Saturday, June 11, 2011

So exactly how is a chocolate cake like a mystery novel?

Easy, that’s when things go wrong for an innocent cake and it looks like all is lost and the cake baker has to use her raw cunning to get that poor cake out of a tough spot. In the case of this particular chocolate cake there was lots of suspense and a few bloodcurdling screams added to the mix. How do I know this, you ask? Let’s just say I found the hard way.
Our story begins with unexpected guests coming for dinner. For once, I had nothing in the freezer to pull out for a quick dessert. No problem, I said, bravely, pulling out my stand-by menu, and deciding to update it and make what sounded like a wonderful flourless chocolate pâté I’d been ogling in one of my favorite cookbooks. The cookbook shall remain nameless for reasons that follow. It didn’t look too difficult and wouldn’t take too long. I am a fan of chocolate p­âté. It would be easy and chic with a few decorative berries lounging around each slice. Yum.
The only problem (that I knew of!) was that I didn’t have on hand the twelve ounces of bittersweet chocolate it called for and the grocery stores were all closed. Really. It was a statutory holiday and Ottawa was locked up tighter than a drum. Never mind. The local health food store was open and I zoomed over and bought their last two packages of Fair Trade Organic dark chocolate at a sale price of $7.50 a package. Breathing deeply, I dashed home where the eggs were now at room temperature. My husband carefully cut the parchment paper to fit on the springform pan (love that man) while I tried to figure out the correct ratio of chocolate to match. My pricey new packages were in grams, but the recipe was in ounces. The rectangles of chocolate bore no resemblance to the squares in my usual brand. Never mind, after some complicated arithmetic (for me) the conversion was made. The chocolate was melted, the egg yolks thick and lemon-colored, the sugar absorbed. The cake was in the oven, cooking. Looked like the evening was going to be saved, until …
Are you still with me? Good. Well, as I was cleaning up the kitchen (I am a totally chaotic cook, I’m afraid) I found, ahem, the SECOND package of chocolate, unused. I turned on the oven light and spotted a nicely puffy cake with a squishy middle. Not the look I was going for. Pause for major panic. It didn’t last long because I had no time to waste. I had to give up my dream of serving a restaurant quality chocolate pâté and just plain cope.
Through the miracle of whipping cream and Scotch whisky, I lathered the cake with a tasty topping and prepared little jugs of more Scotch and some Grand Marnier for good luck, more cream and berries. It looked good and even gave the impression that I’d been aiming for that cake all along. The dessert was a huge hit and because there was half the amount of chocolate called for, it resembled a chocolate meringue in texture. I can’t imagine how overwhelming the full recipe would have been, but I’ll stick with this one. Here it is:
Mysterious Chocolate Cake
½ cup of unsalted butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
6 eggs separated
3 tbsp Scotch or Grand Marnier
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp Scotch or Grand Marnier
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a springform pan with parchment paper.
Melt butter and chocolate over gently simmering water (Who am I kidding? I always use the microwave)
Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar until mixture is creamy and pale yellow. Gradually stir this mixture into melted chocolate until well mixed.
Beat egg whites in a bowl until foamy. Slowly add the remaining sugar, beating until whites are glossy (about two minutes) Don’t overbeat!
Stir one third of egg white mixture into the chocolate. Then gently fold in the rest.
Pour batter into pan.
Bake on center shelf for 30 – 40 minutes. Top should be a bit crusty but still soft on top.
Cool. Remove from pan and place on a serving plate. Refrigerate for three hours or more.
Cover with whisky flavored whipped cream and serve extra on the side and toss in a few berries for color and fun.
Victory is yours!
Speaking of victory, have a look at the winning new books from our Mystery Lovers Kitchen gang! There's a great reading month ahead.

Congratulations to Julie Hyzy on the release of Grace Interrupted, the second in her Manor House Mystery series.

Click here to read a review from
the Chicago Sun-Times

Click here to order the book.

