Oh, cocoa

Happy (almost) Independence Day in US.

It was much of a week. Not bad, just full.

I train-ed up to bring my son back from university. Picked up rental car as my car is way too small to move stuff – I mean, when it’s the two of us and the dog with any shopping things get a bit crowded. Guy at car office said, “do you want to take pics of it before you go?” I almost didn’t but thankfully I did. As when I dropped it off here woman said “oh, this is damaged, and this …”. So, I submitted my pics showing that I didn’t cause the damage and we’ll see what happens. Moral of story: always take pics of whatever you rent — whether it’s car, house, etc –before you take possession.

It took four days to get all his laundry done (no, I didn’t do all of it). I’m just sayin’…

After I dropped the rental car off I took the bus back to our local down-at-the-heels beach town in order to visit the new Italian deli. We really lack these types of independent shops here. It is a sadness. But, oh joy! Six different types of cannoli; artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes; loads of different types of pasta. And best of all: smoked mozzarella (I first discovered this delicacy living in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, an Italian neighbourhood — it features in the film Moonstruck). In a madness I only bought one. I guess that gives me a reason to go back this week…

Any way.

My mother made this wonder of a chocolate cake. Like, among the best I’ve ever had in all my time on this earth eating chocolate cake.

She’d make it for dinner parties and every time I visited home once I’d left, and I’d eat it cold out of the fridge for breakfast. It was great just after being baked and iced but it was a family joke my eating it cold for breakfast.

We called it killer cake and when I got married (eons ago) she included the recipe in the little recipe book she made me as a gift.

So, my mother died more than two decades ago and it took me over 10 years to try to bake it – and it was a complete disaster. Like it put me off trying again for years it came out that.bad.

This is a high maintenance cake: you need a proper heavy-duty stand mixer plus a separate hand mixer to do it with any small amount of ease. I didn’t have those implements when I last tried baking it.

Now, however, I own both. So, I had decided once the son was home I would have another go at making killer cake, this past Saturday.

This time, the stars aligned. All in, it took around three hours of solid work. My left hand developed a twitch. The kitchen was a disaster and it took two goes of the dishwasher to get it back to a semblance of normal – and I’m a ‘clean as you go along’ cook/baker. But I am delighted to say it worked (see pic). I don’t own a cake stand that rotates so a bit sloppy but who cares. It tastes like nirvana.

The cake part is ground almonds, bittersweet (dark here) chocolate chopped into small bits, seven eggs separated, sugar, a bit of baking powder and that’s it. You combine everything bar the egg whites, which have to be whipped separately and then folded … very.very.very  carefully … into the rest of the batter. You can see what the interior looks like below.

The buttercream is butter (of course), melted dark chocolate, sugar and three eggs. I was concerned the melted chocolate would result in chocolate scrambled eggs but no problem. All good.

I was a bit nervous to taste when it was finished but … exactly like my mother’s (which made me sad as well as happy) and my son pronounced it ‘great’. Guess I won’t be waiting a decade to make it again.

In the run-up to making the cake I looked up perfumes that include chocolate or cocoa notes. The only thing I currently have to hand that includes a chocolate (well, cacao) note is Tauer Sundowner.

Chocolate is something I eat – never really sought it out in fragrance. Don’t have any chocolate candles (do they exist?). Would never consider chocolate room spray. In perfume, vanilla is my thing.

A load of fragrances have a chocolate, cacao or cocoa note. I mean seriously a load.

Here’s a list of just a few: Princess by Vera Wang; A*Men by Mugler; Lush I’m Home; Prada Candy Night; Demeter Dark Chocolate; and Tom Ford Black Orchid. Also, when I was trawling around the net I saw mentioned on the Persolaise blog something called Passion Victims (exclusive to Harrods here) by Wilgermain (never heard of them) that contains a cocoa note. Which I looked up simply because of the name.

So, is chocolate et al a note you like in fragrance? If yes, which ones? And is there a cake you make or remember (doesn’t have to be chocolate … really) that means home or family and all those associations?

  • Ariel says:

    Tauer’s Sundowner! I’m still figuring out exactly what it smells like on me, but I get compliments every time I wear it out (which is still not often enough- but soon all the preschoolers will be vaccinated.)

    I also like Strangelove NYC’s Melt My Heart. It’s a short ride (maybe 20 minutes), but does a sort of wine-chocolate-night blooms-sex-tobacco trip that I greatly enjoy.

    • cinnamon says:

      Sundowner has a lovely boozy thing going (among others).

      20 minutes … that’s like … nothing in perfume. It appears you can get the line here (at Harrods) but they are silly money.

