There's something about the changing of the seasons--especially the strangely poignant transition from summer to fall--that makes me very nostalgic and brings me right back to how I was feeling in years past around this time. This morning, when I launched myself out of bed to discover that it was cold(!) in my apartment, a flood of memories from last fall and winter came rushing back, and it struck me how different life is now than it was just a year ago....all in good ways. Last year, CA Creative was very much in it's infancy (about 6 months old) and we were working hard to build it, not entirely sure where it was headed. I was focused mainly on that, and spent the holidays here in NYC working, and not doing much else. It was an exciting time, but a slightly lonely one as well. This year, things are a little more settled, and life is a bit fuller. CA has grown up into a healthy, thriving business, I've scaled back on unnecessary parties and industry events that were taking up a huge amount of my time and energy, devoted more nights to quality time (i.e. laid back dinners) with important people in my life, and followed through on my goal to spend time doing things I love, like learning French and playing the piano. It's always a good feeling to look back, reflect, and suddenly realize that life has changed, progressed, and turned into something great.
This weekend, my boyfriend and I headed up to the Hudson Valley to go to a college football game with some old friends of his, and scored a rare, last-minute reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns--dinner was pretty darn close to perfect and it was a lovely, special way to spend the first truly chilly weekend of fall. Whenever the weather turns like this, the resulting nostalgia makes me want to get into the kitchen to make classic favorites, like this homey chocolate "dump-it" cake. Also coming up this week: chicken soup for all of you who are suffering from those all-too-common early fall colds, and the simplest, most delicious spaghetti with tomato sauce in the world. xo
Chocolate Dump-It Cake
From Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser
2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon semi-coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)
When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. "Dump" the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky, so if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it's ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/ 4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It's good.
When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). You can sprinkle the cake lightly with colorful sprinkles if you like.