Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When Life Gives You Pressure Cooker...

Being a single woman, living and working/studying in a city is an exercise fraught with challenges. At every step, there are multiple decisions to be made, each one with too many choices, and many a times, you do not have the luxury of a wise counsel of an older, more experienced in the way of the world parent figure. Sure modern life challenges do not involve the will-I-eat-the-wolf-or-will-the-wolf-eat-me-tonight kind of decisions, each day does bring forth newer issues to tackle, newer bills to pay. However, one tries to keep calm and carry on.

So then, for a single woman living in a city, who likes to bake her own cake and eat it too, the realisation that owning an oven is a luxury that your barely-existent salary/research fellowship/allowance from generous parents does not allow, is highly demotivating. But then, you chin-up and tell yourself that one is a strong independent woman who does not let a lack of oven come in between her and baking awesomeness. Like a wise woman (that would be Crumbs) said, "When life throws you a pressure cooker, you make cooker cake."

Like most of the things we talk about in this wonderful blogspace, one could write pages and pages about this cake. Like the time when accidentally we gave away this cake, along with a wonderful plate to complete strangers, when we really thought we were giving it to a friend for Christmas. OR the time we went halfway into making this cake for a friend's birthday before we realised that we'd forgotten one minor ingredient--the flour. Or the time one gave one's unsuspecting, but always helpful roommate quite the scare by breaking a spatula over the cake. But then we thought why bore our readers with details of our rather uninteresting lives? They have enough to deal with as it is, what with Prince William marrying a commoner and Osama being killed and other such modern day fairytales. So, one would proceed in haste (before one digresses again) to the aforementioned harbinger of great adventures,

The chocolate cooker cake

We discovered the original recipe, long long long back, here. However, some 15 adventures later, one uses the recipe only for the measurements. And we do not recognise this as brownie, for this very firmly, is a good cake (although, we do not know the technicalities of differentiating brownie and cake, we do not let such things come in our way).

You will need:

Milk: 1 cup. Go for the nice wholesome full cream one. Just the way Mother Nature intended milk to be before Health Freaks and Mother Dairy intervened.

Sugar: 1 cup, then another 1/2 cup(We generally are not big fans of divide and rule, but then what the heck, it works every time). One supposes you could use the healthier Demerara variety, but we have a sinking suspicion that most of our readers are currently running to Google ‘demerara’. Don't bother, the regular white-washed refined variety is really, truly, the most useful.

Cocoa powder: 1 cup. Please note, cocoa NOT= chocolate powder. We mean the mean stuff, the unsweetened bitter variety. Just the way mother nature intended it to be before Sweet Freaks and Cadbury intervened.

Butter: 1 cup. Now, most cake recipes do ask for unsalted and all. But as a single woman living in city, you will know that those things are bleddy expensive. If you are feeling lavish, sure, unsalted is better. If you are feeling regular, just use our trusted Amul Salted of the utterly-butterly delicious fame, and we won't tell a soul. Such great keepers of secrets we are.

Instant Coffee Powder: 3/4 tsp. If you do not have this readily available in your kitchen, then we are not talking to you anymore.

Eggs: 3. We are partial to chicken, but feel free to use dinosaur, if that is what you prefer.
Condensed Milk: 1/2 cup. Now you could, technically, buy whole milk, boil it with sugar and then reduce it and reduce it and reduce it, but then, why have milk-torture induced bad karma on your head, when big corporations are so willing to do it for you?

Vanilla Essence: 1 tsp, because somehow it seems criminal to bake a cake without it.

Maida: 1 .25 cups. Also known as refined flour, our careful research has proved beyond all doubt that one cannot make this cake without this ingredient.

Baking Powder: 1 tsp. Baking Soda: 1 tsp (Don't know the difference between the two? Good, we don't either. But they usually come in differently labelled packages. Easy to identify. If you read English that is. Which we know you do. Because, you know, you read this blog and stuff. We are smart that way.)


