By Arson McTaggart Each birthday was different. My sister and I's imagination liked to shine through on these two days each year. Forced our parents to have a little fun. We’re still finding gems around the house from my sister's Harry Potter birthday. But two things always stayed the same: One my grandma would fly in and visit over our birthdays, and two, she would make her notorious chocolate layer cake. I would like to say now that it was a joint effort. My grandma and whoever's birthday it was together in the kitchen, making a cake. But the idea of getting in her way, while baking, terrified me and my sister out of our wits. Baking is my grandma's specialty. Everyone has that one person in their family that runs the kitchen. In my family, that is my grandma, and she does so with an iron fist and enough anxiety for three people. So I and my sister watched from the sidelines, not at all disappointed with not having to help. And slowly it became usual for when a birthday rolls around, the familiar smell of my grandma's chocolate layer cake. Though we didn't do completely nothing, we did help ice the cake, or rather, eat half the bowl while my grandma slightly glared at us, but she would never say she did. If I had to describe this cake, I would call it minimalism at its finest, but hard work at its best. After stacking and icing, the cake looked like any other homemade cake. Chocolate and bedecked with chocolate frosting, this cake is anything but minimalistic, starting with the fact that the cake takes close to two hours to make. This cake didn't just involve the oven, oh no, before flour and eggs and butter, my grandma would pull out a saucepan and mix three squares of chocolate with milk. Then you beat the eggs and butter, sift the flour, and add the chocolate. My sister and I were the types of kids to sit in front of the oven and watch the cakes rise, as my grandma made the whipped cream to put between layers. We weren't the type to ask why she did so much for just one cake twice a year. Why every year she got on a plane across the country to the cold and humid Ottawa. But from her visits and from her work, I learned that some things are worth it for family, that family is about commitment love and togetherness. It’s been many years since that cake was made in the kitchen since I and my sister's faces were covered in cream frosting that took too much time in itself, and my grandma got on that plane. Writing this story makes me think that I should thank her more. One year, my grandma decided to pass down some of her favourite recipes in a binder that she thought worked when it was actually falling apart. She named it Mum’s Kitchen. Flipping through the pages of curies and pies and soups, was the chocolate layer cake.
Chocolate Layer Cake (from Mum’s Kitchen)
- ½ cup milk3 squares unsweetened chocolate - ½ cup butter or margarine - 1 and ½ cups sugar - 2 eggs - 1 tsp vanilla extract -1 and ¾ cups cake and pastry flour -½ tsp salt - 1 tsp baking powder -1 tsp baking soda - 1 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar - 2 tbsp cornstarch -1 cup milk -½ cup hard butter or margarine
1) In a small saucepan heat milk and chocolate until melted. Cool slightly 2) In a medium bowl cream margarine and sugar; beat until fluffy 3) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 4) Stir in vanilla and chocolate mixture. 5) sift together flour, salt, baking soda and powder. 6) Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream to batter. 7) Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 30 -35 minutes. 8) Let cool then transfer to a rack by running a knife around edge. Let cool completely before frosting. 9) To assemble, fill the cake with whipping cream whipped with icing sugar to taste.
1) In a small saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch, and milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cover with waxed paper to prevent skin from forming. 2) Cool. 3) Cream gard butter or margarine until fluffy. 4) Add cooled, cooked mixture and melted chocolate; beat thouraly (about 5 minutes). 5) Refrigerate frosting until needed.