Monday, January 25, 2010

Martha's Never Coming to Dinner.

January 16th
Some recipes utilize ingredients we are likely to have on-hand and therefore get made regularly. For me this is cornbread, which takes 10 minutes to make and tastes oh-so-good with anything; I say hello to fresh batches of cornbread more often than I say hi to many of my friends (which is regrettable and purely geographic, however. I do love my friends more than cornbread).

Then there are the recipes you've always looked at, salivated over, and imagined making yet never have. These are Occasion Recipes, far too elaborate to be made on just any day and which have only ever seemed appropriate to make if Martha Stewart called to say she was coming to dinner.

For me, one such recipe is found within the pages of the Rebar Cookbook, a fantastic compilation of best-loved dishes from the Rebar restaurant in Victoria, BC. Along with many other great eats, the authors share the secrets to their chocolate cake, an imposing tower of deliciousness cut into large wedges and served up daily. Trust me, as soon as my friend Lindsay and I discovered this, the best chocolate cake we had ever had, a good many of those wedges were sent in our direction during our University of Victoria years.

I have since moved from Victoria and miss the cake sorely (though Lindsay more, of course), yet keep the recipe tucked away with the rest of my Martha's-coming-to-dinner projects. Several days ago I decided, enough. I am tired of waiting for Martha. Truth be told, she may never come. I am going to make an occasion and make this cake, darnit.

The occasion? This Friday. It's January 22nd......the fourth Friday of 2010......and therefore this decade, which is remarkable, really.......not to mention that there has never before been a January 22nd, 2010, nor will there ever be one again. When you think about it, it's a pretty big deal. How will you be celebrating?

January 26th
I wrote that ten days ago. You may wonder, was the National Lindsay Makes a Cake Day a success? It was. It totally, chocolately was.

I invited two friends over for dinner, though that really took a backseat to dessert and involved strategizing over which pre-cake-eating foods would be best. This turned out to be chicken, roasted squash, beet and apple salad, and organic sourdough. Did the trick. But it was about the cake, the cake people, which was dark, rich, smooth, and sat-is-fy-ing.

After several previous layered cake attempts, none of which had turned out like the picture in my mind, I finally had success with the Rebar chocolate cake, and I'll share the reasons for this with the recipe. Come up with your own excuse to make this or any other recipe you've been wanting to try. Life's too short to wait for Martha, plus she probably wouldn't eat much anyway.

How about celebrating the fact that Saturday only comes once every seven days? National Saturday Day deserves a treat, so get on it.

Rebar Chocolate Cake

1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 ½ cups unbleached flour
½ cup Dutch process cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup strong coffee
¾ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs (1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk)
1 tsp vanilla

Cake Filling
5 oz (150g) milk chocolate (fair trade chocolate, preferably, for a cake with a conscience)
5 oz (150g) dark chocolate
½ lb (225g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ lb (112g) cream cheese, spreadable (about half of a normal sized container of Philly)
1 tsp vanilla

½ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 oz (150g) semi-sweet chocolate

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F. Prepare three 8” cake pans with oiled parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pans. Set aside.

2. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt in the bowl of a mixer and whisk on low to combine, making sure it's lump free (or just use a whisk). Add the coffee, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix on medium-low for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides. The batter will be pourable.

3. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 15 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Remove parchment papers before assembling.*

4. Next, prepare the cake filling. Melt the milk and dark chocolates in a double boiler and stir until smooth. Cool 10 minutes. Cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Mix the cooled chocolate into the creamed mixture. Next, prepare the ganache by heating the cream and butter to just before the scalding point (just below the boiling point). Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let rest for 3 minutes, then whisk gently (to avoid incorporating air) until melted and smooth. Cool slightly.

5. To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a cooling rack with a large baking sheet underneath to catch drips. Evenly spread almost half of the filling over the layer, then position a second layer on top. Save a small amount to thinly spread over the top and to fill in the sides to make it smooth.** Position the top cake layer over the filling. Chill 10 minutes. Next, slowly pour the warm ganache over the entire cake while carefully spreading it with a large metal icing spatula to make a smooth surface. Carefully transfer the cake to a plate and into the fridge to set. Bring to room temperature before serving.

*I made the three cakes on Thursday, then the next day made the filling and ganache and assembled it all. The cake was easier to work with cold and, in my opinion, gets more delicious after sitting well wrapped in the fridge for 24 hours.

**Cakes never bake with sides that meet the top at perfect right angles. This means there are always gaps between the layers which have to be filled in, or else the sides of the cake will look rippled. You can horizontally slice the uneven parts off the top, but then you end up losing half the cake. Instead, with the metal spatula I spread a thin layer of filling over the whole thing, then filled a plastic baggie with more filling and snipped off a corner to make an icing bag. I used the tip to completely fill in the gaps, then re-spread the whole thing with the spatula so I had entirely smooth sides before pouring over the ganache.


  1. That cake looks and sounds DELICIOUS! I don't think I will ever have the energy to attempt it though.

  2. Linds, you are a spectacular person. I will never attempt a cake like this, but I am requesting now that when Andrew and Bella turn 3 this WILL be their birthday cake. Promise?
    That will be March 18-20, 2011. You available?

  3. It's a promise, though it may have to be slightly belated........I'd make a 20 layer cake for those two kidlets, I love them so much.