Anyone remember "Snackin' Cake"? I think it was a boxed cake mix from Betty Crocker or some such. It came in a box and I think the selling point was that you basically dumped the box in a bowl, added water and baked it. And it actually tasted good. I loved it because it was a cake with a nice moist crumb and chocolatey flavor without being overly sweet. Zero thinking involved. Cake in 30 minutes. Probably invented by someone with a bong in one hand and cake pan in the other.
It might've been loaded with artificial ingredients and other undesirable crap, and probably had a shelf life like plutonium, but I've always wanted a similar cake, maybe a better quality homemade version, that I could snack on. Like I need that. I know.
Sometimes what you need is chocolate cake.
Last week has to go down as one of the most craptacular. Ever. It was a short week. I had one good meeting about sustainable seafood classes (THANK you Elizabeth!) and got one or two things done, but on the whole, I spent most of the four days troubleshooting with Apple and AT&T and trying not to lose my mind. I could not stop the crazy train in my head thinking about all the work that was NOT getting done while in the midst of simultaneous troubleshooting steps, calls, test voicemails, calls failing and appointments disappearing from the calendar. (By the way, if you are reading this while waiting for me in a Starbucks somewhere, I'm probably not coming, having lost the appointment forever while being "helped" by senior technical advisors. I am sorry. Usually, I am very reliable. I will buy next time and I will bring cake.)
It took till late Thursday to realize that I had no alternative but to change my view of things. Being frustrated about what wasn't getting done wasn't going to give me my week back. AT&T wasn't going to say sorry or give me a credit and neither was Apple. Instead I got stellar "help" like this gem:
"I don't know...MY phone is working fine, I've got no idea why YOURS won't work."
or this one:
"You know I work for AT&T, but if I were you, I'd switch carriers. Your luck with us stinks."
Twas around Thursday when this craving hit me. It hit me hard. I wanted - no, I NEEDED - Chocolate Cake. Now where was that that recipe that Elissa told me about? She said it was great. It was easy. It was chocolatey and maybe she said it was like Snackin' Cake or maybe I made that part up.
But how could I justify wasting MORE time on non-productive things like baking a damn cake? Yet, the more I tried to ignore this cake idea, the larger it grew in my mind. It became the itch I had to scratch. It became mythical in its imagined ability to soothe my nerves. I did all sorts of addict-speak pro and con. "It's better than drinking at this hour." "Really? You probably don't need those calories." "But there's not even icing." "If you crave it, and it's quick, just make it and be done with it.""Doc always wants something sweet, maybe he'll like it. Wouldn't it be nice to surprise him?"
By the time I stopped the debate in my head, I could have made and frosted something to win a food tv challenge. So, patting myself on the back for wisely choosing a quick recipe, one that is dairy-free, and one that might provide comfort for me and a surprise for Doc, I did the only thing I could do that was positive and in my control: I baked the freaking cake. And it was good.
Of course, I tweaked it ever so slightly, reminding myself that baking is science and not like the "little bit of that" cooking that I usually do. It was a slight tweak and it worked. Someone somewhere was smiling on me. Or maybe they just knew how much I needed one thing to to work.
Inspired by Chocolate and Chiles
At this writing, we still have a wiped clean phone, albeit with a new sim card. It seems to work fine - WHILE I'M STANDING IN THE AT&T STORE - but otherwise, not so much. We also have unfinished trouble-shooting steps, and mysteries to solve (disappearing appointments! no envelope printing!) ...and, no cake. It seems the last piece disappeared. So you see, it is good enough for my darling nothing-is-ever-sweet-enough- husband. No worries, it's SO easy I'll whip up another tomorrow, for Football Sunday. Might even do it while having my coffee. Might even play with it a tiny bit more.
Why is it called this? Possibly the lost recipe of some Amazonian people (doubtful) or something someone found on Amazon online (maybe) or who knows? My deepest gratitude to Elissa for this sliver of salvation, and Sandra for her Chocolate Chile Brownies which reminded me of the affinity of chocolate and chiles. I am sharing the recipe with you here, including my tiny tweaks. I have no idea what the origin of the name is or who came up with the recipe. What I DO know is that it is perfectly easy, quick, chocolatey and it accepted the chiles graciously.
- 1 ½ cups sifted flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 5 tablespoons corn oil (I used SmartBalance Canola/vegetable oil)
- 1 ½ teaspoons (Neilsen-Massey Mexican) vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Confectioners’ sugar sifted with a touch of chipotle chile powder and cocoa
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, salt and ancho chile powder.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar with 1 cup cold water.
- Whisk in the dry ingredients, blending until completely lump-free.
- Pour into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
- Cool before removing from pan and dusting with confectioners’ sugar, or frosting if desired.
Yield: serves 1 complete lunatic and her patient husband, over 2-3 days. In other words, 6-8 servings.