I’m not necessarily one to follow tradition for the sake of following tradition, but an occasional nod in that direction is generally a good thing. To put it plainly, there are cake occasions. Those are the times in your life when you simply must eat cake and, at those times, only a homemade cake will do. It is true I often neglect these desserts for fruity pies and pastries borne of a twisted belief that it’s somehow healthier to approach dessert in this fashion, but, sometimes, only a truly hearty slice of the real deal is appropriate.
Sunday was such an occasion. It was the first anniversary of my wedding to K. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year. I can conjure the day in my mind and heart so easily. Those feelings of joy and anticipation flood my mind readily. A sweet look might just send me back to that glorious day in the middle of a rough week. And, to be quite honest, I’m afraid of the passage of time. I’m afraid the memory may grow distant and all I will remember are shadows of what really happened. So I do my best to keep it alive. In this attempt, I’ve come to believe anniversaries are important.
We spent ours at our cozy home in West Seattle. The rain was brutal. It poured and poured, but however much it soaked the world around us, we were at home. It’s a rare spot for us these days and we took full advantage. We turned on the heat. We made breakfast, drank tea, baked a cake, and built our baby’s crib. Yes. There is a crib in our house now. It’s the most beautiful piece of furniture I own, full of possibilities and wonder. I can nearly hear her little peeps and gurgles whenever I peek my head into the nursery to admire it. I adore it and, of course, I adore her.
In fact, I probably spent a good portion of our anniversary looking at my belly and giving my little bun lots of reassuring rubs. She is the best anniversary gift I could possibly receive.
A close second, however, is this cake. It’s a Black and White Cake aptly named for the heavenly mixture of chocolate and vanilla batter. This is my mother’s recipe. She read it aloud to me over the phone on Saturday evening when I came to the realization that the following day was, indeed, a cake occasion. It seemed right to make this cake for our anniversary. Black and White Cake was something that we frequently requested of my mother for birthdays, holidays and, honestly, any old day of the week. It’s a simple cake, really. It can be your everyday cake. It’s easy to make on an evening or rainy afternoon. But don’t let its simplicity of ingredients and instructions fool you, however. Black and White Cake is sort of a miracle in its moisture and the perfect marriage of chocolate and vanilla, which nearly melt in your mouth. Top it off with a simple glaze for a touch more sweetness and texture and it’s really quite perfect.
We ate slices of cake fresh from the oven in the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t our original intention. We thought we might head out to our dinner reservations and come home to this lovely Black and White Cake. However, that simply wasn’t possible. If you make this cake, please be forewarned. Your house will smell like pure vanilla. You will glaze the cake and lick your fingers. You will not be able to control yourself. Happy Cake Day to you.
Black and White Cake
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate syrup
For the glaze:
1 and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3 tblsp warm water
1 tsp vanilla
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until blended using a hand mixer. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one by one, mixing after each addition.
Add the vanilla to the cup of milk and stir. Slowly, add both the flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, mixing them in alternately in small batches. Thoroughly mix the ingredients together, but take care not to over-mix.
Pour 2/3 of the batter into a greased and floured bundt cake pan. Spread evenly.
Add the baking soda to the chocolate syrup and stir to mix. Then, add the chocolate mixture to the remaining batter by hand. Mix thoroughly until the color is even and chocolate is well-distributed. Pour the chocolate batter on top of the white batter (as shown in the pictures). Spread evenly. Do not stir.
Bake the cake at 350 for 65 – 70 minutes taking care to check on it after about on hour depending on the heat of your oven. When it’s done, the cake should come away from the side of the pan just a tiny bit and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. The cake, however, will still appear quite moist.
Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cake to a wire rack.
Once the cake is cool, mix the confectioners sugar, warm water, and vanilla in a pouring measuring cup until there are no lumps. A whisk is helpful in this regard.