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classiness and the lack thereof

chocolate sponge cake_1

On Monday, even though it was Monday and rainy and gray, I wore a suit, jacket with shoulder pads and fitted skirt and all, knowing that a colleague and I would be appearing on a local community broadcast. The host is a very old, very kind man, and they film in front of a backdrop that boasts a plaid sofa and fake plants, which alone makes tuning in worthwhile, or at least interesting.

I also wore these rosy pink flats that maybe didn’t go with the ensemble but are very cute. And I was cold, so I wore my scarf almost all day, which maybe didn’t fit with the look for which I ought to have been striving. (Can you wear a scarf with a suit? I am unsure.) But I rightly assumed I wouldn’t see anyone other than the dozen-or-so coworkers who see me every single day (and the aforementioned elderly gentleman with the sofa backdrop), and heels sounded exhausting because it was raining. (This made sense at the time.)

Despite my questionable ensemble, I behaved in a classy manner all the day long, of this I can assure you.

But lest you still judge me harshly, let me tell you about this past weekend–oh this weekend, dear reader! It was most lovely, indeed! I went to a classy establishment with three of my favorite classy dudes, who were dressed in blazers and good shoes, and the two dudes who are not my fiancé treated us to dinner in celebration of this whole engagement business. There was good wine, and good cheese, and delicious food. Another friend met us afterward for drinks, and then, with both of my fellow’s housemates and one of our dearest friends present, the good times went on and on.

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With sincere wishes that I could relive Saturday night approximately now, I present to you this very classy chocolate cake. In my opinion, a person’s food repertoire, like a person’s life, needs all sorts of things: classy cakes, everyday cakes, humble breads, hippie granolas, sturdy snacks, vibrant salads, comforting soups. It’s all important.

So I am not apologizing about the scarf.

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Chocolate Sponge Cake

From Bon Appétit (March 2012); recipe by the always-classy Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer

I can’t say that this cake is the easiest thing in my repertoire, but it IS easier than its impressive appearance and general deliciousness suggest. The cake itself is not terribly sweet, but the sweeter ganache rounds things out nicely. It is lovely with a scoop of ice cream alongside.

butter, for greasing the pan

1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder + more for the pan

1/4 cup cake flour (see Joy’s tutorial to make your own)

4 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup + 6 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (no more than 61% cacao)

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the pan’s sides; dust the pan with cocoa powder and tap out any excess.

Sift the flour and 1/4 cup cocoa powder through a mesh sieve into a small bowl. Sift twice more, and set aside.

Crack two of the eggs into a large bowl. Separate the remaining two eggs, adding the yolks to the bowl. Place the whites in another, medium-sized bowl, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the whole eggs and yolks on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium, and gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar. Beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

With clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar atop. Beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute more. Sprinkle the remaining 5 teaspoons sugar over top, and continue beating the meringue until it is thick and glossy, about 30 seconds.

Using a spatula, fold half of the meringue into the egg mixture. Sift half of the dry ingredients over the batter; fold gently until just combined. Repeat this process with the remaining meringue and dry ingredients.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly to the edges. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cake springs back to the touch.

Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack. When cool, run a knife around the pan’s sides to release the cake. Place a cutting board on top of the pan. Invert the cake onto the board; remove pan. Peel the parchment away. Trim with a serrated knife, if needed, so that the cake is even and relatively smooth.

For the icing

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and add the chocolate chips. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool until the icing thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

To assemble the cake

Spread half of the icing down the middle of the cake. Smooth evenly to the edges. Cut the cake crosswise into three pieces. Stack the pieces to make three layers. Ice the sides with the remaining icing.

This cake can be made up to two days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings

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