I come from a long line of bakers or “sweet tooths” as my mother used to say.
As long as there was butter, sugar and eggs in the house, we always had something sweet.
I can’t think of anything more delightful than making sweets. To this day when I put on one of my many vintage aprons, I am instantly transported to the sweet smells of my grandmother’s kitchen and my favorite blue apron.
When we were young, every summer my parents would pack up my sister Natalie and I and Max, our dog, in the station wagon to drive across country from Los Angeles to “down south” Alabama for the family vacation. I can still recall how excited I would get to dig through her kitchen drawers to pick out one of her perfectly ironed aprons. I knew that meant we were about to do some serious baking for family and friends.
I had never seen cakes like the ones my grandmother used to make. All of the bakeries that I visited back home made fancy cakes, but Grandma Hanna’s homespun cakes were beautiful, moist, and delicious.
This is the very first cake that I learned to bake and I still make it at the bakery today. Learning to bake from scratch, she would say, is a life lesson of patience and perfection. Beginning with the process of gathering all of the ingredients, letting them come up to room temperature, measuring precisely, and mixing it with loving hands is what gives it the perfect texture rather than a tough cake. I loved watching her beat the batter by hand in a big ceramic bowl. I can still recall having to count the many turns of the big wooden spoon.
I suppose there is a certain mystique that comes with baking, but with a few simple techniques and the proper tools, it is the most comforting way to spend an afternoon. I always love reaching into the pantry for just a few simple ingredients, and in just a short time enjoying delicious homemade treats that create comfort and joy.
Chocolate Heaven Cake
Yield: 12 big slices of heaven
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
4 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup oil
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups strong, fresh brewed coffee
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of three 9” cake pans.
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl place chocolate and pour hot coffee and vanilla.
Let stand about 2 minutes to melt the chocolate then stir until smooth.
ln another bowl whisk together eggs and oil until well blended and light in color. Whisk in sour cream, then melted chocolate mixture.
Add chocolate sour cream mixture to dry ingredients and mix on low speed while gradually adding in thirds. Mix until just until incorporated scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill prepared pans two thirds full. Bake cakes 40-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool then decorate as desired.
Chocolate Heaven Frosting
3 sticks unsalted Butter at room temperature
2 TBL milk
1 teaspoons vanilla
9 ounces melted semi sweet chocolate
2 1/2 to 3 cups sifted confectioners sugar
Mix butter and milk until smooth and creamy
Add vanilla just until incorporated
Add melted chocolate until completely mixed
Gradually add sugar until you reach the consistency of frosting.
Cheryl Day is the “Queen of Sweetness” and co-owns Back in the Day Bakery with her husband Griff in Savannah, Ga. She is a self-taught baker who loves to carry on the tradition of baking from scratch that she learned from her grandmother. This former Soul Train dancer has been known to bust a move right in the middle of her kitchen floor while baking cupcakes. She also makes the best chocolate chip cookies you have ever tasted. Visit Cheryl at backinthedaybakery.com.
Paula's Note: I am so proud of Cheryl and her husband Griff. They run one of my favorite places here in Savannah, Back In The Day Bakery. She recently made three birthday cakes for my surprise Murder Mystery birthday party and there wasn't a morsel left at the end of the night. Please click on this profile of Cheryl we did. She is so fascinating and a great dancer! Love ya girl!
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