Monthly Archives: February 2012

Chocolate Soggy Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Candy Icing

February is birthday month for both my brother and I. Which meant that Mom made two birthday cakes. And they were always the same. So was Dad’s, but she waited until June to make that one. Not only did Grandma Endres provide the recipe for our favorite cookies (both the sugar and the double chocolate drop), she also passed down the recipe for the best cake ever. I vaguely remember having a DQ cake at a party or two, but inside the family, it was always the chocolate cake with the caramel icing.

I’m not sure what culture this cake would trace back to, other than the Endres household. But, as far as we know, there is a piece of it that may still be wandering the world. Daddy was eating a piece of birthday cake as he signed the card he and Mom sent the year I was in Spain. A crumb fell on the card and left a nice smudge, but I never saw it. That is the only piece of mail that didn’t make it to the house on calle Octavio Paz.

As I was recently reminded, the cake does not require a mixer, just a whisk. It also does not require any perishable ingredients. Because of this, you could make the cake on a camping trip, but I don’t think we ever did. The icing, on the other hand, boils milk and butter with the brown sugar. Add in the vanilla and the baking powder, and you have the same ingredients as caramel, just in different proportions. This caramel-like quality is what made our cake the ugliest one at the Girl Scout bake sale every year. After taking it home year after year, we let other people sample it one year. It was one of the highest priced cakes after that.

Attempt #2

Why’s it so hard? Too little patience, and it runs off the cake onto the plate, or into the edges of the pan. Too much time sitting in the cold windowsill, and wherever the glop falls onto the cake, that’s where it’ll stay, because you won’t be able to spread it. And, if you don’t remember that ‘bring it to a boil’ means a roiling, almost-out-of-the-pan boil, then, well, the icing will never thicken, and it will just soak right into the cake. That’s the lesson I learned the first time I tried to make my cake up here in Alaska, without Mom. But, other than the sticky mess, no one who ate it complained about the taste of a caramel infused chocolate cake.

My third attempt up here was better. Other than my oops doubling the measure for the baking soda when measuring the salt, thus causing me to quadruple the whole recipe. I used the snow and cold air outside to cool my pan as I stirred the icing, and it may have actually been thick enough. But I’d forgotten to cool my cakes. So, the icing melted again when it hit the hot chocolate, and while it didn’t soak in completely like the first time, it definitely slipped in around the edges of each pan. The cakes barely looked iced.

Attempt #3

And, yes, last week I flipped a decade and put a zero in my age.

Chocolate Soggy Devils Food Cake

1 ½ c flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbl cocoa
5 Tbl melted shortening or veg. oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold water

Mix the dry ingredients
Whisk in the liquid ingredients
Bake in an 8” round pan at 350° for 20-25 mins

Brown Sugar Icing

1 c brown sugar
4 Tbl cream or milk (1/4 cup)
1 tsp butter

Bring to a roiling-out-of-the-pan boil, turn off heat
Add 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Beat/cool until thick enough to spread over cooled cake(s)

Double both recipes for a 9×13 pan

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An Unexpected Arrival

The first time I traveled internationally (other than to the neighboring state of Canada 🙂 ) was my year in Spain. Now, I could tell you about how I chose to travel as an exchange student, rather than one of the other opportunities that presented themselves, or about the stages of my trip as I went from Minnesota to Ohio to DC and on to Madrid. But, really, the best part of the story is the trip from Madrid to Sevilla, where I finally met my host family.
I think most exchange students receive information about their host families at least a month before they arrive in country. But not me. I left Minnesota still not knowing even what part of Spain I’d be living in. (That might be why I forgot to pack any type of jacket….) Finally, when I arrived at Grandma’s house, there was a message on the machine from AFS, telling me about the Martinez Borrás family. I’d be living just outside of Sevilla, and would have two little sisters, ages 10 and 4. That was Monday, August 30th. I met them on Monday, September 3rd.
One night/day of orientation in DC, a short layover at Heathrow, then three days of orientation at a monastery-type place in Madrid. Monday afternoon arrived, and of all the students taking trains out of La Puerta de Atocha,

Puerta de Atocha

In case this scene looks familiar - it’s in the front of the Level 2 book in a popular series of HS Spanish texts. Not my photo, but one that looks very similar.

I was the only one going to Sevilla. I hung out with the others in the tropical-forest-area in the lobby, not realizing that was the most humidity I’d experience for quite a while. Eventually, the lady from AFS Spain walked me down to the trains, but the ticket man said we were at the wrong platform. There were two trains leaving south from Madrid around two o’clock, and my ticket was for the one at the other end of the row. Thankfully, we were there early.
On the train, a nice man helped me put my bags up on the rack (both weighed roughly 70 lbs) and I settled down with my stitching. Or, at least, that’s what I was doing at 6:30, at which time, I had decided beforehand, I packed up my stuff to find a restroom so that I would be nice and refreshed when we pulled into Sevilla at 7:20. My first long train trip had been an interesting one. A boy up the aisle smiled at me when I pulled Cappuccino out of my bag and sat him next to me on the seat. (Cap is a stuffed monkey who goes with me everywhere, and has since I was a baby. Other than his cataracts, he’s in very good condition.) The old lady across from me may have been commenting on my stitching, or not. It truly sounded like gibberish to me, and not anything like the Spanish I’d been studying in school.
She got off at the last stop before 6:30, so she wasn’t there to react to me repacking my daypack. I had just put the last item in when the conductor announced the next stop: Sevilla.
What?
Yes. I heard correctly, and the signs on the platform also said Sevilla. But, the AFS people had clearly told me my train would arrive at 7:20. How did we get there 50 minutes early? I’d have to worry about that later. Everyone was getting off the train. I think the same nice man reached for my bags again. (A disadvantage of being short, or is it an advantage?) Zip the daypack onto the big backpack, lift, roll and get off the train.
I had arrived at Santa Justa station. Now I needed to find my host family.

Next time: How long it took to find my family at the train station.

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