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Wendy DeBord

Finding the Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Part 1)

598 posts in this topic

Several times now I've worked with others off site thru pm's exchanging recipes, in search of "the best of". I'd like to bring this topic up to everyone........would you participate and share you best recipes, test others recipes, compare and see if we can all benefit from this? I'd like to see other pro's get involved, will you too be interested and participate?

The main recipes I'm interested in networking on are basics: the best chocolate cake, the best white sratch cake, best yellow, best sponge, etc....These seem like simple cakes, well they are, but to a certain respect their very difficult because most don't compare in texture to a mix. Unforunately I live in a world that judges cakes to mixes and usually the mix wins in taste tests, especially white cake. Yellow cake which I get requests for, recipes doesn't really seem to exist (theres only a handful out there labeled yellow). You have butter cakes, sponge cakes, etc....but nothing really seems to come close to what consumers see in the box yellow mises.

I feel like I'm already using the best carrot and banana cake recipes. Cakes that get flavor from ingredients other then butter, flour and sugar are much easier to achieve good taste from. But the simple chocolate, white and yellow cakes are very ilusive. I also don't see the challenge in genoise or non-american cakes.........seeing that their rarely used on their own as is or in a wedding cake.

So what do you think? Unlike the other thread were they're working from one book, "Baking With Julia", you can bring the best recipe you've ever found from any source.......as long as we link to the recipe and excerpt or we put the recipe and directions in our own words we won't plagiarize and we'll respect fair use.

So who's in?

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I'd be up for some experimental chocolate cake baking. Have an idea of what you think would be a good starting point? I have no use for white cake. Or yellow cake. Cakes should be named for flavors and not colors.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Sinclair, can we tie this to the eGRA somehow? :smile: I'd prefer that recipes don't get posted on the site, but are put into eGRA and linked back. And since you have to change them anyway to post them, this benefits us all! :smile:


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I think this sounds like a really great idea. I'm not sure how much I will be able to participate at first since I'm still getting used to working for a living. :wink:

I have some chocolate cake recipes that I really like, but have yet to find the perfect ballance of moistness, soft but elastic (for want of a better word) crumb, not too dense - not to airy, and rich, full chocolate flavor.

By far my favorite white cake recipe is the white chocolate whisper cake from the Cake Bible, but then, I haven't really tried that many alternatives.

One recipe I would really like to find the best of is for baba au rhum and/or savarin. I've tried several, but I'm still searching for the right texture that will soak up the syrup soften nicely, but not fall apart or get pasty.

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It would nice if we could rank our opinions on each item with a 1-5 scale or similar and break each down into just a few catagories, like: moisture, texture/density/crumb, shelf life-does it become dry after one day, etc... So we need to agree upon the judging cryteria, right?

I've never setting something up like this. So anyone who knows how to organize this-please help?

I like the idea of finding a good savarin too! What else is hard to find a perfect recipe for?.......or we can add more items as we progress.

Chocolate cakes seems like a good place to start. Most everyone needs a good recipe for this. I've tried ALOT and should be able to find my notes on some of the more famous recipes.

I'll start by offering up my favorite chocolate cake recipe to date (asap, it's too late tonight). How should we do this? Do you all bake it and then you should offer up your recipe if you believe it's better? I'd like to try to limited the totally number of cakes we have to test bake in every catagory-for lots of obvious reasons. So if someone starts each catagory with a known good recipe that should save us time, no?

What do you think, am I going about this all wrong?

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Hi Wendy, I would be glad to participate in any way that I can. Just last week I did a chocolate cake tasting with Friends. I had been asked to make a single "Devil's Food cake" for a event. I decided to bake a couple of entirely different recipes and taste them using a simple rating scale similar to one that you proposed. I invited friends over and we blind tasted the two different recipes baked that same day and unfrosted. The first was from the book "The Perfect Cake" by Susan Purdy and the second was from the "Baking Illustrated" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Mag (this one was originally published in Cook's Illustrated Mar/Apr 2000). They both baked up very well and it was Very interesting to compare and contrast them. I look forward to trying it again with other recipes.


Fred Rowe

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Great idea!

I have found recipes that work best for my purposes (and for now) BUT that certainly doesn't mean they're the best since I haven't tried them all. I'd also like to better understand why a certain cake recipe turns out moister, rises up better, is fluffier/denser or has a certain crumb.