To begin with, the original recipe suggested that we take the butter, sugar, milk, coffee, and cocoa, and cook it till the sugar melts. During our scientific experiment number 2, we tried this. It resulted in the aforementioned spatula-throwing-roommate-scaring incident, as the mixture quickly achieved a concrete like consistency. We do not mean the wet, just-mixed-with-water kind of concrete. We mean the fortified-with-lots-of-sun of concrete.

So, in the interest of your roommates (and spatulas), here is what you do. You take the butter in a deepish vessel. You pop the vessel on the stove, over VERY LOW heat. You stir it gently till the butter melts. Then, take the vessel off the stove, and add the sugar. If you are blessed with modern day conveniences like a mixie, it is a good idea to powder the sugar. Saves you a lot of trouble and arm ache. If you do not have the mixie, you just pop the sugar into a large plastic cover and grind the life out of that sugar using any mean, heavy object you have lying around (at various points in our life, Confused and I have used large locks, stone, stray slabs of marbles salvaged from construction sites, and rolling pins before we acquired a decent pestle). Now, you mix the thus powdered sugar with the melted butter. Beat this well till it becomes a nice, powdery paste using a fork, if you, like us, do not have an egg beater. Add the milk, little by little (little here referring to about 1/4th of the cup at a time). Once the milk is incorporated, add the cocoa powder and the coffee.

If you have some big, burly men with strong biceps loafing around you, now would be a good time to put them to work, because now begins the hard, taxing labour of beating the cake mix, and like Shakespeare never said, "Beating cake mix doth not a happy arm make" or something to that effect. If no burly men are available, then you can psych your brain into ignoring your arm by imagining big, big mountains of chocolate.

Once you have the burly man or chocolate-induced denial ready, add one egg to the mixture, beat, add next egg to the mixture, beat, then add the third egg to the mixture, beat, add the condensed milk, beat, and finally, add the vanilla essence, and don't beat--this time, just gently fold (in the present instance, fancy term for stir) it in.

Now, take the flour. Add the baking powder and/or baking soda. There are two ways of doing this. Either take all of this, and sieve them together. OR, if sieve is not available, take them in a large plastic/ziplock bag, and shake the bag like you would want to shake your boss who just asked you to work over the weekend.

Once, the flour is thus laced with the chemicals, fold (mix) it into the egg-milk-cocoa-sugar-butter paste, a couple of spoons at a time. So you add two spoons, mix, add two more spoons, mix and etc., etc, till you have all of your ingredients mixed in a wonderful amalgamation of, well, ingredients.

Then, lace your cooker pan with butter. Then sprinkle about a spoonful of flour on the pan, and shake it about, so that the flour sticks evenly to the butter, and through the butter to the pan. Pour the aforementioned amalgamation of ingredients into the pan with all your love and sweat (being metaphorical here people, NOT to be taken literally). Pop the cooker on to the stove, filled with about an inch of water. Pop the cooker pan into the water. Close cooker, wait for steam to rise through the funnel thing, and then lower the flame to medium leaning low. DO NOT PUT THE WHISTLE ON.

Go about your merry business for about 45 mins. Come back into the kitchen, turn the stove off. Slowly, and with great care, open the cooker. Your gooey-brown amalgamation must now metamorphosised into a beautiful dome shaped cake. Take a toothpick, stick it gently into the center of the cake, and pull out. If there are no gooey hangers on on the toothpick, yell, "Success!" and do the chicken dance in the kitchen. If there is some gooey hangers on the toothpick, act casual, and pop the lid back on the cooker and the cooker back on the stove. Light stove, go about your merry business for 10 mins, and repeat step 1 (of this para, not the entire post).

Once the cake is cooled enough, upturn it onto a plate, and then upturn the upturned cake to another plate to have it right side up. Slice, bite, attain nirvana.

Or you could be like us and bake another one of these cakes, and make a giant burger-like cake like this one.

But that is another day, another post. So long folks, we are ready for our take off.