Old Lady Hips

I haven’t been doing as much cooking lately as I usually do. My excuse is that I’ve got old lady hips now, so standing in the kitchen for any amount of time inevitably ends in me hobbling back to the sofa to rest my swollen ankles. Good thing March is next month! In the meantime, I’ll take this opportunity to share a simple little cake I’ve made quite a few times, most recently a few weeks back.

All in the Pan Cake

This was the first recipe I made from In the Sweet Kitchen, and it’s still the primary reason I use the book—although the flavor pairing and substitutions charts frequently come in handy as well. The most recent time I made it, I went from scratching my head, thinking, “I wish we had something for dessert,” to eating cake in less than an hour and a half. So it’s a great quick-fix and doesn’t make many dirty dishes, all good things when you’ve got on your achy old lady hips. I have to admit to speeding up the cooling time for the cake by popping it in the freezer for about 15 minutes once the frosting was ready to go, which worked out perfectly.

All-in-the-Pan Chewy Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 C AP flour
1 C sugar
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 T canola oil
1 T white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C cool water

Quick Chocolate Butter Icing

1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C confectioners sugar
2-3 T milk or water
1 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F, and get out the butter for the icing, if using. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt into an 8×8 or 9×9 ungreased square baking pan. Stir well with a fork or flat whisk, making sure to get the corners of the pan. Make three wells in the dry ingredients (small, medium and large); pour the vegetable oil in the largest indentation, the vinegar in the medium one, and the vanilla in the smallest. Pour the water over everything. Again with a fork or flat whisk, stir until all the ingredients are well-blended, making sure to catch all the dry pockets that may form around the corners and edges. Don’t beat, just mix until most of the lumps are out and the batter is fairly uniform (no patches of overly thick or runny batter).

Bake an 8×8 cake for 30 minutes, or a 9×9 cake for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is springy when touched lightly. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting or frosting. Because it is a very moist cake, it can tear if cut too soon, and of course you don’t want the icing to melt. While waiting for it to cool, make the icing, if using.

Icing: Cream together the butter and 1 C of confectioners sugar until the butter is well distributed; it will still be dry and powdery. Stir in 1 T milk or water, then sift the cocoa powder over and cream to blend. Mix in the vanilla, then the second cup of confectioners sugar. Add as much remaining liquid as necessary to achieve a thick creamy icing.

To serve, either cut the cake into squares and simply dust with confectioners sugar, or spread with icing (there will be plenty; you don’t have to use it all unless you really like icing!). Serve with vanilla ice cream or a glass of cold milk, and try not to eat the whole pan in one sitting.

Source: In the Sweet Kitchen, by Regan Daley, p. 407-409.

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