My favorite chocolate cake recipe is from Margaret Braun's Cakewalk book. I like it because you basically dump all the ingredients together and bake, there's no creaming butter and sugar or adding dry ingred. in separate additions and all that. Super easy. And.. it's very moist and stays that way for days. It is a little dense and has a large crumb, but people love it. I've also used the Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake out of the Cake Bible. I loved that recipe for it's flavor and it had a really soft texture and fine crumb. But, other people thought it was dry. Personally, I think they mistook the fine texture for dryness due to their uneducated palates, but in order to please my customers, I switched to the recipe I'm using now.

It will be interesting to hear any of your own comments on the same recipes I've mentioned above.

If anyone wants to try the Cakewalk recipe, Wendy pointed out a flaw in the recipe that the baking soda should be 1 tsp. instead of 1 Tbsp. Big difference!

Wendy, by the way, on the subject of yellow cakes, did you ever try the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake from the Cake Bible? I used to use that one and I found it had a weight and texture closer to that of a cake mix and tastes wonderful.

Sorry, I'm not prepared with the actual recipes yet.

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Great idea, Wendy! I would love to join in.

I think your idea of you starting with providing us with your recipe, then we test it, then we provide feedback and/or a better recipe is a great idea. This can easily be very chaotic, so I like your idea of starting with one recipe first.

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o.k. first heres the chocolate cake recipe I use the most. I've tried sooooo many other chocolate cake recipes and find this to be the most consistant and the best tasting, best crumb, best keeper. It's from Scott Clark Woolley, a well known cake decorator. I don't have his book in front of me at this moment but if you want the name I'd be happy to post it later.

Fudge Brownie Cake, yeild: 2, 9" rounds

sift together:

3 c. flour

1 1/2 c. cocoa

1 1/2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

reserve.

Cream:

3/4 c. butter

with

2 c. sugar

Then add: until creamy

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

2/3 c. veg. oil

2 tsp. vanilla

Then mix in you dry ingredients from above.

To this you add:

1 1/2 c, boiling water or hot coffee.

Nuts are optional

Dirrections: Now heres the wierd part, baking. The author reccomends 275-300F oven and NOT hotter. They are allowed to cool in the pans for ONLY/exactly 5 minutes and then you turn them out and wrap them in plastic wrap, sealing them. This step can't be omited, it does steam the cake and that does make the cake better then if you air cooled it (I've done both, wrapped is better). I've also baked it at 350 and that does work but a cooler oven is better. Be forwarned this cake does not rise high in the pan, it will be pretty close to the level of batter when finished. I've mulitpled this recipe as high as x6 which fills a 20qt mixing bowl, with no problems. This cake can be baked in any size pan with-out changes.

Why this isn't totally perfect: the top domes and cracks. Perhaps it needs a slight adjustment in leavening-but I've never played with it.

I hope you all will try this recipe and then tell us what your think. On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being horrible and 5 being perfect (as in the best you've ever made) rate it. Then if you have a chocolate cake recipe you think is better then this, please post it....and we will move on from there working as a group.

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I'm in! My clients and customers could benefit emensely.

By the way Wen, I took a class with Scott-great teacher


"Chocolate has no calories....

Chocolate is food for the soul, The soul has no weight, therefore no calories" so said a customer, a lovely southern woman, after consuming chocolate indulgence

SWEET KARMA DESSERTS

www.sweetkarmadesserts.com

550 East Meadow Ave. East meadow, NY 11554

516-794-4478

Brian Fishman

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This may seem like dumb questions but i want to avoid the wrong assumptions.

The flour, AP or cake?

The Cocoa, dutched or not?

Hot Water or Hot Coffee? it could make a big difference in comparing it to other chocolate cakes. Which is your favorite?


Fred Rowe

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OH good questions FWED.

I use all purpose in this cake. I think that the hot water added in the end breaks down the gluten.

Lets stick with hot h20......that should keep the taste consistant with testers. I typical use h20, NOT coffee.

Dutched or not.........o.k. I have to admit I never pay attention to this.....cause I'm not ordering it. I'm pretty certain I've used both successfully.

Ladybug (and others) please join and bake when you get a chance. The more testers and experience in our group the more likely we will find the ulimate recipes.


Edited by Sinclair (log)

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Yay! I'm glad you started this Wendy.

Is there any established time frame for trying the recipes to get reasonable feedback or should this be open-ended? Should we do a separate thread for each type of recipe or keep it all in here?

I will definitely try this one out, but I would bet the coffee adds a lot over the h20. The recipe I'm currently using adds hot coffee as well and so far it's had the richest flavor of all the chocolate cakes I've tried.

My wife's gonna kill me. There goes the diet! :raz:

Edit: Have you ever tried this as a sheet cake? Would a sheet cake be a separate category from rounds?


Edited by kthull (log)

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Hum good points Kevin........

