From the Lucid Kitchen: Valentine Treats for Chefs & Deadbeats
For some, including myself, every year around the beginning of February the panic sets in.
Crap. Valentine’s Day is coming. What do I do?
Valentine’s Day is THE day to pull out all the stops—buy flowers, write poetic love-filled cards, and generally show your special someone that they mean the world to you since this sentiment can easily get lost amongst the shuffle of day to day life.
Now my husband is the celebrated gift-giver in our household. Every year, and for just about every occasion, he blows me out of the water with his thoughtful, heartfelt gifts. I, on the other hand, do not possess that gene. Lucky for me, I can cook and he can’t.
It’s taken years of snaffoos, teary-eyed phone calls to my mother asking what I could have possibly done wrong, and ample time spent watching the Food Network for me to come to the place where I am stable and, dare I say it, confident in my culinary abilities. That being said, many don’t have the time or energy to devote to learning to cook in the effort of producing one meal a year.
For those people, I am here to rescue you.
First, make reservations. It’ll save you tons of headache, heartache and dirty dishes so you can actually spend time with your date. Second, you can take your first step toward flexing your gastronomic muscles in the desserts department.
Below I’ve included my favorite fake-it-till-you-make-it chocolate cake recipe. It’s fool-proof and easy enough for the deadbeats that wait until the last minute to figure out their plans. Hey, we’ve all been there. It still technically qualifies as baking but cuts out a lot of the difficult legwork, the ingredients are all things you can find in your kitchen or can easily pick up from the store. Basically, it’s stupid simple but you can still tell your honey you baked for them. Major brownie points.
Fake-It-Till-You-Make-It Chocolate Cake for Deadbeats
This will take you about an hour to two to make depending on the type of pan and garnish, so plan ahead
- 1 box of Devil’s food cake mix
- 1 package of instant chocolate pudding
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup water
- an oven, kind of necessary
- either two 9” round cake pans or a Bundt cake pan—the pretty one with all the ridges
- chocolate frosting for the two rounds OR
- powdered sugar for the Bundt
optional add-ins for your own special flair:
- 1 ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- 1ish cups chopped walnuts
- Preheat your oven to 350° this means you want to turn it on ahead of time so it reaches that temperature before you put the cake in.
- Mix all the ingredients together, and try not to make a huge mess. If you’re adding the chocolate chips—which you definitely should—or walnuts, be sure to gently stir them in once everything else is mixed together so they’re evenly distributed.
- Dump it all into either two greased round cake pans or a greased Bundt pan. If you don’t know how to grease a cake pan, take out a can of cooking spray like Pam and generously spray it on in there. Now you know. Easy peezy.
- If you used the two round pans, leave them in the oven for 25-30 minutes. If you used the Bundt pan, leave it in for 45-50 minutes. *Tip: to tell when it’s done, stick a toothpick directly in the center. When you pull the toothpick out it should be clean or have some crumbs, not batter.
- If you used the two cake pans, wait until it cools then slather some chocolate frosting (the kind you get from the store, let’s not get ahead of ourselves) on each round cake, then stack one on top of the other. If you went the Bundt cake route, flip it upside down so the pretty ridges are on top and sprinkle some powdered sugar over it for a fancy effect.
- Pat yourself on the back and prepare to wow your love with your skills!
P.S. if you’ve somehow managed to mess this up, I’d keep it to yourself. Just go to the store, buy a cake, and take all the plastic off. Problem solved.
Now, for those of you who know their way around a kitchen, you’ve kind of made life more difficult for yourself. If your loved one is like my husband, they know that you know what you’re doing and will expect a little something special. This is a no-shortcut day. I’m speaking from experience here people, learn from my mistakes. My husband will notice the chocolate cake box in the recycling and mention that I fed him “boxed cake” for Valentine’s Day. The horrors.
So for those of you who need a go-to, rich and decadent chocolate cake from scratch, this one’s for you.
The I’m-Confident-In-My-Chef-Like-Skills Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel Glaze
This cake takes about 2 hours total and can be made with two 9” cake rounds
For the Cake:
- 3 cups flour
- 2 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder, trust me
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ½ stick melted butter
- 3 eggs + 2 yolks, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Caramel Glaze:
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ stick of butter
- sea salt flakes for sprinkling
- 1 cup softened butter
- 3 ½- ¾ cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ¼ cup milk or heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For double layered cakes, I recommend frosting AND using the caramel glaze over the top of it. This way you get that creamy-chocolatey filling with the deep, rich chocolate flavor, topped off with sweet caramel and tantalizing sea salt. Yes, it’s extra work. Yes, it’s totally worth it.
- Preheat your oven to 350°
- Generously spray two 9” round cake pans with nonstick cooking oil, then line with parchment paper and spray it again to ensure nothing sticks.
- In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine the first seven dry ingredients (flour through espresso powder). Sift out any clumps. Hey, I told you this wasn’t going to be easy.
- In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients (warm water through vanilla) and mix.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix on low until they’re blended together. Don’t over mix the batter!
- Divide the batter equally between the two cake pans.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. *Toothpick test to see if it’s done, then let cool.
Caramel Sauce (make this and the frosting while your cake is baking)
- Melt butter and sugar in a nonstick sauce pan, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn
- Once sugar is fully dissolved, slowly add in the cream while whisking.
- Continue to whisk until desired caramel-sauce like consistency is reached.
- Set aside.
- Combine all ingredients and beat the heck out of them until it reaches a frosting-like consistency, about 4 or 5 minutes. If it’s too dry, add more milk and if it’s too wet add more powdered sugar.
- Once your cakes are cooled, remove them from the pans and parchment paper and frost them, be generous with your frosting. Heck, it’s a special occasion.
- Stack one on top of the other, then drizzle the caramel sauce over the top.
- Sprinkle a bit of sea salt over the top, but be careful; you don’t want to overwhelm the cake, just compliment the flavors.
- Viola! You’re done! Enjoy this with your loved ones and vow that you’ll never put yourself through this kind of back-breaking labor again… or until next Valentine’s Day.