My dearest Insomnilytes,
It seems appropriate that your ever-sleepless baking fanatic should be baking a cake for the cast and crew of Sleep No More. My fantastic room mate is one of the illustrious Prop Bitches to this immersive production, that lets audience members wander through 100 rooms of intricately designed theatrical goodness. I had the pleasure of seeing this production in February, and it left a profound imprint on me. It’s like they took all the terrifying, secret thoughts that live in my brain, and then had a bunch of dancers act them out. Glorious.
Speaking of dark, restless, unrelenting humanity in the theatre, I’m going to take this moment to plug another show. Hand to God, playing at Ensemble Studio Theatre through November 20th, will knock your fucking socks off, and make you wonder why you ever bothered with socks in the first place. It’s the sort of show that makes you jump up and down and praise the gods of theatre for giving you this moment. It’s uproariously funny and genuinely touching. It also features the most graphic on-stage act of puppet fellatio I ever hope to see.
Full disclosure: the playwright is one of my best buddies, and I used to work at the venue. But seriously folks, go. Go now.
Back to Sleep No More. Apparently, there is a tradition amongst the cast and crew called “Cake Friday”. GUESS WHAT HAPPENS ON CAKE FRIDAY? You get three guesses, and the first two don’t count. Since my Props Bitch roommate had been regularly bringing in my leftover baked treats already, the crew offered to pay for ingredients if I would be willing to whip up a cake for the good staff of the McKittrick Hotel. I was honored.
After extensive research and planning (read: several hours watching “Peep Show” on Hulu), I came up with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The good Mrs. Kitchen never fails to please. Granted, I changed it all up, but that’s to be expected. I’m making an approximate 1.5 recipe here.
- I set butter and cream cheese out to soften, and pre-heated the oven to 350. I played a few games of Whale Trail and thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up. It’s a shame “animated whale” isn’t an option. The thing just seems s’darn happy.
- In a giant bowl, I whisked together 3 cups of cake flour, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, 3 teaspoons baking soda, and, as ever, a liberal sprinkling of Himalayan sea salt.
- I added 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and 1 1/2 cups sour cream, and continued with the whisking. It looked thick and grainy, like a brownie mix.
- Holy crap! “Death Becomes Her” is on Netflix streaming. I love this movie. Perhaps more than it deserves. But oh, the nostalgia!
- Whisking all the while, I slowly added 2 and 1/4 cups water. This made the batter very thin, almost dangerously thin. But never fear, you’re doing the right thing.
- I added 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar, and a glug of vanilla extract. Between the vinegar and the sour cream, this cake is almost a “chocolate velvet” recipe. It’s a good thing.
- Beat in the eggs until you have a satiny bowl of deliciousness.
- I added half a bag of mini chocolate chips, cause I’m saucy that way.
- I poured the perhaps-too-thin batter into two 11×8 cake pans, liberally coated with cooking spray, and cooked for 35 minutes.
- The cakes puffed up like the arrogant confections they were, but never fear, they’ll settle down a but as they cool. Definitely let them cool a good 30 minutes before icing. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES I DID.
- Meanwhile, take 16 ounces of softened cream cheese and 12 ounces of softened butter, and cream them together like nobody’s business. If anyone asks, you tell them it’s not their business.
- I used the fancy-schmancy electric mixer my parents gave me for my birthday.
- The recipe calls for 5 cups of confectioners sugar, but trust me, you don’t need that much. 5 friggin’ cups? I’m know health nut, but this is ridiculous. Unless you are doing some serious decorating with this frosting, cut down on the sugar and just whip huge amounts of air into it like I did. I used about three cups.
- After the icing was looking all fluffy-like, I added a cup of creamy peanut butter. Use a major brand, so the oils won’t separate out.
- Keep mixing until it’s gorgeous and looks like icing.
- Isabella Rosselini looks amazing in this movie. She looks even better than this icing.
- Well, maybe not that good.
- Frost the two cakes, and put those suckers in the freezer.
- Meanwhile, I made a chocolate shell for the cake that would be easy for me to decorate, since I am, in layman’s terms, “not that good.”
- I found a recipe for “magic candy shell“, which is terribly easy to make. I put a bag of semi-sweet Ghirardelli chips into a bowl with a tablespoon or two of virgin coconut oil, and zapped it in the microwave, stirring intermittently until it was all melted together.
- I poured the glaze over the chilled cakes, and put them back in the freezer.
- After the glaze had set, I decorated the tops with some leftover frosting.