School lunch nostalgia

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Mmmmm chocolate cake

Mmmmm chocolate cake

When I was a kid back in the Hendricks county public school system, there were two school lunch items I loved absolutely: pizza, which were these rectangular crusts covered edge to edge with tiny cubes of pepperoni, a sweet and salty tomato sauce, and gooey mozzarella cheese, and wacky cake.   Wacky cake was a chocolate square, not too dense, definitely not brownie-like, dusted with powdered sugar.  I remember the top crust having a special texture, unctuous but not slimy, more like batter but baked through.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

I got the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated yesterday in the mail (thanks Mom!) and there, 2/3rds of the way through, was a recipe for Emergency cake – a cake for when you are short on time or ingredients, developed during the war years.  This one called for mayo instead of butter or oil, which I didn’t have on hand (no neutral oil in the house either, so I wasn’t going to whip any up), so I substituted a bit of butter and an extra egg.  It also called for a cup of hot coffee, which I’m sure would add to the flavor profile.  But the only coffee I have in the house are the hand roasted beans gifted to me by a friend at the new year, and those are my special occasional treat.  So I used hot water instead.   It made a nice, deeply chocolate cake, moist and what I think of more as a cake brownie.  Not wacky cake, but delicious all the same.

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup cocoa (dutch process preferred)

2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips or morsels (opt.)

2 Tbsp butter

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp single fold vanilla (or 1 1/2 tsp double fold)

2 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 deg F.  Butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

Mix the first 4 dry ingredients well in a large bowl.  Put the cocoa, chocolate, and butter into a second large bowl, pour in the boiling water and stir well until the chocolate and butter have melted.  Add the vanilla to the chocolate mixture.  Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.  Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan evenly.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Cool on a rack for 1-2 hours, dust with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares and serve from the pan.

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2 Responses to “School lunch nostalgia”

  1. RedFish Says:

    Okay, I’m too lazy to google it. What is single fold vs double fold vanilla? I just got more cocoa from the co-op so am thinking I’ll need to try this…

  2. Jaq Says:

    Fold is the strengh – can’t remember why it’s called that though. Single fold is pretty much everything you’ll find in a store, double fold is more specialty. I do remember it’s got to do with the number of beans per gallon of solvent – like, if they use 15 beans per gallon of vodka for single, they’ll use 30 for double. I think the extraction time is the same.

    I stocked up on neutral oil and white vinegar the other day, so will be making an actual wacky cake soon. This one was very chocolaty and kept well for about a week. It wept a little, so the powdered sugar had to be refreshed a few times to not look icky.

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