There are chocolate cakes and there is the chocolate cake-the quintessential, decadent chocolate cake-chocolate-y but not bitter, incredibly moist beyond belief, dense, not cloyingly sweet among other features, that has eluded me for over a quarter of a century. What is it about chocolate cake that makes people like me never tire of it? If DNA can be linked one’s affinity to chocolate cakes, then I am genetically predisposed to it for I have seen my siblings’ , aunts’ , nieces’ and nephews’ , and my children’s total devotion to chocolate cake myself included. When I see chocolate cake, I also think of Mrs. R’s cake-moist, dark as the night, frosted with the fudgy, silky chocolate icing that is unforgettable. She is in her 90’s now, but the memory of her cake still lingers on. It is difficult to define what one thinks constitutes the definitive chocolate cake for everyone has their own set of standards. I embarked on this journey to find the Holy Grail of chocolate cakes. This quest drove me to see what I am capable of as well as believe in fate.
Having talent and technical know-how played an integral part in my quest. In my youth, I would spend countless hours in the kitchen whipping up cakes one after another wondering how something so simple can taste so divine. I continually read numerous cookbooks and food magazines, considering myself fortunate for being able to discern the odds if a recipe would work or not in the snap of a finger without so much understanding of how each ingredient played a role at such an early age. I owe this understanding to my oldest sister who took it upon herself to provide me with the skills I needed by enrolling me in cooking and baking classes each summer in my adolescent years, taking this learning to a higher level continuing my education in my chosen field here in Vancouver. Thus, I had a much clearer understanding now making my quest attainable.
Armed with my God given talent and the ability to understand the role each ingredient plays in the success of a cake formula through my training, I baked chocolate cakes like a madman much to the delight of my colleagues who volunteered to be my guinea pigs. I had both success and failures, though more of the latter. Each week, I would try a different recipe. Some were given by friends; others were from the latest cookbooks. But there were times that the recipe did not live it to what it claimed. There were cakes that sunk, while others were so moist it was like eating fudge. I usually tried recipes twice before I would pass judgement on whether it was a keeper or not. This made me more relentless and more determined more than ever to seek that which would make my cake extraordinary.
They say that things happen for a reason. When I least expected it, a fortuitous opportunity landed on my lap. It was difficult having to work 16 hour days sometimes in the high volume restaurant I worked at as pastry chef just so I was able to assist my husband shoulder our upcoming wedding expenses. That one Friday night rendered my brain asleep for I did not notice that the equipment and materials were displaced by the new dishwasher. Therefore, the cake I was supposed to bake that night turned out to be a disaster for it did not look and taste anywhere near what it was supposed to be which led to buy that disastrous cake I made for fear of being terminated. Wide awake then, with adrenaline taking over my present state of mind, I proceeded to retrace my steps and found the mistakes I made noting them down and proceeded to make the right cake ordered. However, friends and relatives who consumed my disastrous cake thought it was the best chocolate cake I have ever made. Unknowingly, that fortuitous cake turned out to be the one I was searching for and became my entry to the locally sponsored 1995 Chocolympics held in Vancouver. It was a well attended affair by the finest local chocolatiers in the industry. Though I was the lowest on the totem pole, I proved to be the one to be reckoned with for my cake garnered the top award-GRAND AWARD!!!!! MY cake possessed all the features the judges deemed to be the Holy Grail of chocolate cakes.
Of all the cakes and recipes I formulated, this cake holds a special place in my heart. Had fate not intervened in so many ways, this cake wouldn’t have become a reality. It wouldn’t have been born. It only took me half my lifetime to find the quintessential chocolate cake, one that I will leave as my legacy to my husband and to my children.