I have my nose in Mary Karlin’s new book, “Wood-Fired Cooking,” my mouth watering at the sound of her garlicky grill-smoked clams and wood-roasted artichokes. I’m trying to decide what will be first on my wood-fired-inspired menu, and then I stumble upon a recipe for chocolate cake.
But this is no ordinary indoor domestic goddess kind of cake; instead, it’s got all the makings of cowgirl cookery (or a very rogue Girl Scout). Instead of the Suzy Homemaker oven, this cake comes to life over a pile of smoldering coals, and yes indeed, you can call the neighbors and tell 'em all about the cake you baked on the grill.
What’s more, there are no eggs in this cake. There is no butter, either. In fact, there is nothing dairy or egg-ish about it (unless you make the frosting, which, is unnecessary). Plus – and this is a big plus for the campers in the house – no mixing bowls or special tools are required; you mix all the ingredients by hand in the very pan in which it grill-bakes.
Whatever you’re thinking, let it go and have faith, like you must have every time you pitch a tent or start a fire. This cake not only bakes; it shines. It’s moist, it’s chocolately and it is sure to make you smile when you tell the neighbors what you made on the grill over the weekend. Giddyup!
Mom’s Crazy Chocolate Cake
Adapted from “Wood-Fired Cooking” by Mary Karlin
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (KOD: I substituted equal amounts cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (KOD: In hindsight, I think 1.5 or 2 teaspoons would be nice)
5 tablespoons neutral-flavored vegetable oil, such as Canola, safflower, grapeseed
1 cup water
Prepare a campfire grill for cooking over indirect heat (coals on one side, pan on unheated side) – you want a temperature of approximately 350 degrees.
Grease an 8-inch square cake pan. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt, and stir to combine. Create three wells of the mixture. Pour vinegar into one, vanilla in the second and oil in the remaining well. Pour water over the entire mixture, and with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir until smooth, making sure you incorporate flour trapped in the corners of the pan.
Cover with aluminum foil and place on unheated side of grill grate. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. It’s a good idea to rotate pan to ensure even baking. Carefully remove pan from grill and allow to cool.
Cut in pan like brownies or invert onto a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and fresh berries or orange segments, or if conditions permit, make frosting (details below).
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Earth Balance non-dairy spread would work here)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk, or as needed
Stir sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl. Beat in butter and vanilla until smooth. Stir in just enough milk to make frosting spreadable. Cover cake with a frosting layer and allow to set for about 30 minutes before cutting.
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