icing lover in your life.
4 spoons. It was lovely, but I miss frosted sides.
Chocolate Shadow Cake with Fluffy White Frosting
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, plus 2 more optional oz for decoration
½ c hot water
1 ¾ c sugar
½ c softened butter, plus 2 more optional tsp for decoration
1 tsp vanilla
2 c sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2/3 c milk
Melt 4 oz. chocolate in the hot water over very low heat until thickened, stirring constantly (if you have a double boiler, use it here!).
Add ½ c sugar and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and let cool.
While mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 176C/350F, and line the bottoms of two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper.
Cream butter and remaining 1 ¼ c sugar.
Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating until smooth.
Add cooled chocolate mixture and blend until mixture is of uniform consistency.
Pour into prepared cake pans (if you only have one, like I do, divide mixture in half and store unused half in a cool place until your pan is freed up).
Bake 40-45 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely, then frost with fluffy white frosting.
After frosting is set, melt the remaining 2 oz of chocolate (if using) with 2 tsp butter.
Dribble over cake and let set before serving.
½ c soft butter
4 ½ c confectioner's sugar
4-6 tbsp milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Beat all ingredients until smooth, scraping down sides of mixing bowl regularly.
Add more powdered sugar if too thin, and more milk or vanilla if too thick.
Continue beating for 30-60 seconds after frosting is blended to increase fluffiness.