Click here to visit Julie's blog and
learn how you can attend her book launch party

Or join her June 12th at
Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore
1:00 - 3:00
7419 W. Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60131

Congratulations to Wendy Lyn Watson on the release of A Parfait Murder, the third in her Mystery A La Mode series.

Click here to read a review
from A Criminal Element.

Click here to purchase the book.

Click here to visit Wendy's Web site and
read on to learn how to enter her contest!

Wendy Lyn Watson's
new mystery
A Parfait Murder features a story line about the Lantana Round-Up Rodeo Queen Pageant. To celebrate, Wendy's giving away a little cowboy couture: a leather and rhinestone cuff, and a "rodeo queen" keychain.

Eligibility: This contest is open to everyone living in the U.S. and Canada. One entry per person, please.

How to Enter: Send proof of purchase of A Parfait Murder (either a receipt, or a picture of you holding the book), by e-mail to Put the words "Parfait Giveaway" in the subject line.

Entries must be received by 5:00 PM Central Standard Time on Friday, June 17. Wendy will randomly select one entry and announce the winner here on the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog on Saturday, June 18. She will contact the winner via e-mail. If she does not receive a response within 7 days, she will draw a new winning name.

And congratulations to our friend Riley Adams (aka Elizabeth Spann Craig)
on the release of Finger Lickin' Dead,
the 2nd book in her Memphis BBQ Mystery series (and does it have great recipes!)
Click here to read a review of Finger Lickin' Dead from Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress. Click here to read Diane's review at the Book Resort.

Click here to purchase the book.

Click here to enter Riley's contest!


  1. This sounds wonderful. And my husband and a couple we hang out with are big fans of Scotch. I think I'll try it and call it the Scotch Mystery Cake.

    My goal for this summer is to get caught up on your Charlotte Adams series. I've been spending a lot of time reading/reviewing young adult books and now I'm treating myself by reading what I want to read (not that the YA books were bad, many have been quite good, but I'm a mystery fan first.) I love Charlotte. And I'm hoping that what happened to my Ramona (my hedgehog) doesn't happen to your librarian Ramona.

    Thanks for a great recipe.

    Beverly aka Booklady

  2. Phew! You asked: So how exactly is a chocolate cake like a mystery novel?

    I feared the answer might be: They both involve mystery ingredients and a death.

    Phew! Phew! Phew!

  3. Thanks, Booklady (Beverly). I hope Ramona escapes that fate too.

    And Janet, you should never let down your guard.

  4. Argh. Blogger wouldn't let me post. Trying again. Loved your story, MJ. You had me laughing and panicking the entire time. Such talent to achieve this triumph after all that trouble!! I am in awe!

  5. Mary Jane, I love a woman who can adapt!!!!! The cake looks beautiful. Wow.


  6. Thanks, Julie. Laughing and panicking is always my goal.

    And Avery, I am glad you liked the look of the cake! Whipped cream is always magic.

  7. Whew! Close call, MJ! How many times have I slid a cake into the oven, turned around and found some ingredient on the counter that I forgot to use? LOL! It's reassuring to hear that I'm not the only one.

    I suspect, though, that your crafty save, you clever domestic diva, actually made the dessert even more special and wonderful that what you had planned! You saved the day!

    ~ Krista

  8. Well, Krista, you just made my day! Thanks.

  9. It looks just like you planned it that way! Absolutely brilliant. :) Ha! Love that you had more chocolate on the counter. I think, under the circumstances, *testing* the Scotch (just to make sure it was good, of course) might have been in order. ;)

  10. Oh this looks awesome! And I love the very few ingredients. Perfect!

  11. HA!! MJ, what a fun post. Happy accidents often make the best recipes. (And as my husband can testify, I've had my share!) But chocolate makes everything better, doesn't it?

    Cook with love, eat with joy,
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  12. Elizabeth - I did 'test' the Scotch! Lucky I was standing when my guests arrived.

    Wendy, I always go for recipes with just a few ingredients.

    Cleo, there is very little that chocolate can't improve.