Let me risk being very cliched here and remark, “How time flies!” because I can’t help if it does, can I? Make It Yum is celebrating its 1st birthday this week and I feel like a seasoned cook now. Almost. At least, I don’t feel intimidated by recipes using more than 5 ingredients or involving more than 5 steps anymore – the realm of possibilities has greatly expanded and lot more yumminess seems within reach now than it did a year ago.
What a surprising year it has been! Things that I had never imagined possible, happened. I cooked complicated recipes with more success than not. A lot of my conversations revolved around cooking. I experimented with new and exotic ingredients. Cakes no longer remained solely my sister’s domain. When family and friends who have known me for years found out about Make It Yum, they were first skeptical, then surprised and now totally supportive of this blog (although my cousins do maintain a healthy skepticism yet and keep me grounded). People who, a year ago, would’ve only spoken either tongue-in-cheek or with eyes rolling to the back of their heads about my cooking, now talk about food and recipes to me as if they’ve been doing it all their lives, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. When they come across a new recipe, they make it a point to tell me about it and on more than one occasion I have been asked how I would make a certain dish. Every time this happens, I am astonished – others might have made the transition from considering me a totally disinterested to an enthusiastic and somewhat experienced cook, but I frequently forget that my ‘profile’ has changed! I have often wondered if they had really meant to ask someone else and had mistakenly asked me instead.
But let me tell you about the single most surprising thing that has happened. We have been on a house hunt this past fortnight or more because the lease for our tiny little apartment is up for renewal and we want to move to slightly bigger place. We have been looking at apartments every single evening after work and when you couple that with a full work day and a 3 hour daily commute, what you get is a nightmare. For two whole weeks, we have eaten out every single meal and I haven’t so much as entered the kitchen except to make the morning cup of coffee (and if I hadn’t needed that to wake me up and push me into the day, I daresay I mightn’t have gone into the kitchen at all). I didn’t mind it so much the first few days, but soon yearned for some home cooked meals. And as my time away from the kitchen grew longer and longer, and we ate more and more unsatisfactorily cooked and over priced food, I felt more and more out of my element and wanted more and more to go back to the kitchen and whip something up. I finally put my foot down on sunday morning and refusing to look at any more apartments before I had had a decent self-cooked meal, got down to business.
Lunch was a simple batata bhaji and roti and some phodnicha bhaat, but unable to contain myself, I experimented with a baked rice and chicken meal (my favourite dump-everything-into-the-oven kind) for the evening. It didn’t turn out quite as I had wanted it to and is going to require some more work before I can share it with you, but it led me to a very important self discovery – I hadn’t merely been protesting against the effect eating out was having on my body nor about its cost. What I had really missed was the process of making something that required focus and imagination and taste and some straightforward, old fashioned hard work. And as I stood in my kitchen chopping and stirring, the very picture of happy domesticity if you will, I realised that I could no longer honestly say that this blog was only a way to make an unavoidable daily chore more interesting, that while I loved eating good food, cooking it was only a necessary evil and nothing more. No, I had finally come to love cooking as an end in itself and felt happy and peaceful as I stood over the hot stove. It is so wonderful to realise one is in love, isn’t it?
It’s is also wonderful that this epiphany comes just as I reach this milestone in this journey. To celebrate, Make It Yum gets a new look from this post forward. My very talented friend Manjiri from Visual Trademarks has worked very hard and created some gorgeous headers for this blog. You only see one of them today, but there are many more for different themes and you shall see them by and by and I think they add a wonderful freshness to the look and feel of this page (check out the home page too). No thanks would suffice, but Make It Yum says its pleased as punch and thank you for the lovely birthday dress!
Alright, I think that is more than enough blah blah, let’s get to today’s recipe, which I am sure what you came here for, really. Birthdays, by their very definition, need cakes. So here’s an easy-peasy recipe that I have wheedled out of my mother-in-law. She has this treasure trove of recipes, all written very nicely in a notebook, except that they’re no use to me – they’re all written in Bengali and while I understand quite a bit of the language when it is spoken, the written Bengali remains out of reach yet. A very good reason to always remain good friends with her, if I am to continue to have the benefit of the collection! This wonderfully moist cake can be whipped up in no time and can be customized to no end. And chocolate cakes make the best kind of birthday cakes, don’t you think?
Prep Time: 20 mins
Baking Time: 40 mins
WHAT YOU NEED:
1.5 cups All Purpose Flour / Maida
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Oil
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup Water, hot
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
a pinch of salt
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 tbsp Instant Coffee
WHAT YOU DO:
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the oil for 2-3 minutes until well mixed.
- Add the sugar and beat some more.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together – the flour, the cocoa powder, the instant coffee, the baking powder, baking soda and salt – with a fork.
- Fold the flour mixture in to the oil and eggs, in 4 batches.
- Once completely mixed, add half a cup of milk at room temperature and stir to mix.
- Then gradually add hot water, mixing with a gentle hand. The batter will seem looser than normal. Leave the little lumps in and do not over-mix.
- Stir in the dried cranberries.
- Grease and flour an 8 inch cake pan, pour the batter in and bake at the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.
The unique thing about this recipe is the hot water added to the batter. I have never seen that in any other recipe, but trust me on this one – I’ve made it a few times and of course my mother-in-law has been making it for years. The hot water makes the batter looser than regular cake batters, but that’s expected, so don’t panic.
The customization is in the add-ons. I used dried cranberries, but really, you can use such a variety of things – fresh strawberries or blueberries, raisins, walnuts, cashews, almonds, chocolate chips, or even a mix of any nuts and fruits. Just put whatever’s at hand. Also, I was running low on sugar, so I substituted golden sugar for half of the white sugar.
The cake lends itself beautifully to icing if you are so inclined. Just be sure to let the cake cool down COMPLETELY before you put any icing on it. I tend to stay away from icing because I always feel that the added taste just doesn’t justify the added calories! I did, however make a concession to this very important milestone and topped it up with some whipped cream.