Friday, May 14, 2010


I had a little thought today. Part of what I love about baking is that it's so often tied to a Big Occasion. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, Mothers Day — they require cakes. The moment demands it.

I am not a great froster. But congratulazioni anyway!

My thought was this: Whipping up lemon cupcakes and an owl-themed cake for a graduation party is fun — it beats the heck out of washing the dishes to come — but it's also kitchen time that's like active anticipation. Cracking eggs and zesting lemons become ways of proclaiming, my friend is smart and accomplished and we're going to celebrate her with all this sugar! Also: moms are terrific!

The other magical part of dessert-making happens when there is no big to-do in sight. When it's a weekday and we want something sweet.

So this one time, Melissa and I were making broccoli slaw with buttermilk dressing and something else I can't remember now for dinner, and she said this thing. She said, "Hey, you have leftover buttermilk. And sugar and butter. Why don't we make a cake for dessert?"

And then, get this: we did!

Now, I know there's plenty of time after work for cakes to be baked and enjoyed soon after. But even so, I always plan out my baking. I know in the morning what I'll be doing later and look forward to it all day. I never simply have the thought of making a cake, then have ingredients combined in the next five minutes. Doing so was a revelation. This is just one more part of Melissa's diploma-worthy genius.

Chocolate Bouchons

A Thomas Keller recipe from the packaging of my bouchon mold

As delicious as the weekend's lemon desserts were, these chocolate bouchons — which means "corks" in French — are up there with the most amazing brownies I've had the joy of putting in my mouth. I have this special doodad for baking them, but I'm sure a small muffin tin would work just as well.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, melted and just slightly warm
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for sprinkling or frosting for writing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter your tin and set aside.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about three minutes or until very pale in color. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients then one-third of the butter and continue alternating with the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.

If using a bouchon mold, put it on a baking sheet. Fill each well nearly full — within an eighth of an inch from the top. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning midway. When the tops look shiny and set like a brownie, test one cake with a toothpick. It should come out clean but not dry (there might be some melted chocolate from the chips).

Transfer the bouchons to a cooling rack. After a couple of minutes, invert the mold or tin and let the bouchons release, then turn them right side up to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.


  1. wahoo! best graduation cake i could imagine... parts of it were still in freezer until i finished it off today. lets make dinner with surprise and/or planned cake again soon.
    also... man, you have that icing writing down.

  2. yes! maybe we can make that pumpkin curry. i'll write "dinner" on it in sauce.

  3. I've made TK's bouchons before. They're delicious. Thanks for the reminder- I'll have to make them again soon!

  4. Shelly - aren't they good? They disappear very quickly!