Friday, March 4, 2011

Farewell, Borders: Disaster Cake

Everybody knows this by now, but Borders is slowly collapsing (like a flan in a cupboard). This includes their outlet store in my neighbourhood -- just a few blocks from my apartment. I mourn its loss. I won't deny that the corporation made some really dumb business decisions -- and often, at that -- but in my opinion, there can never be enough books. "Un livre, c'est un trésor," -- a book is a treasure -- as an elementary school teacher of mine would frequently repeat. Though I rolled my eyes at the time, I do believe she was right. Books are the currency of intellect, massive repositories of verbal artistry, alternatively bequeathing you with new knowledge of your world and offering a dream-like escape from reality.

So when the local store put everything on sale with huge discounts, I was one of the first to line up. Actually, that's not entirely true: it took me a few days to get there, but I went back again and again. By the time I was done (read: exhausted my budget), I had returned three times with my arms encircling a new pile of books. Unlike my usual M.O., I didn't just ravage their SF/Fantasy section; I gleefully snatched everything that looked interesting. I danced through the Poetry section, loitered in Science & Tech, and grabbed all manner of fiction, whether classic or pop.

It goes without saying that this included a cookbook or two. One in particular intrigued me. As it is entitled the "Golden Book of Chocolate" (kinda presumptuous, don't you think?) and has the shiniest cover I have ever seen, I hesitated to buy it. I simply don't trust cookbooks that gaudy. By the third trip to the store, though, I realised it was bugging me too much for me not to have it. Turns out to be an interesting purchase, and I'm sure I will talk about many times in the future. For now, though, I'm going to tell the story of how utterly disastrous my first use of it was.

The recipe wasn't THAT ridiculous: white chocolate fudge with pecans. Melted butter, milk, chocolate, vanilla, nuts, sugar, and a period of time chilling. Piece of cake--er, fudge-- right? Wrong. The ratio of liquid to solid is way off. What should have been a couple hours in the fridge turned into days in the freezer, and the damn mix never solidified. To add insult to injury, a roommate's bag of tortillas slipped and took a plunge into the pan. "Now I don't only have a lack of fudge," I muttered to myself, "but also a cold mess to clean up. Great. Bloody brilliant."

Irony aside, what was bloody brilliant was the idea to use the concoction as icing on a cake instead. I was clearly not the one to figure this out. A few brief minutes later, my standby chocolate cake was ready. Here, again, the fates attempted to thwart me: overeager to be done with the baking project, I popped the cake out of the pan before it was cool, causing its middle to collapse. Fortunately, the sides had dried out enough to hold their form, so the cake ended up looking somewhat bowl-shaped. Not a bad thing when spreading a viscous icing. A final touch to this victory-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-defeat was a handy box of raspberries tossed on top.

The result was better than I could possibly have hoped for at any step in the process. The icing, added judiciously, not only adds a nutty earthiness to the rich chocolate but, furthermore, traps the moisture in the cake. That means that you can save it for days, and it will keep its decadent texture. I'll include the recipe here, but you should be aware that you'll try it at your own risk. If it works like fudge, congratulations! Otherwise, know that it can be remedied.

Thanks, Borders, for all the wonder you have so disastrously provided. You are a collapsed cake with icing that should have been fudge. Whatever that means.

White Chocolate and Pecan Fudge / Disaster Cake icing
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1,1/2 cups milk
  • 2,1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Oil an 8*10-inch baking pan. Place the butter, milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Simmer the mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage. At this temperature, if you drop a spoonful of the mixture into ice water, it will make a limp, sticky ball that flattens when you remove from the water.

Remove from the heat and beat until it starts to thicken, about 5min.

Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted. Fold in the pecan nuts and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator until set, 2-3hrs. (Lies! Lies! Lies!). Cut into 1-inch pieces.

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