Well I know most people have busy schedules, .....how much time should be limit each cake to? 1 month....does that seem reasonable?

Keeping a seperate thread for each item makes alot of sense so if there are straggliers it will keep info. from getting lost or entangled.

We were asked to contribute all of our recipes to RecipeGullet, you post it yourself. I think thats cool, but I hope we can label the 'one cake' as the "comunities favorite "so over time we can easily sort thru which was which.....and easily find the one that was best.

So I guess we'll call this thread the "chocolate cake thread" and start a new one when ever the majority is ready.

Yes, I've baked this in sheets-full sheet cakes. I put a sheet pan cover/baggie over it to steam, I don't unmold that size while hot. I don't think sheet cakes are a seperate catagory because were talking about the same batter. To be the perfect cake in any catagory I think it needs to be versitile enough to be baked in any pan (with the exception of a jelly roll which needs more flex. then ordinary cakes).

Kev. you don't have to eat the whole thing. Take a bite and pass the cake on to a neighbor....the more opinions and feed back the better. We need to find the best possible. Even though coffee does add flavor- ideally I need a pure chocolate flavor.......being able to adjust the recipe in the future is something we all can do individually.

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There are ways to group recipes in the archive so that when doing a search, recipes of the same category or thread come up.

I've started you off with Sinclairs Fudge Brownie Cake recipe.

In order to be able to seach only for recipes in this thread and have them come up together, I've used "The Baking Club" in the title of the recipe. IF everyone does this with the recipes they post in the archive, only the recipes from this thread will come up.

For example: use the "search by title" tool and type in "the baking club".

Once you have a winner, you can add that to the title of the recipe. For Example, Fudge Brownie Cake - Winner

Then when you do a search by the club, all the cake recipes will come up and this one will show as the chosen winner.

For convenience sake, I have added a link to this discussion in the introduction section "this recipe is being discussed here", so that users can click on the link, be directed to this thread and be able to read the discussion on different techniques etc.

Does that make sense?


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Wendy - I will try to bake a test of your recipe sometime in the next week. I have a few little questions first:

1) What brand of cocoa do you normally use?

2) Do you usually bake this in a convection oven? If so, have you tried a conventional home oven? Any difference?

3) I don't suppose you have a version converted to grams or ounces?

4) What's the best way prepare you pans for this recipe? butter/flour, spray, parchement, or a combo?

Thanks very much for getting this ball rolling! I was testing chocolate cakes a couple months ago and really liked the Chocolate Fudge Cake from the "Cake Bible". I'm interested to see how this one compares.

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I prepare all my pans by spraying with a non-stick spray (that doesn't contain h20 in the ingredients-thats very important) and placing a parchment circle on the bottom for easy removal. I almost never use flour or butter in preparing a pan-too timely and rarely needed.

I only have confection ovens at work. On low fan it works fine-use your typical adjustments when using a convection. My ovens at work have to be dialed down almost 75 degrees to equal a conventional oven.

I think a home conventional oven should give you better results actually. Everyones oven does bake differently-just keep in mind that this cake requires a lower temp. then the usual 350F-so if your oven runs really hot, adjust it.

I haven't converted this to weights.........one day.......I just use recipes as written for speed. Yes, weighting is very important-it would be helpful. I need to bake this at work so I'll try to find the time to convert it to weight and repost the recipe asap.

Unforunately baking is an art and requires certain skills from everyone who tests this. Bake until just done. I'm a stickler for over baked cakes-thats a no-no! It will ruin any cake.

Brand of cocoa-I'll double check at work and report back.

Hey Brian-did you happen to catch Roker On The Road last night? He featured Scott as one of his guests-the whole show was great! I loved the other people he featured too, I've GOT to look up Joesph Schimt in San Fran........I loved his chocolate work......very non-competitive in style, but nice!


Edited by Sinclair (log)

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Unforunately baking is an art and requires certain skills from everyone who tests this. .

Well that puts me neatly in my place :biggrin: I'll just watch thanks. :biggrin:


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Unforunately baking is an art and requires certain skills from everyone who tests this. .

Well that puts me neatly in my place :biggrin: I'll just watch thanks. :biggrin:

Well... I might actually say that baking is a craft, and while some of us have more experience than others, skills can certainly be learned. Although I think the main goal is to find "best of category" recipes rather than teach a class in baking, I think you can use this as an opportunity to try new things and get feedback. Don't be shy - this ain't rocket surgery. Just post if you have questions.

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Ladybug (and others) please join and bake when you get a chance. The more testers and experience in our group the more likely we will find the ultimate recipes.