  • Tom says:

    Chocolate isn’t a note that I usually like in fragrance (Borneo 1834 being the exception- but that’s more cocao.

    That cake looks amazing!

    Yes, if you’re renting anything take pictures upon receipt and upon returning. Very important! You can also use an app called Timestamp that will put the date, time and location on the photos. Very useful and free. (at least for iPhone)

    • cinnamon says:

      I really need to sample Borneo. Next visit to Paris … Indeed, the fact that I almost didn’t take those pics (and they are now time stamped) is a bit chilling because I’m sure they are just waiting for those types of situations where they can charge you over the odds for something that wasn’t your fault.

  • Musette says:

    That cake sounds divine! I adore chocolate to eat, LOATHE chocolate in perfume.

    We’re having a rather horrible 4th, as you’ve no doubt seen. Can’t even think about that right. I’ll think of chocolate instead. Xoxo

    • cinnamon says:

      I saw the news regarding the parade. I had thought ‘should I do a 4th of July wishes’? and decided I would. I’m not going to do it any more — do holiday wishes for the US. It’s just impossible to know what will happen day to day and it’s too awful when something does.

    • Tom says:

      I heard that on the news as I was driving yesterday. Just so wrong.

  • springpansy says:

    I love to eat chocolate in various forms. One of the favorite desserts that I remember my dad making is a special hot fudge sauce to put over ice cream. And my whole family still loves a good brownie for dessert.

    I also like it in fragrance, but only sometimes. I particularly like the mix of chocolate, incense and resins in Ummagumma by Bruno Fazzolari. I also like it in Jo Malone’s Blue Agava & Cacao.

    This was a fun post. Thanks, Cinnamon, for giving us a little window into your thoughts and happenings for the week.

    • cinnamon says:

      I’ve never done hot fudge sauce but sounds awesome. My dad did pizza and home made pretzels. You’ve made me want ice cream 🙂

  • March says:

    I don’t have a huge fondness for chocolate in fragrance but eating chocolate? Sign me up!!! That cake looks absolutely incredible and I would love it. But I wouldn’t make it myself because I don’t own any of the right equipment… thanks so much for a great post!

    • cinnamon says:

      It’s a great cake but it is verrrry high maintenance. Last time I tried making it using a hand whisk. No go. It does require electric assistance.

  • Portia says:

    How do you get so many interesting things into one post Cinnamon? I bloody love Mondays because it means I get to wade into your life, hip deep, and get a feel for it.
    That cake looks like it will definitely kill you. Whenever we would get something so scary-licious my Dad would say Happy Heart Failure as he dove in. I’ve kept that up for almost everything naughty and delicious.
    We have had enormous amounts of rain (again). It was just starting to dry out enough so I could walk the dog in the park across the road but now it’s a shoe stealing quagmire (again).
    Monday is normally my cleaning, laundry, frag post and weekly Trivia Q&A writing day. Jin successfully hijacked it by having a day off. We had a lovely time seeing the Dr, having some bloods done, checking and fixing a thing at the new rental property, shopping for and making Vietnamese Rolls, watching some TV together. It was a really lovely day and though grumpy my arranged and usual agenda didn’t happen I’m really glad we got to have today. So here I am at 11.30pm hoping to be finished the trivia in the very near future. Thanks for the break, I’ll go back to it now.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      Saw the news reports on rain. Hope things are improving. I’m glad I offer something interesting for Mondays. I guess we are all trying to do that. As to schedules being tweaked, the joys of life and we just need to get on with things. It would all be rather meh if things never changed. And bar the bloods (hate having that done) it all sounds quite ok 🙂

  • Dino says:

    What a coincidence, I’ve recently had to give up chocolate and as I had the weekend off I decided I would explore it as a perfume ingredient, I was so happy with the results I made several variants. btw the cake looks amaaazing

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx. It seems there’s a lot out there with chocolate notes. So, happy exploring.

  • alityke says:

    That cake looks like my ideal cake, more filling & topping than cake. Scrumptious!
    The Bero baking book has a recipe for milk chocolate cake that uses a rubbing in method & evaporated milk. It’s my chocolate celebration cake fall back. Topped & sandwiched with Nutella & decorated with Ferrero Rocher it looks impressive & tastes delicious but can be made 15 mins! Takes a while in the oven though.
    Chocolate in fragrance? No really my thing. Angel Le Gout was tolerable but I sold it on. All other cocoa/cacao/chocolate centric scents are way out of my comfort zone.

