Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Triumphant Return of the Sheet Cake

Whatever happened to the sheet cake? Growing up, I remember them at every birthday party I ever attended. Then, at some point, the sheet cake disappeared. Undoubtedly usurped by other class favorites like cupcakes and cookies, it was soon forgotten. After careful thought and consideration, I decided to bring the sheet cake back. I simply had to find a way.
Earlier this week, my mom and I drafted our menu for our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish new year and the meal commences with apples and honey to symbolize a sweet new year and offers all the traditional favorites like brisket, challah and kasha, a healthful buckwheat grain best enjoyed soaked in gravy. Did I mention it's good for you?
With our menu nearly complete, the only question remaining was dessert. After rummaging through my mom's recipe box, we landed on a recipe for the 1886 Chocolate Cake. A rich chocolate cake topped with a decadent chocolate and pecan icing. Sweet with a little bit of crunch--truly, the quintessential chocolate cake. To make things even better, it was a sheet cake.
The preparation was simple enough too. Mix flour, sugar and salt with a mixture of melted butter, water and cocoa powder. Once the wet and dry ingredients have been combined, add eggs, vanilla, baking soda and buttermilk. Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes and spread a thick layer of chocolate icing on top. Remarkably simple, scrumptious and fast, victory is sweet with the return of the sheet cake.

1886 Cafe and Bakery Chocolate Cake

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 3 quart mixing bowl, sift together and set aside:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour-sifted
1/2 tsp salt

Melt in a heavy saucepan and add to the above:

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup water
4 Tbsp cocoa

Mix well.

Add and mix with the above:

2 eggs, beaten with a fork
1/2 cup buttermilk with 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in it
1 tsp vanilla

Pour into a lightly greased an floured pan. Bake as follows

13" x 9": 25-30 minutes
15" x 10 1/2": 15-20 minutes

For the Icing:

Melt in a heavy saucepan:
1 stick unsalted butter
4 heaping Tbsp cocoa

Add 1/3 cup milk and heat to nearly boiling


1 (1 lb) box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
pinch of salt

Mix well and pour over cake. Cake freezes well or can be stored in the refrigerator. Stays moist if tightly covered with foil or plastic wrap.

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