After you have been cooking or baking for awhile, there are certain pieces of information – tips and tricks, so to speak – that become pretty much second nature. It is easy to take for granted that other people should know the ratio of water to rice when cooking it, or the basics of how to cut an onion.
This story is related to such cooking “instincts” and it goes to show that sometimes there is no such thing as too much information when writing a recipe.
Rewind the clock back to Valentine’s Day 2013. I awoke to a text from my mom saying, “look what I made”, a picture of chocolate cupcakes attached. Being the nice daughter I am, I noticed the somewhat sunken tops and replied, “they look kind of under-baked.” Needless to say, that was not exactly the response she was looking for. Oh and for the record, they were not under-baked.
Anyways, later that day they were iced and then consumed for dessert. Considering the infrequency of my mom’s baking adventures, they were pretty good. The texture was a bit off, slightly gritty perhaps? But they were not dry, usually my #1 complaint with poorly baked cakes.
Then we started talking about the recipe itself. My dad had just received some coffee from a work colleague in Colombia and my mom was excited to use it in the cake.
“The recipe called for 1 cup of coffee so I thought it would be great to use the Colombian coffee your dad got at work. I ground it all fresh this morning,” she said.
“Wait, you used 1 cup of ground coffee?” I asked.
“Of course, that’s what the recipe said.”
“Umm, I’m pretty sure it meant 1 cup of brewed coffee.”
“Well it didn’t say that.”
We went back and forth for a bit until she showed me the recipe. It read exactly, “1 cup coffee”, no mention of “brewed”, “ground” or the like. Having seen chocolate cake recipes like it before, I did a quick Google search to clarify that it was indeed “brewed” coffee that was required. At that point, she really did not have a choice but to admit defeat. In her defence, the cupcakes could have turned out a lot worse for what had happened. Sure they were a tad gritty, but they definitely were not inedible. Needless to say, it is something we laugh about now. Who am I to judge anyways? I put egg shells in cake and thought I could get away with it.
This past Valentine’s she redeemed herself and made the cake again with coffee, in its brewed form. You would have been hard pressed to say it was the same recipe it was so much better. It definitely goes to show that you should never assume something to be “common sense”, especially when writing recipes!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup brewed black coffee
- Sift together all of the dry ingredients (the first 6 ingredients in the list).
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients (the milk to the coffee).
- Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. The batter will be thin so don't panic. Mind you, it ends up being quite a bit thicker when you use ground coffee instead...
- Pour the batter into a greased and lined cake pan and bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Cool completely before removing the cake from the pan and topping it with the icing of your choice. My mom made a basic chocolate icing with butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar and milk but you could do a coffee buttercream or even cream cheese frosting if you like. Slice and enjoy!