Now, now, Marlene! :laugh: I'm definitely not a professional. This will be fun and certainly a home baker will know what they like and what they don't - you don't have to be a professional to have taste buds!

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The 1 month timeframe is very generous...should be no problem here. And for all you non-professionals out there, fear not: I'm one of you.

Glad to hear this works in sheets as that will be my test, without the coffee, and using Droste Dutch-processed cocoa. I'll probably bake this on the weekend. I'll also bake my current "best" so I can compare the two side by side.

I also agree on the weights. I think anyone should make it a goal to weigh the items out if they have access to a scale and add that to the volume measurements. If I'm first, I'll definitely do it.

And you say to give the cake to the neighbors! As if that's an easy thing to do... :laugh: All kidding aside, I'm already the most popular person on the block.

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I would like to recommend the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum as a source of weights and measures. Check out pages 439 to 442 for the weights in grams and ounces for most of the common ingredients that we will find in this recipe and others. Please let us know Wendy if your measurements differ significantly from those. Thanks. Fred


Fred Rowe

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Okay..I made this cake last night! I'm busy munching on it right now. Here's what I did (I weighed the ingredients w/ my usual conversions):

Fudge Brownie Cake

sift together:

15 oz. AP bleached flour

4 3/4 oz natural process cocoa

1 1/2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

reserve.

Cream:

6 oz. butter, room temp

with

14 oz. sugar

Then add: until creamy

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

2/3 c. veg. oil

2 tsp. vanilla

Then mix in you dry ingredients from above.

To this you add:

1 1/2 c, boiling water

I baked the cakes in 2 greased/floured 9 inch sheet pans. My conventional oven was at 285 degrees, according to my oven themometers. I took one cake out at 35 minutes since the cake was starting to look really dry around the edges (the cake tester still came out slightly gooey). I waited until 45 minutes for the other cake. 5 minutes after the cakes came out of the oven, I double-wrapped them in plastic wrap and let them cool.

Like Wendy, my cakes came out like humongous muffins or volcanoes. I would have been really displeased with this if I were to frost these cakes! I think there must be too much gluten or too much flour in this recipe.

I decided to use natural process cocoa because the recipe is using baking soda, but later on, I figured it could have been either natural or dutch-processed because there's quite a lot of buttermilk in this recipe.

I found that it was really difficult to NOT overmix this batter because mixing the dry with the wet resulted in a gooey kind of dough, which then needed to be broken down by the hot water....but the end texture was actually quite nice anyways.

My old favorites used to be the Chocolate Fudge Cake from the Cake Bible and the Chocolate Chiffon Cake from Baking with Julia. I didn't think either of them were perfect either though.

I liked the flavor from the Chocolate Fudge Cake (it tasted almost brownie-like....very chocolatey and full-flavored), and the crumb was really fine, almost silky. I thought it was a little dry and crumbly though. Normally, I like chocolate cakes that are really rich textured and flavored.

For a change, I liked the Chocolate Chiffon Cake because the texture was really nice...very moist & rich textured. If there was ever a "chocolate cake mix" cake, this is it. I didn't care too much for the flavor though....the oil didn't really highlight the chocolate flavor, and there was a definite "cake mix" flavor to this cake.

As for Wooley's (the one Wendy posted) recipe, I thought the texture was in-between the two above cakes. My results were slightly chewy, and moist. The crumb is in between the fine crumb of the Chocolate Fudge Cake and the open-holed Chocolate Chiffon Cake. It's a little crumbly though. I wish it were slightly moister, and held together better. I liked the texture of the cake baked for only 35 minutes much better than the 45 minute one.

As for flavor, I thought it tasted very chocolatey, but it didn't taste as full-flavored as the Chocolate Fudge Cake did. It was definitely much better tasting than the Chocolate Chiffon Cake though.

With quite a bit of tweaking, I think this cake could become my only favorite, but not the way it is right now. I think the mayonnaise chocolate cake in the Cake Bible also has potential, but I haven't tried that one yet either.

Any other takers?

Edited to add: I give this a 4 out of 5!


Edited by lorea (log)

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I LOVE chocolate cake - well, chocolate anything........and have been looking for that perfect cake for years.

So it's in the oven now and I'm wondering if I'm to use the clean toothpick test for doneness? (I know it's a bit late to ask)

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I have had the best success with Gale Gand's recipe - very dark, moist and intensely chocolate. :wub: The recipe uses what was called the "muffin method" so over mixing isn't as likely. The cake stays moist for days and bakes up flat and even.

