Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

Here is an understatement: Baking is not my forté.

I'll give you a moment to recover from your shock, but it's true. My wife and kids love to cook brownies, cakes, pies, and all sorts of great dessert dishes, and I am usually relegated to watching from a distance.

Immediately after I married Sandra, she moved to Miami with me. I had been living there for about three years at that time; our long-distance relationship turned into a marriage that has been going on for over a quarter of a century now.

As with most marriages, the first year was probably the most difficult. It was the first time either one of us lived with somebody else that was not directly related and, adding to the many things that Sandra had to put up with, she was living fifteen hundred miles away from her family in sunny, hot, and humid Miami.

Now, I can give you a list of many nice things about Miami, but it would be augmented by an equally long list of things that weren't so nice, especially if you consider that she moved down her in the aftermath of the Mariel boat lift with the attendant rise in crime throughout south Florida. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the Al Pacino movie "Scarface."

We moved to Miami in the early summer, when the humidity was pretty brutal. Sandra isn't a big fan of "hot and humid," which was about the only way to describe the climate. However, in the autumn, the humidity was starting to get manageable, and usually stays that way until spring rolls along.

The two of us survived the fifteen months that we lived there, though. We even had some fun.

At the time, I was working at Burger King's headquarters, which (then) was situated right across the street from the Dadeland Mall. Sandra was working at Jordan Marsh at that mall, and we'd usually meet every day at the mall for some lunch.

In the mall, one of our favorite restaurants was La Crepe, a French-like bistro that specialized in crepes that had some nice salads—in fact, it was the only place where I've had a spinach salad more than once! This restaurant was located near a food court, which had some interesting fast food places that we sometimes patronized as well. There was a Victoria Station restaurant there as well, where you could get some great prime rib for a decent price.

In the food court at Dadeland Mall was a place that was popular with the people at work. Its name was "Hot Cookies" (it's apparently still there!) and this place specialized in Toll House style cookies. I remember seeing that they advertised special occasion cakes as well.

That next November, when Sandra's birthday arrived, I asked some of my co-workers what I could do that would be special for her first birthday in Miami. Somehow, I got the idea for a special birthday cake, and Hot Cookies sprang immediately to mind. I had a mental image of a Toll House cookie the size of a layer cake, and with that image in mind, I ordered a birthday cake for Sandra.

Later on that day, I picked up the cake, then invited Sandra to the office to celebrate her birthday. I admit that I was a bit surprised when I picked up the cake; instead of something yellow with chocolate polka-dots that I was expecting, the cake was a frosted with a deep, dark, chocolate brown icing. I brought it to the office and we put on the candles, and when Sandra arrived, we let her blow them out and she, my co-workers, and I had a happy snack.

That chocolate chip cake was wonderful! Below the dark chocolate frosting was a light yellow bundt cake with chocolate chips embedded within.

On a later trip to Hot Cookies, Sandra and I asked about the cake, and we found out that it was a sour cream cake with a dark chocolate sour cream frosting.

Since Burger King was owned by Pillsbury at that time, I naturally had a copy of a Pillsbury cookbook (I purchased a few the previous December, and used some as gifts). I managed to find a recipe for "sour cream chocolate chip cake" in that book. In another recipe book, James Beard's "American Cookery," I found a recipe for sour cream chocolate frosting that used chocolate chips. I combined the two recipes, and managed to re-create that wonderful birthday cake that Sandra had for her birthday.

Let me put this in context. I managed to re-create that cake, despite my admitted unsophistication with baking. Now, add the fact that this was also the first cake I ever tried to bake that didn't come out of a box. My goodness, I think I must have hit a jackpot!

Ahh, the memories...

Our nest won't be so empty next weekend, as the kids and Sandra's father come over to visit for Sandra's birthday. It's my plan to once again attempt to bake this cake for Sandra's birthday. The recipe is easy, although I've found that getting the chocolate chips to scatter throughout the dough is a bit tricky—they usually seem to pool around the middle of the cake when I make it. However, if I don't get it perfect, I know that I'll probably have a couple of helpers around to help me get it right. After all, they are the bakers!

Happy birthday, Sandra!

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

Source:Pillsbury Kitchens' Family Cookbook (cake)
James Beard's American Cookbook (frosting)
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:40 minutes.
Yield:1 bundt cake


2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour

1 ½ cups sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ⅓ cups dairy sour cream

⅔ cup margarine or butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 6 oz package (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease (not oil) bundt cake pan.

In large bowl, blend first 9 ingredients at low seed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

Pour half of batter (about 2 ½ cups) into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture and chocolate chips over batter.

Repeat with remaining batter, sugar mixture and chocolate chips. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Chocolate Frosting, Helen Evans Brown

5 oz semi-sweet chocolate

⅜ tsp salt

½ cup sour cream

Melt the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler over hot water. Blend in the salt and sour cream and let the frosting cool.

This recipe provides enough frosting to cover the top and sides of a bundt cake.

Bon Appetit!

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