I moved to New York in the middle of a snowstorm four years ago, a few days after my birthday. Living here had been my plan since I was about five, and twenty-some years later, I arrived. My dad flew out to visit family in the East and help me drive the U-haul from Rhode Island to Brooklyn (I'd moved alone plenty of times, so this was special). I remember the snowflakes falling as we passed New Haven, getting heavier by the time we found my neighborhood, and snow up to our ankles when we brought the last box up the stairs.
Here’s another snowstorm, blowing in just after my thirtieth. Brooklyn is home now, as the turnout of kind and interesting friends at my party (waffles and champagne in a new apartment) confirmed. And my dad was here again—a surprise visit arranged by my boyfriend! This time we sent him off just before the snow, on an early flight so he wouldn’t get stuck.
Snow and birthdays and chocolate cake. These all go together when you were born in January. My favorite birthday cake (the one my dad always requests too) is Decadent Chocolate Cake from the Silver Palate. You can get the recipe from the New York Times. For a snow day, you might try this Whiskey Soaked Chocolate cake that only gets better with age. You can eat it for days while you stay cozy inside. Make it in a big bundt pan, or in several mini pans that you will deliver to your neighbors, tromping through drifts to knock on their doors
Recipe: Whiskey Soaked Chocolate Cake
- 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup brewed strong coffee or espresso
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup rye or bourbon, plus more for finishing
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- powdered sugar, for finishing
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a bundt pan or a few mini pans with cooking spray. If you are using the mini pans, line them up on a baking sheet.
2. Rinse a small bowl with hot water to heat it up. In that bowl, pour 1 cup hot water over the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool slightly. In another small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
3. Cream together the butter, sugar and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 10 minutes, until very pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the creamed butter, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Gradually beat in the chocolate mixture.
4. Combine the whiskey, coffee and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Alternately add the flour mixture and coffee mixture to the chocolate-butter mixture. Start and end with flour (I suggest three additions).
5. Pour the batter into the greased pans, nearly to the top. Bake for about 40-50 minutes in the mini pans or 80 minutes in a bundt pan (start checking for doneness 10 minutes before the time ends). Rotate the pans once halfway through for even baking. When a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out nearly clean, the cake is done.
6. Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans. Sprinkle the tops (formerly the bottoms) with a generous amount of whiskey. Then sprinkle with powdered sugar. The flavor of the cake improves by the next day. If you like, sprinkle more powdered sugar on top before serving. These will keep, covered, for a whole week at room temperature.
Hannah's Hint: Most bakers (and Europeans) measure baking ingredients by weight instead of volume because it’s much more precise. I use volume, but measure in a particular way for consistency. Scooping flour can pack it into the cup, so you get too much and end up with a dry cake. The flour measurements in my recipes assume that you spoon the flour into a dry measure, then level it off with the back of a butter knife or handle of a spatula. That way it’s fluffy and not packed.
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