Now that the school year has started, we have a new weekly schedule in place. Graham is in first grade so, obviously, he is in school five days a week. Spencer goes to preschool four days a week and spends Wednesdays with me. As much as I try to keep those days fun and Spencer-centered, they are often days full of errands. He is a great sport and happily accompanies me as I drive around town getting the necessary ingredients for cooking classes or catering jobs. I like to make sure those trips aren’t pure drudgery for him so there is often some kind of treat incentive.
Last week, we were near a cupcake shop and I suggested we stop in for cupcakes for the “boys” in our family. (Me? If I am going to eat cake, I am going to eat cake. My cake. Not store-bought cupcakes.) I asked for three, the nice lady behind the counter boxed them up, rang me up, and told me I owed her $11.
$11. For three cupcakes. Really? In my brain a little switch went off. That “I will never buy into this crazy-ness again” switch. As much joy as those cupcakes bring my children – it’s over. Cupcakes in the Dana Treat household are homemade from now on.
But here is the thing. I get it. If I make cupcakes, it’s about 1 million times cheaper. I can probably make 50 cupcakes for $11. They will taste much better and be made with love. But what am I going to do with 50 cupcakes? Or even 12? There are three people in my family who eat them. Even if we have cupcake loving friends with cupcake loving kids over, we will only get through just over half a dozen. What do I do with the rest of them? They only keep for a day or so. I can’t exactly put them in the cookie jar, right? (Note to self: Invent a cupcake jar!)
Once in a while my addled brain comes up with something surprisingly clear. Post store-bought cupcake horror, I was extremely motivated to make my own. I also realized that I needed a dessert for a special class I was teaching. Mexican Chocolate Cake actually. What if I made the cake smaller and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes? It could have been a disaster but it worked great. From one recipe, originally intended for a bundt pan, I made a 9×5-inch loaf cake and six cupcakes. The boys were pleased, the babysitter was pleased, my students were pleased, Randy was pleased, and I was pleased. Success!
One Year Ago: Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Two Years Ago: Grits Frittata
Three Years Ago: Frittata with Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Basil (apparently this is the time of year I make a lot of eggs)
Mexican Chocolate Cake
To make things simpler, I’m giving you the cake as originally written, for a 12-cup bundt pan. (This is the standard size for a bundt pan in the US.) You can play around with what pans you want or if you just want to make all cupcakes. A site I find very useful when trying to figure out what pans to use is Joy of Baking. You can look up your pan size, find out how many cups it holds by volume, and then reconfigure. Sound complicated? It’s actually really easy.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
½ cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped pecans (7½ ounces)
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup confectioners sugar
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are lumps).
Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45 to 55 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.
Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool pecans slightly in pan on a rack, about 5 minutes.
Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in half-and-half and confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and salt. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife to cover completely.
(Cake (with glaze) can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature in a cake keeper or covered with an inverted bowl.)