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Say ‘I love you’ with chocolate cake

The nice thing about living in different places is running into people you have not seen in years. We recently ran into an old friend in North Carolina that we had not seen in 13 years. She was the director of the Historic Wilmington Foundation, and conned us into buying some old houses, so we can say she was charming and delightful. She knew her job. But Angela got married, got a big job with IBM, and moved to Chapel Hill for all those13 years.

She is back in Wilmington, living on the golf course in her husband’s childhood home that they have just refurbished. Angela has come full circle.

She had us for dinner in her new home and we watched the sun go down on the golf course. The historian in her pointed out the marker on the golf course of the Civil War breastworks that protected the city in 1865. Actually they didn’t hold. The city fell in January 1865, the last Southern port to fall. It was all over after that. The stroll on the golf course was really nice but I loved her new kitchen most of all! We had a simple but wonderful dinner of salmon, fresh asparagus, and wild rice. I have never seen a person cooking dinner while reading the recipe from the laptop. But hey, I was enjoying my wine and letting her do the cooking. Why worry for days about the meal?

The best thing Angela had was a dessert that she has perfected. She is into French and this dessert is destined to be on your table Valentine’s Day. It is easy, delicious and I am going to give you the recipe straight from Angela’s mouth (pen—computer) because she said it so well, and you can tell she has it perfected!

The recipe is from the cookbook called The Best Ever French Cooking Course by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen

Gateau au Chocolat

¾ cup superfine sugar plus more for sprinkling—I use regular sugar with no problem

10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chopped—I cheat and use Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips–or you can mix a little of the 62 percent cocoa bittersweet chips in–maybe an ounce or 2 of the 10.

¾ cup unsalted butter, cut in pieces

2 tsp. vanilla extract

5 eggs separated

¼ cup flour sifted—I skip the sifting and stir a lot

Pinch of salt

Confectioner’s sugar to dust the top when done

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter 9.5” spring form then sprinkle with sugar and tap out excess.

2. Set aside 3 tablespoons of sugar—take the remaining sugar, all butter and chocolate and cook in a heavy saucepan over low heat until all has melted/dissolved and is smooth. I use a double boiler. Remove from heat, add vanilla and let cool a little.

3. Beat egg yolks into the chocolate—I add one at a time—beat well after each—then stir in flour.

4. Using electric mixer (I fire up the Kitchen Aid), beat egg whites until they are frothy—then increase speed—add the salt—beat until soft peaks form. Then sprinkle the reserved 3 tbsp sugar and beat until whites are stiff and glossy. Beat a third of whites into chocolate mixture—I do by hand, folding—then fold in remaining whites.

5. Pour mixture in pan—tap gently to release air bubbles

6. Bake 35-45 minutes until well-risen and top springs back when touched lightly with a finger tip. I bake until the top is high and glossy looking—do not poke my finger at the top of the cake. Rotate after 25 min—I check at 25—in case oven is baking unevenly. Put on wire rack—remove the sides of the spring form, let cool completely. Remove the pan base—or be tacky as I was and put it on the table with the base—so you can eat it quicker than taking time to remove the base. Dust with confectioner’s sugar—put on nice plate and serve.

Additional: I like to bake this the day before I serve it—I let the cake cool—unhinge the side of the spring form—then clamp it back on when cool—wrap the whole thing in Saran Wrap and put in a high cabinet, so the dog cannot reach it in case of counter surfing. The top collapses—and makes these great little crispy pieces—but the cake stays really moist. As you know—blackberries!!! Raspberries also good. And fresh whipped cream—with a lot of sugar—works with the berries and cake too.”

I did the cake this morning and did as Angela instructed and it was perfect. It is off the counter where my cat cannot reach! Our dog can’t jump on the counter. Angela has a beautiful large dog who is apparently slightly naughty. This cake serves 10-12.

Make the cake for your sweetheart or just for yourself. I am cooking for Angela the next visit but she told me she would bring dessert. What can I say but, Yes!!