There is a picture of it on the cover of "Just a Bite" and the sauce that she has with it - perfectly fine. Just one little point - this recipe makes enough for 2 9X13's rather than one per the recipe and the directions actually have the baker using a sheet pan. This is the only bit of sloppy editing of all the recipes that I have tried.

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      The winner of the dance contest sometimes won a cake presented by the master of the house, leading many to think this is where the name the “Cakewalk” comes from.

      African-American slaves who watched the proceedings took the dance on as their own in the yards outside their shacks, mocking what they saw as the frivolous customs of the plantation owners. According to the oral histories of slaves and their descendants, the Cakewalk was a marriage of traditional African tribal dances and rhythms combined with the dance steps of the upper classes. When the land barons and ladies saw the slaves dance, they missed the satirical element entirely, but the popularity of the Cakewalk had been established among the elite and it now transcended the boundaries of class.

      Wealthy farmers went on to sponsor competitions between plantations and the dance moved to large cities in the South and then to the East where it became a staple of traveling minstrel shows and ultimately to Vaudeville, the lights of Broadway and throughout Europe.

      On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with these humble words, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Inspired by the renewed freedom gifted to them through Emancipation, a freedom that allowed them to express themselves openly through dance and music, African-Americans led a creative revival that would usher in new forms of dance and music that had never before been seen or heard. The artistic contributions of former slaves and their descendants would forever change the creative landscape in America.


      From this humble beginning in the sweltering, humid heat and back-breaking work of picking cotton, African-American artists penned the notes of a new from of music called ragtime that would eventually evolve into jazz. It was the Cakewalk, unintentionally and ironically, that crossed the bounds of race and class status as it burst into the popular consciousness of America By the 1890’s, African-American actors, dancers and musicians had started forming their own production companies and staged versions of the Cakewalk became all the rage.

      Scott Joplin, (1867-1917), was an early musical pioneer of the Cakewalk style of music. Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Joplin wrote and performed in the style of rag—a combination of dance and marching music entwined with the “ragged” rhythms and soul of African music. One of Joplin’s most famous pieces was “The Ragtime Dance,” (published in 1902), that included a Cakewalk:

      “Turn left and do the “Cakewalk Prance, Turn the other way and do the “Slow drag, Now take your lady to the World’s Fair and do the ragtime dance. Cakewalk soft and sweetly, be sure your steps done neatly.”

      The vaudeville team of Mr. Egbert Williams and Mr. George Walker were two of the first African-Americans to take their musical show on the road in a grand scale. Crowds packed into The New York theatre in 1903 for 53 stunning performances of song and Cakewalk dances in William’s and Walker’s new production “In Dahomey” -- the first all-black musical to be performed on a grand scale in a major Broadway venue. After its raging success in America, “In Dahomey” crossed the Atlantic, performing for seven months of standing-room-only audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London before returning to New York.

      By the turn of the century, Americans were moving off farms and into towns and cities in record numbers. Ragtime music transformed into a new genre called “Jazz,” with emerging talents like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing at the Cotton Club in New York.

      By 1930, the public fascination with dance theatre began to fade as America was lured by the intrigue of other forms of entertainment like talking motion pictures. But the early concepts and the heritage established by the Cakewalk endured throughout the twentieth century and into the 21st, namely, as a contest to raise money at church socials and school functions. The Cakewalk also delivered new words into the American vocabulary-“take the cake,” and “it’s a real cakewalk,” are terms used to refer to something that is “the best,” or a job easily done. Cakewalk software is a cutting-edge firm today that produces award-winning digital audio and recording software to the music industry.

      + + +
      I’m nearing my 54th birthday in November, some 46 years removed from my second-grade class. I had been lost until that Cakewalk at Yoke’s, yet now I’m found. I’ve learned a lesson in respect through the Cakewalk -- a lesson that taught me how emancipation allowed the enslaved to express themselves through music and dance. A lesson that freedom is an unalienable right bestowed upon all Americans. I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the place that this little ditty we call the Cakewalk plays in the history of America, opening our eyes to a world that was color blind.

      I found my personal truth in the Cakewalk -- a truth far richer and deeper than the dreams of a boy winning a cake.

      * * *
      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food and reviews restaurants. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team.
    • By pastrygirl
      Do you ever end up with ganache that reminds you of extra-heavy mayo?  I was winging it today, testing batches that set up ok but grainy, then weirldy flexible. The 60% i usually use is 39% cocoa butter, but in this batch I used 72%, which is 45% fat.  I also made some other changes but was trying to keep a similar ratio of liquid to chocolate.  The 72% ganache is far thicker than the 60% ever is - it probably needs more cream or a splash of booze, right?  Arg, I should know this!
       
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