It is National German Chocolate Cake Day, and you can read all about it and get the recipe on Janet Rudolph's wonderful Dying for Chocolate blog. In reading Janet's post this morning, it brought to mind the fact that the German Chocolate Cake is my most favorite cake in the world. Every year I get it for my birthday, crafted by the skilled hands of my mother who, at 85, continues the tradition (with the exception of one year that we only speak about in hushed tones).
This tradition has been going on as far back as I can remember. Then I married Jim. He decided that, as my husband, it was his duty have the cake torch, as it were, passed to him. But instead of making the traditional and much-beloved German Chocolate birthday cake of my desires, he decided to make me the cake on the cover of the October issue of Gourmet magazine. Lord knows which year, it was early on in our marriage, so I'm guessing mid-'90s, but I can't be sure, and frankly, I've been blocking the entire experience. I told him not to make that one no matter how good he thought it looked -- it was a three-layer chocolate cake, beautifully decorated with buttercream frosting (I do not like buttercream frosting), but I digress... I WANTED that German Chocolate Cake of my youth and fond imaginings, but noooo, he would not be deterred.
In order to make the cake, it should be pointed out, he had to purchase the ingredients and suggested equipment from the list so kindly provided by Gourmet. Among the items on the list was a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that he went right out and bought. He justified this rather costly purchase by saying that it was my birthday present -- SURPRISE!! --, but I hadn't asked for and didn't want one (though now don't know how I could live without it), and Jim was the one to open it up and the first person to use it. But again, I digress...
He's a slow cook -- academics always seem to be slow in the whole cooking process -- and isn't an experienced baker, so the assembling of ingredients and getting it panned up for the oven took him three hours. No, I am NOT exaggerating. I was at work at the time and he called me to tell me how hard he'd worked on the cake as if to appease my anger over the German Chocolate Cake-free birthday I was about to celebrate. (I was not appeased.) Then, as he talked to me, he happened to look at the counter and noticed he'd failed to include one of the ingredients. No matter, he told me, how much difference can a cup and a half of sour cream make?
By the time I got home from work that afternoon the layers of cake, or should I say "slabs" had cooled on the racks. He was too tired to make the frosting (and I suspect rather tired of the whole experience, no doubt sorry that he hadn't just let my mother do her birthday thing), so asked if I'd mind doing it (of course I'd mind!). Fine, I made the icing (did I mention I do not like buttercream?), and piped it on as decoratively as I could. I felt a bit as if I were a character in a Christie novel, making the cake look so pretty, but knowing it was going to be as awful as poison, and slightly amused at how interesting it would be to note the reactions on the faces of the people Jim had invited to the party.
That evening when dinner dishes had been cleared, the lights dimmed, and way too many candles blazed on the top of the cake, I closed my eyes and made a wish. In case you're wondering, it didn't come true, the cake was still there. Then Jim presented me with a cake knife to slice and plate the cake while he got the ice cream. It soon became apparent that the cake knife was not going to do the trick. I needed a serrated blade, something with, perhaps a gasoline engine and chain attached. The diners watched in silence as I struggled to get the carving knife I was then using through the cake. I remained silent the entire time, struggling to keep the corners of my mouth from turning up in a satisfied grin.
Dessert was consumed in relative silence. Not because people were shocked, but because they struggled mightily to chew the dense, desiccated mass with, don't forget, the decorative buttercream frosting, while mine sat untouched on my plate. Jim had to come clean about the sour cream, receiving audible groans from the experienced cooks at the table, as he told the tale. It was certainly a birthday I'll not forget, and now he knows the cake of choice for all future birthdays is German Chocolate!
Happy National German Chocolate Cake Day
(and I mean it!)