Friday, 14 September 2012

Dear Guy de Maupassant (1850 - 1893),

Here is my typical Saturday thought process:

I want cake.
But I don't want to get out of bed to make one.
But I still want cake.
[Wriggle with angst.]
But I'd rather read for awhile. 
It's warm here in the bed. I'm not getting up.
[Pull out laptop. Search various online literary databases for keyword: cake.]
Ahhhh, a story about cake.
[Read, read, read.]
Y'know what would be really great right now? Cake.
But that's so much effort. 
[Sensible side of brain intervenes]:
Oh for Pete's sake woman, either get up and make cake or shut up about it! Talk about your first world problems!

But I'm so comfy!
Urgh, alright, alright, I'm up.

It's a good thing I read that story too, because it woke me up just enough to stop me from stumbling sleepily into the fridge and stubbing my toe. In fact, that's the great thing about reading a short story on a lazy weekend day. Not only does it settle your brain into a relaxed state of semi-wakedness, it also, if it's about social politics, highlights the appeal of your pajama-clad slovenliness. In other words, Mr. Maupassant, your story shows me how not to eat cake. Madame Anserre serves a cake to her guests at high-class gatherings of the cultural nobility, and there is a fussy elitism around who gets to cut it:

"It was noticed that the privilege of "cutting the cake" carried with it a heap of other marks of superiority--a sort of royalty, or rather very accentuated viceroyalty. The reigning cutter spoke in a haughty tone, with an air of marked command; and all the favors of the mistress of the house were for him alone. These happy individuals were in moments of intimacy described in hushed tones behind doors as the "favorites of the cake," and every change of favorite introduced into the Academy a sort of revolution. The knife was a scepter, the pastry an emblem; the chosen ones were congratulated."

The reason it's so much fun to read this on a lazy Saturday is that I have no such gatherings planned. There will be no classist overtones when I plunge my knife in; no social politics, no favouritism. You know what there will be? Crumbs. Which I will lap up like a starving dog, spill onto my pajamas, and eat anyway. No-one will watch me, and my crumb-picking will not be interrupted by pretentious conversation or down-the-nose glances of haughty diners. I shall eat as impolitely as I please, and though I have the company of Madame Anserre's guests, they are restricted to the page, where they cannot judge my slovenliness.

This is how to eat cake: lavishly, sloppily, without ritual, and over a fine piece of writing.

And so my post-baking thought process goes:

[Cut slice.]
Back to bed!
[Eat. Read. Nap. Drool.]

Chocolate-Orange Mascarpone Mud Cake

Adapted from Cupcakes are Pretentious

Ingredients

Cake:
2C flour
1/2C cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
180g butter
1C dark chocolate melts
1C caster sugar
1 1/2C orange juice
Few drops orange oil
2 eggs

Topping:
100g mascarpone (room temperature)
100g cream cheese (room temperature)
1C icing sugar
Few drops lemon juice
Fresh berries (I used strawberries & raspberries)
Mint leaves

Method

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate and sugar together. Add the orange juice and oil, and stir into a divine-smelling gloop. Pour the choc-orange liquids into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk some more until it's smooth and has the texture of pancake batter.

Pour into a cake tin (mine's about 25cm across but that made a very tall cake) lined with baking paper. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake before topping it.

To make the mascarpone topping, beat both cheeses together with the icing sugar and add lemon juice to taste. You might have to adjust the amount of icing sugar and lemon juice to get just the right consistency - it should look like a voluptuous mound of softly-whipped cream. Once it's perfect, pile it on top of the cake and decorate with berries and mint. You could use orange zest or nuts as well if you were in such a mood.

Cut a slice to eat in bed, messily, over a book of short stories (preferably cake-themed).


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