I think people underestimate the value of a good cry.
I’m not just talking about crying in general – I’m talking about the hard-core, tear-jerking-movie-induced, that’s-what-I-get-for-investing-myself-emotionally-in-the-characters kind of cry. The kind where you give up trying to keep the tears inside the brim of your eyelids, and you stop trying to invent discreet ways to send your hand up to your face. That kind of a good cry. And then the credits role, and you feel so much better than when the movie started. Catharsis is so healthy for you.
Tonight I watched Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. Rather, I watched the movie Shadowlands, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. If you’re feeling up to an emotionally draining, rewarding, deeply moving, beautiful movie, go get Shadowlands. Grab a box of tissue, a fleece blanket, and fuzzy socks. Turn off your phone, turn off all the lights, turn off the pesky movie critic in your head, and press play. And be sure to find a trusted friend or sister or cat to enjoy it with.
Now, for an unbelievably tasty, super moist cake that really has absolutely nothing to do with crying.
Space Needle Cake. It’s nothing more or less than a simple, decadent chocolate cake, but where’s the fun in that? It will always be Space Needle Cake to me, because I love the reactions and curiosity I get from people when they hear the name.
Now, why the name Space Needle? Well, for no other reason than that that was the name that it had when I was given the recipe. I got it from my mom several years ago, who got it from an old college roommate, who got it from somebody else, and I’m not sure how far back the chain goes. The story is that this is the chocolate cake recipe that is (or was) served at a restaurant at the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. Is that true? I have no idea. Does it matter? No. This rich, chocolatey, insanely moist cake brings smiles and groans of pleasure to everyone it comes in contact with, so I’m not terribly concerned with it’s nebulous origin. And Space Needle Cake is still a great name.
Although this recipe makes two 8-inch rounds, I chose to make the recipe twice so I could have a tall, dramatic three-layer cake. And so I could hand over the fourth layer to someone special.
Space Needle Cake
adapted from an unknown source probably relating somehow to the Space Needle
1 stick of butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the chocolate ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a small mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, oil, cocoa, and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Mix in the boiling water. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until smooth. The batter will be very thin.
Pour batter into two prepared 8-inch round pans. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto the cooling rack. Cool completely before covering with icing or chocolate ganache.
For the ganache, bring the whipping cream to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate chips in a medium mixing bowl. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir until completely smooth.
When covering the cake with ganache, first cover the edges of the serving platter with several 6-inch squares of wax paper, forming a circle of wax paper pieces. Place the cake on top. Go crazy with ganache. When you’re done, slowly pull each piece of wax paper out from under the cake, to reveal a clean, ganache-free platter.
***(High altitude baking adjustments: Add an extra egg, reduce boiling water by 1-2 Tablespoons, and reduce baking soda by 1/8 teaspoon. Increase oven temperature by 20 degrees and bake until done, about 25-30 minutes.)