    • cinnamon says:

      Bero baking book … will have a look. I am ambivalent about Nutella and I’m not sure why. But that cake sounds awesome. Agree the more goo the better. The cake part of killer cake is not hugely sweet and the texture is nice. But the buttercream isn’t that sweet either. So, all in, the taste and the textures are winners and it doesn’t give you a sugar headache.

  • Dina C. says:

    Wow, Cinnamon, that cake looks yummy! I recently read an award-winning cookbook from the library called The Art Of French Pastry. It’s full of recipes, techniques, tips, and autobiographical anecdotes. I learned so much baking vocabulary, like the difference between French, Swiss and Italian meringue, what is a genoise cake, and all those terms I always hear on The Great British Bake Show! The author was saying how Americans should buy Plugra butter which has a higher fat content for all of their pastry and baking. I had no idea! As for chocolate in scents: that’s a no for me. I’m not a gourmand fan. But it smells great in candy stores and bakeries!

    • cinnamon says:

      Oh, my, but it is indeed good. I too am a cookbook reader. When I’m between a series or waiting on a book I’ll generally pull out a Chez Panisse cookbook. There’s a menu cookbook which is fascinating.

  • Tara C says:

    I like chocolate in perfomes. Borneo 1834, Chocolovers, Goirmand Coquin, Wicked Good.

  • Carolyn says:

    While not generally a gourmand fan, I make exceptions for cacao and coffee notes. My favourite is Atelier Cologne’s Café Tuberosa. I am clinging to the last precious drops of a sample of Valmont’s Blu Cobalto which is a whopping $280.00 Cdn for 8.5 ml. Neither scent is heavy on the cacao but it’s unmistakable in the opening. Besides, I could sniff out chocolate anywhere!

    One that proved too chocolatey for me was Montale’s Chocolate Greedy. Smelled like burnt, sticky hot chocolate.

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, coffee. I can’t drink it any more but boy is it nice in perfume. I remember when Montale had a big moment in perfumery.

  • Maggiecat says:

    I love chocolate to the point of addiction, but have never sought it out as a personal or home scent. I feel that way about many foods – berries, pineapple, and so on. Yummy to eat but not to wear.

    I’m glad you have your mother’s cake in your life again!

    • cinnamon says:

      Oddly, this is the only chocolate thing from growing up I loved (bar the yodels or ring dings I sometimes ate for lunch in secondary school … oy, the memory). I don’t love berries in perfume etc either. I did once have a pineapple facial serum which was really quite nice.

  • filomena813 says:

    I enjoyed your blog, especially since I am presently going through life changing events and it took my mind off of them for the time being. My mother (who’s passed decades before yours when she was only in her early fifties) made a hot milk cake (no chocolate). I can only compare it to a pound cake since the cake was mostly vanilla, although she sometimes added a different flavor, but the texture was not heavy like a pound cake. A light icing could be put on it, but the cake in itself did not need icing. After she passed, I still made the cake, but since I have been living alone, I no longer bake. I am being forced to retire from my job soon, so perhaps I will take up baking again. As for cocoa in perfumes, I do have Tauer’s Sundowner and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, but, on the whole, I am not into most gourmand perfumes.

    • cinnamon says:

      Glad to be of help. Love pound cake and have tried making that and failed. How can you be forced to retire? I thought that was no longer legal.

  • Jane says:

    My mama made a chocolate roll cake filled with unsweetened whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar and dark cocoa powder. Mama has been gone a long time and I haven’t had this cake since my 18th birthday (I am 69) but she used to make it for me for my birthday or an atta girl celebration. It was the most fabulous cake I have ever had. I will never forget it. My mama was the best cook and baker in the world and it was so easy (in my eyes) for her to just whip something up. The best cookies, cakes and pies I have ever had or will ever have. Your recipe reminded me of this cake even though it is nothing like it. I miss mama so much. As far as chocolate perfumes, I am a fan. My favorites are Elixir Charnel Gourmand Coquin by Guerlain and Akro Dark.

    • cinnamon says:

      Years ago, I tried to do a roll cake. Made quite a mess. It’s amazing the connections between food and love.

  • Teresa says:

    Glad your cake was a success…now you can pass it on to your son! I was hoping you’d mention Princess as a cocoa fragrance….it is very vague and were I unaware that the note of cocoa was included, I wouldn’t pick up on it but every time I spray I try to pick out the cocoa note and yep, there it is! Usually a cocoa note is nauseating to me but in Princess it is lovely!

    • cinnamon says:

      He does like to bake and is good at it. So, yes, I hope he adds this to his recipe collection. Have never smelled Princess. Might take myself to local department store this week to actually do some sampling.