I think Boston is a bit of a cold city. It’s not something I notice anymore on a daily basis, but when I’m visiting more friendly regions, I’m often struck by the joggers who nod and give you a smile as you run past and the eager store employees who go out of their way to help you. These things rarely happen here and the subway is especially a land of aloofness where people tend to avoid eye contact. I’ve found a way to warm people up though – simply tote a homemade dessert around with you.
I have a clear cake carrying case that I bring all my treats to work in with and not only do people tend to smile when they see a dessert inside, many go out of their way to strike up a friendly conversation. Usually they ask if I made it or what flavor it is or just compliment its appearance, but one guy surprised me by pulling a quart of milk out of his backpack and asking if we could split the cherry pie I was holding with everyone on the train if he provided the beverages!
Desserts always make people happy, but I think it’s more than that. I think people realize that a lot of love goes into taking time out of one’s busy schedule to bake something special for someone. And I think they’re drawn to that warmth. A cheesy sentiment perhaps, but wouldn’t the world be a better place with more homemade desserts?
I recently baked up a treat for the most important birthday boy – Apolinaras, who celebrated his big day last Friday. He usually requests a treat with pineapple and coconut, but this year he wanted a decadent raspberry and chocolate cake instead. Here’s what I came up with – a layer of chocolate cake baked in a springform pan topped with a bit of raspberry puree and a creamy raspberry mousse. I garnished it with some dark chocolate shavings and fresh berries. Apolinaras and his coworkers were big fans!
p.s. Apolinaras suggested the best trick for removing the cake from the bottom of the springform pan (apparently, he uses a similar technique to remove his racing badges from his car). After detaching the sides of the pan, nurse a piece of dental floss or fishing line carefully under the entire length of the cake – then you can just lift the cake off with a big spatula and put it on the dish you’d like to serve it on. This avoids someone accidently cutting up the bottom of your fancy pan with a sharp knife!
Chocolate Raspberry Torte
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1/2 ounce shaved dark chocolate
To make the chocolate cake, heat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt together into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl until well combined. Add liquids to dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and mix again briefly. Pour cake batter into the prepared springform pan and bake at 350˚F for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for an hour or until completely cooled to room temperature.
To make the raspberry puree, place raspberries in a food processor and pulse until smooth, about one minute. Push puree through a fine mesh strainer into a pot to remove the seeds. Add sugar and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until sugar is dissolved. Cool 1/2 cup of the puree to room temperature (I stuck mine in the freezer for 15 minutes).
To make the raspberry mousse, place heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a well chilled bowl and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Fold 1/2 cup cooled raspberry puree into the whipped cream until smooth.
To assemble the cake, poke cooled chocolate cake all over with a fork and evenly spread remaining 1/2 cup raspberry puree over the cake. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and massage the puree into the cake every 10 minutes. Top with raspberry mousse and garnish with fresh raspberries and shaved dark chocolate. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Remove from pan and smooth edges as needed. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition: 387 calories, 25.5g fat, 4.3g fiber, 4.2g protein per serving
Cost: $0.95 per serving