So I kept a few tricks up my sleeve which included a surprise vow renewal ceremony followed by a great big hoopla of appetizers, dinner and a brownie cheesecake at our house, plus a new piece of bling that I stuffed up my Dad's sleeve to induce tears at just the right moment. Then again, the whole day was loaded with big, fat happy tears and any amount of sparkle only added to the joy of it all, but it was incredible to watch my parents promise themselves to each other all over again. Ya know, since I wasn't around for the first rodeo.
Planning a big to do like this was no small beans, especially since we were covered with a hideous amount of snow all week, which means schools were closed, which means my Mom was home all week long and I couldn't sneak around at all. Thankfully she left hibernation on Friday and I immediately took to the stove, cranking out artichoke-olive crostini, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts with soy and brown sugar, lasagna and that brownie-studded cheesecake I mentioned. I had ambitions to make a fancy-schmancy layer cake, but I ran out of time and energy and by the time the guests started arriving I'd been reduced to sipping Riesling out of a tiny mason jar and Justin had to rescue me from spilling into the open oven a la Hansel and Gretel.
So the cake didn't come until later, the Tuesday after the shenanigans died down and it was technically their anniversary and I'd say 25 years is worth at least a cake, wouldn't you say? Now this cake has come full circle in it's own way. In her attempt to save a little cash, my Mom asked her future mother-in-law to make her wedding cake, which really baffles me because this is the same grandmother who doesn't allow sugar or real milk in her household, so I can only imagine what a baked good coming out of that kitchen is like. As the legend goes, ol' grandmother made the cake at least a week in advance and let it sit out before frosting it. Ouch.
So around Christmas time last year we made our yearly trek to said grandmother's house and this time she skipped pawning off yard sale clothes to me and went straight to the garage for the cake pans. She smiled as big as she could and tells me, "These are the very same pans I made your parent's wedding cake in!" I was determined to redeem them for my mother's sake, to let those pans know that there is better cake batter out there, and I swear I heard them gasping for moisture when I spilled the chocolate batter into them.
On a side note, Justin took me on a little field trip to a specialty cake supply store where I found these darling sugar pansies and lilies. It took me forever to decide which flowers to choose, not because the selection was enormous, but because Justin insisted on scanning the store for a girl he met once who worked there that had huge tattoos on her arms. I told him they were called "sleeves" and he says, "Oh no, they were only on the top half of her arms. We called her short-sleeves." Good grief.
This cake is technically called a Chocolate Butter Cake, which is certainly true, but the cinnamon mixed into the batter was so pronounced I had to rename it to something that represented its flavor a little bit better. It's super moist with the addition of buttermilk (a step that could've salvaged grandma's cake, perhaps), handsomely flavored with coffee and cinnamon. I played around with the baking times a bit to get an 8 inch cake and a 6 inch cake, plus I had enough batter left over for a few babycakes on the side. Oh, and I made cream cheese frosting. Bliss.
Mexican Chocolate Butter Cake
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake
3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. (Don't skip this step or you will find yourself with a little sandy beach at the bottom of the bowl that never mixed in.)
Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.
Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.
Cream Cheese Frosting
This one is really handy because you don't have to soften the cream cheese ahead of time, and I usually just warm up the butter for a few second in the microwave. I don't care what anyone says, it works.
8 oz. cold cream cheese
5 tbs. softened, unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla and butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar, scraping down the sides, and whipping it to spreading consistency. You will need to double or triple this to make enough to frost the Mexican Chocolate Butter Cake, depending on how much frosting you like.