Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Death (by Chocolate) Cake

Last weekend, my mom gave me some time off from the farm so that I could go to Rochester in order to bring me out of my funk.  I saw all my old friends, spent time with my sister, made new friends, went for a hike, and brought my bike home for the first time since I brought it out there last summer.  I felt like a new person.  My Rochester friends put the life back into my veins. 
With my baking buddy, Meg.  Check out her cake blog here!
Unfortunately, one day here at the farm will drain you of any positivity or energy you've managed to accumulate.  The minute I stepped out of my car, my uncle barked at me, "Ok, vacation's over.  Get to work!" and points to the garden waiting to be weeded.  In addition to the army of weeds threatening our fragile baby plants, there was a mountain of laundry to tackle, a sink full of dishes to do, a refrigerator to be cleaned out, meds to be given, Hospice people's questions to answer, and Gram's friends to play hostess to.  Then of course, there was my grandmother herself to be dealt with.  She was a physical and psychological mess, as usual.

I have felt like I am being punished for having a good weekend.  Nothing I do seems to be good enough for anyone around here.  They've also become really spoiled, and are starting to take advantage of me, sending me off to the store every day for some new craving or something that just popped into their heads.  The house isn't clean enough, and I'm also not helping out on the farm enough.  I am once again exhausted, upset, and at a breaking point, and I've only been back for two and a half days.

Death by Chocolate Cake
Lately, Gram has been craving all forms of chocolate.   Chocolate milk, chocolate Ding-Dongs, and chocolate ice cream.  Yesterday she woke up and decided she wanted Stewarts's Death By Chocolate ice cream (oh the irony...), and it's all she's eaten for two days.  Despite her lack of normal food intake, her need for control is still very high.  My great uncle is coming for a visit tomorrow, and she's been very upset about preparing for him.  She told me I had to bake a white cake to serve with peaches and whipped cream.  Well, we had none of those three things, so I went against my grandma's wishes and made a chocolate cake instead.  She wasn't happy with my decision, but I wasn't going to be pushed over this time.

Being far too exhausted and frustrated to bake one from scratch, I pulled out a Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix from the cupboard.  I did the same jazzing-up technique that I did in these cupcakes, and used coffee instead of water.  Because Gram insisted on also using a chocolate frosting, I wanted to use another flavor for the center.  I was planning on a raspberry filling, but just as I pulled the jar out of the refrigerator, my grandfather hobbled into the kitchen with his walker, and asked what I was filling the cake with.  (I swear he listens to my every move in that kitchen).  I asked if he'd rather have raspberry or fudge, and he said it had to be fudge.  Well, I am slave to whatever they want around here anyway, so even though I thought it could possibly be a lethal amount of chocolate, I complied, and spread a smooth layer of hot chocolate fudge in the center.

I adapted Betty Crocker's chocolate buttercream recipe for the top of the cake.  I know, it's not my trusty and much loved buttercream, but the milkman was out of butter this week!  Here's what I did instead:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (we were out of butter!)
3 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 oz unsweetened chocolate

Melt chocolate and cream together.  Beat together confectioners' sugar and shortening.  Add chocolate and vanilla and beat again until fluffy.  To frost, plop 3/4 of the frosting on the top of the cake, and work out from the center and then down the sides.  Use the remaining frosting in the bowl for touch-ups and extra fill-ins on the sides.

Despite my exhaustion, my cake baking days are not close to over.  My mom's birthday is this Friday, and my friend Eric has one the following week.  But I don't mind doing birthday cakes.  These are the therapeutic kind that I started this blog about.  Making something from scratch to make someone else have a brighter day.  That is what I love about baking.  Someone telling me to bake a cake for a less important reason, and then telling me how I should do it, however, is not the same.  Oh well.  Day by day, cake by cake.  We'll get through this.

Love and cookies,

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