The bar was set very low. I wanted to recreate the Olive Garden chocolate cake that we used to get for our non-birthdays, growing up (non-birthdays because my parents would lie and say it was somebody’s birthday so we’d get a free cake) and would keep in our refrigerator for the week. I’d eat it cold with a glass of milk and it always hit the spot. I wanted something simple like that, so I turned to Twitter. A follower suggested I make the chocolate cake on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa container. I was sold.
These recipes, on the back of containers, are usually pretty good. I mean that’s a big risk to put a recipe that doesn’t work on the back of your container that goes to stores across the whole country (and possibly the whole world). I imagine it’s tested pretty well. Here it is:
The first step is where everything went wrong. The recipe tells you to spray and flour two pans. I did that but I didn’t line them with parchment. If I had lined them with parchment, I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened.
Everything else is pleasurably easy. You mix all your dry ingredients in one bowl and then add wet ingredients. (I added a little espresso powder for an extra kick as Lolita looked on, disapprovingly.)
Into non-parchment lined cake pans the batter goes, and that’s pretty much it.
You bake and wait. Your home begins to smell really good. Hopeful, even.
And then, when they come out, you let them rest for 10 minutes then flip them out. That’s when disaster struck.
Both cakes totally broke apart when I flipped them on to their respective cooling racks. The old me would’ve been in tears, the new me cried virtual tears. People on Twitter were sympathetic and helpful. “Make a trifle!” said one. “Cut them into cupcakes!” said another.
Meg of Megnut, though, said that icing acts like glue and I could potentially glue it all back together. So I set about making the icing on the back of the package, which is an excellent and easy recipe made with just melted butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and milk (I substituted a little buttermilk for a little tang).
Then the great work began. Here’s what I did. I took one cake and used a spatula to lift the rest out and patched it together on the rack.
Then I flipped that on to a cake stand.
And I applied a generous slathering of frosting.
I piled it into the middle and then spread it outwards.
Ok, ok…we’re getting somewhere, right? I pieced the other broken cake on top.
And applied the rest of the frosting.
There wasn’t enough frosting left to do the sides, but look!
My Caketastrophe was now a sloppy, lovable assemblage of chocolate pastry and chocolate icing. Cut into slices, no one would know the difference.
And, sure enough, that proved to be true that very evening when I served this up to my dinner guests. Here’s what a slice looked like:
Despite how awful it seemed earlier, this cake was actually REALLY good. The cake itself is super moist (that’s probably why it’s so sticky and stuck to the pan) and the icing is sweet and chocolatey and clearly homemade. The cake tastes like childhood, which is precisely what I was going for.
So if you make this–and you should–learn from my mistake: use parchment paper to line the pans before you pour in the batter. Oh and double the icing recipe so you can do the sides of the cake too. And know that no matter what happens, you’ll recover. If this cake can rise up from the ashes, any cake can.