Five minutes after the power came on after a three-day outage, I started baking an ice cream cake. Not the usual kind, with yummy layers of Mocha Almond Fudge and hot fudge sauce layered into graham cracker crust and left in the freezer, but my own invention–a variation of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Fans of Shrinkrapped may recall that our emergency preparations for the “safety” power outages PG&E implemented as fire control mostly involved grabbing a spoon and enjoying our dozen or so pints of premium Haagen Dazs. We lost our power a bit before 8:30 Saturday night, and since I failed to set my alarm to get up at 2:00 to dig in, my Sunday breakfast consisted of a fantastic, very thick Chocolate-Chocolate Chip and Cookies and Cream ice-cold milkshake, rivaling the Creamy Dreamies we used to get at the Lagunitas market on our way back from a day at the beach.
Jonathan, insufficiently committed to self-destructive acts for the greater good, left most of the dirty work to me. But between the two of us, we managed to polish off close to three pints while the ice cream was still in this near-perfect state of soft serve. I nobly continued for another pint or so after the melted stuff resembled chilled creamy soup. But hey, if people get excited about vichyssoise, what’s the difference? Eventually, however, even I had to admit that suffering indigestion and weight gain for this salvage operation might not be the best idea.
“It’s mostly cream, isn’t it?” Jonathan asked as we forlornly surveyed our losses. “Couldn’t we use it to make cake when the power comes back on?”
Right away I thought of my recipes that used milk. The one that uses the most—chocolate chip cake—is also Jonathan’s favorite. I figured the melted ice cream also contained a fair amount of sugar and butter, so before we could reset our clocks, I was measuring out ingredients. I wanted to get that sucker into the oven in case we lost power again.
“I’m not making the frosting until we know how it’s turned out,” I told Jonathan. We had a test slice after dinner—our first meal not cooked on our Coleman camp stove in three days. Yum! I wasted no time in making the frosting to complete my masterpiece. Unfortunately, I had only one-quarter of the amount of confectioners’ sugar required—not because of power outages, but because of a lapse in my usual hoarding of staple ingredients (i.e., anything used for baking). So I made glaze instead of frosting, and the cake was even better. The only improvement would be to serve it up with a big scoop of ice cream.
Which, unfortunately, we no longer have.
Here’s the original recipe, with comments for how to improve it, with or without salvaged ice cream:
Real Chocolate Chip Cake—12 servings (make in a 10-inch high-quality Bundt or tube pan; if poor quality, there’ll be hell to pay in the form of a lot of yummy chocolate-laden cake top sticking to the pan, which you then have to pry loose and patch onto the rest of the cake. Or eat from the pan, and call it a day.)
3 cups flour 1 tsp. vanilla
3-1/2 tsp. baking powder 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
`1 tsp. almond extract ¾ tsp. salt
1-1/3 cups milk 1-3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips–mini best
Preheat oven to 350. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually add in flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured 12-cup bundt or tube pan (approx. 10-inch). Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes (I recommend checking at 50—it’s invariably overbaked if it goes for a full hour). Remove from oven and cool in pan 10-15 minutes. Then turn onto serving plate. If you have failed to use a high-quality pan and it doesn’t come out in one beautiful piece, enjoy the patching or gorging job ahead of you. Cool completely, then top with chocolate frosting or glaze (I recommend either doubling or at least increasing by 50% for good coverage of the cake; or, if you use less sugar to keep it at glaze consistency, you can attractively drizzle it over the cake assuming you don’t need to disguise broken cake from using a cheap pan).
Chocolate Glaze: Combine ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, ¼ cup boiling water, ½ tsp. cinnamon, and 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. I find it easiest to do in a food processor or blender, but if you double it, be careful so it doesn’t blow chocolate liquid all over your kitchen. (I doubled all the ingredients before I realized I had very little confectioners sugar, so only used about half cup of that–it made a fine glaze, though good to refrigerate it a little bit before topping cake so it isn’t so runny.)
Waste-Not, Want-Not Adaptation: Instead of the milk, I used 2-1/2 cups melted Haagen Dazs ice cream (I used Cookies and Cream, but any vanilla-based ice cream should do. You’re on your own if you favor minty or fruity flavors.) I used only one cup of sugar, and about 12 tbsp. of butter. I baked it for 60 minutes, and wish I had taken it out at 50 or 55 minutes—it will bake a bit longer as it cools in the pan.
Also, the best things to have during a power outage: a portable solar phone charger; a Coleman stove; a sense of perspective; and a profession that doesn’t depend on electricity–in my case talk therapy.