Recipe: A cocoa cake called "Joe"
The rebirth of my late grandmother's chocolaty delight, prepared in some special circumstances away from home.
It's never easy to cook something purely by memory, since there was never a written recipe and my memory from back then is hazy at the best of times. But I loved this cake so much, that I wanted to give it a second life, despite the odds not being in my favour. I know that my grandmother was inspired by her favourite poet Emily Dickinson and her love for Caribbean cakes, but as far as I can tell, this recipe has been adapted and not much of the Caribbean vibe has remained.
Disclaimer: I'm measuring in cups again, instead of weight or volume, as this is the way I remember the recipe and the proportions are more important. The cup used by me is exactly 200 millilitres in volume. Your mileage may vary!
For the liquid dough:
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup of flour
• 1 tablespoon of sugar
• 8-10 grams of vanilla sugar
• 10 grams of baking powder
• Optional - 1 cup of grounded walnuts *Jeannine L intensifies*
For the glazing:
• 125 grams of butter
• One and a half cups of sugar
• 1 cup of milk (200 ml)
• 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
• Optional - coconut shavings
Just teasing you a bit...
Contrary to any logic, we'll start with the glazing first, because some of it will be added into the liquid dough before baking and this is a very important step that makes the whole cake worth it!
Get a deep bowl on the stove, break the butter in pieces and put them in first, then add the milk, the sugar and the cocoa powder. Keep it in the stove for 10 minutes while constantly mixing with a spoon. The mixing is very important as the butter and the sugar have to melt and mix well with the rest, until there is a homogeneous mix. Get a cup (200 mil) and fill it in, as this will be all of the actual glazing that's needed on-top. Whatever is left outside the cup, has to be cooled to room temperature, before going into the dough on a later stage!
With the glazing done, it's time for the liquid dough. Put every ingredient in a deep bowl and mix all together well, until it becomes a smooth and thick liquid. When that's done, pour all the glazing that's left outside the cup and has been cooled to a room temperature. Pour it slowly while mixing well until the liquid dough gets . . an unpleasantly brown colour. Oy! I'm talking Peugeot-brown! What else were you're thinking of?!
Now it's baking time, but because it's a liquid dough, which sticks to trays pretty easily, spread a little bit of cooking oil in your baking tray and sprinkle it with a touch of flour. Then leave the tray in the preheated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for a minute or two, before pouring the dough in. I know, it sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it works for this cake to remain a separate entity from the bottom of the tray. The original recipe is for a thin cake, so I'm using a circular baking tray with a diameter of 30 centimetres for this volume of liquid dough.
Bake until completion sounds easy enough, but because the thing is already brown and barely changes colour, the most secure way to know when it's done is to probe it. Get a toothpick and stick it into dough to check. If it's baked, nothing will be sticking to the toothpick when you take it out. This method, although super low-tech, has been invaluable to me for many years! When it's ready, take it out of the oven, pour the cup of glazing on top, starting from the middle to let it flow easily all over the cake. Optionally sprinkle some coconut shavings and put it in the fridge to cool down.
I'd say two hours in an average fridge is sufficient for the cake to be ready for eating. It's chocolaty, smooth, moist and delicious! Goes great with a cup of strong Italian espresso, and that's probably why my grandmother Nadejda has named it "Joe". I've never asked why the name so I'm just speculating here. Enjoy and don't be shy to post photos of your "Joe" iterations.