The Magic of Chambord

It’s funny how a little liquor can dramatically change your perceptions.

I have a recipe for chocolate chip cake that I’ve been making for years. It’s made in a Bundt pan, and is pretty much fail-proof. It’s one of those recipes I fall back on when I need to bring something to a gathering and don’t have the time or inclination to make a big fuss or try something new and adventurous. Every time I bring it, it gets warm reviews.

But I’ve noticed something. If you’ve made the same recipe for years, you realize that, gradually, the sizes of boxes, cans, jars and other containers change. The original recipe for this cake calls for a “4.5-ounce box” of pudding.

The first time I decided to bake it, I dutifully went to the grocery store with my husband and searched high and low for a 4.5-ounce box of pudding. There is, alas, no such thing anymore, at least not in our grocery store. There was 3.8-ounce, and 4.9-ounce, but no 4.5-ounce.

So “The Conversions” began. I tried, in my super-scientific way, to guestimate how much to leave out when adding the 4.9-ounce box, or how much of a second box to add if I’d come home with two 3.8-ounce boxes.

And that didn’t even touch the subject of the recipe’s request for a “2-layer size package chocolate cake mix”. Maybe it’s in the fine print somewhere, but we couldn’t find one of these, either.

Well, about a month ago, I had finally had enough. I was sick of trying to guess how much 4.5 ounces of pudding was. And while I was at it, I really didn’t feel like measuring 1-3/4 cups of milk anymore.

So, I got the 5.8-ounce “family-size” package of pudding. Figuring “more pudding needs more milk,” I added two cups, TWO WHOLE CUPS, of milk and put the cake in the oven to bake. It was fail-proof anyway, right? So what did I have to worry about?

The first afternoon I made it this way, I checked it at 45 minutes (because the recipe says to bake one hour, but that it’s better at 45 minutes). But my cake tester only came out sort of clean, and the whole thing just felt a little squishy to me. So I left it in, thinking I’d be back for it in five minutes.

In the mean time, the dogs needed a walk. So out I went into the backyard. Ecko did his business right away (what a good boy). But Kiefer had to investigate the whole yard twice, sniffing long and hard in all sorts of nooks and crannies before finally selecting just the right bush to water. With each minute that passed, I kept thinking, “My dog is going to make me burn this cake!”

When I came inside, I took a deep breath. Was that singed chocolate I smelled?

When I took the cake out of the oven, the top was very crusty. I resigned myself to the reality of having to show up for a picnic the next day bearing a “burnt-bottom chocolate chip cake”. At least the name sounded interesting.

But it wasn’t burnt. In fact, it was better than any of the cake’s previous reincarnations, with a pudding and chocolate throughout. It tasted like a $6 dessert at a restaurant.

Later that week, we went to a liquor store for something and happened to buy a small bottle of Chambord that the owner recommended. Chambord is beautiful red and intensely raspberry. Even the bottle is fancy.

We drank it first and liked it. Then I said, “Hey, that would be really good over chocolate cake!”.

There were a few pieces of my unburnt cake left, so we drizzled them with Chambord.

The $6 dessert suddenly became an $11 dessert, and all because of a few drops of raspberry liqeur.

So if you decide to make this cake, do yourself and your companions a favor. Go get a little bottle of Chambord, and sprinkle a few drops on each slice before serving. It looks elegant and tastes even better!

CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

1 box devil’s food cake mix (currently, I’m using Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge with wonderful results)

1 large package instant chocolate pudding (right now, the “family size” is 5.8 ounces)

2 cups milk

2 eggs (three if they’re small)

1 12-ounces package semisweet chocolate chips

Mix the first 4 ingredients, then stir in chips. Bake in a well-greased Bundt pan at 350 degrees for an hour or until done.

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