Hot Cocoa Cakes (or, The Griddler flies solo)

6 Nov

Not burnt, just super chocolate-tastic

OK, so solo may not be entirely accurate. A nefarious stomach virus has swept through our household this weekend, though, so help with devouring these cakes was minimal at best. I was functionally solo. If I were a really good husband or father, I would have made some 7-Up Saltine Cracker cakes. It was that kind of weekend.

It bears noting that the bug never bit me. Never does. Save for a few, er, self-induced cases of the collywobbles over the years, I always manage to steer pretty clear of the nausea that occasionally besets others. My mom says I was like that as a kid, too. If that weren’t the case, this weekend’s cakes adventure may have been interesting. I sure as hell don’t think the cocoa bent would have been something I could have mixed, smelled, or tasted at all. For that reason, I offer a tip of the cap to my wife for trying them at all, pallid and hollow as she was by the time they were ready.

You’ll notice no reference below to this recipe, and that’s because it was largely something I made up as I went. Or perhaps calling it something of a composite is more appropriate. A number of years ago, I made some S’mores on the grill that used sweetened mascarpone cheese in lieu of marshmallows. That opened my mind to the possibility of substituting over-priced cheese for the mallow. While dollops of sweet cheese in a hot cup of cocoa sounds a bit gross to me, I thought this would be a great opportunity to marry the idea of the mallow replacement with the cocoa essence. Hence, the Hot Cocoa Cakes were born.

The cakes alone are also partly inspired by a red velvet pancake recipe I collided with a number of months ago. I still plan to try that one at some point, so I will spare you the details on how they differ, although they barely differ at all.

Oh, and I know, I know–Neufchâtel cheese again. But I am head over heels for that stuff after last week. I just can’t quit it so soon. And frankly, if I don’t work it into my cakes when I can, I may never have it at all. I’m a surprisingly healthy eater for my other meals throughout the week. So, you may be getting a steady dose of variations on the Neufchâtel cheese spread for a spell. I promise to give you as much creativity as can fit between those rather small confines, though. The Griddler is nothing if not adept at brandishing creativity over things that may not deserve it for periods of time that can never be justified. I am a snob about pancakes, after all–perhaps the easiest thing in the world to be snobbish about. This ain’t exactly the Culinary Institute of America, if you haven’t noticed. I mix batters and reduce syrups without pants. Putting together a 5,000-piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel is hard, but it isn’t painting the Sistine Chapel. (And on a side note, I hate puzzles more than I hate parades.)

One last thing: These cakes, more than any I’ve made, are dessert. No matter the time of day, day of the week, week of the year–context be damned. Dessert. Not a meal. You’ve been warned.

Pants: Nope

Planning: Nothing, really, unless you count the number of times plans had to change on the fly given the weekend’s circumstances. Saturday morning became Saturday evening became Sunday morning became Sunday evening, solo. And cakes with dinner became cold cakes as a late dessert as I watched Dexter.

Gathering: Just had to secure some good cocoa and another package of the dynamite Neufchâtel I had discovered last week. Kind of in love with that stuff.

Execution: Pretty easy, though I did need to dance with the ingredients a bit. The dry ingredients had to  be just the right balance of bitter and sweet, and it took a few rounds of add-stir-taste-repeat before it tasted right. The spread, on the other hand, was perfect from the start. Not that it is at all difficult, but still. Perfect.

Results: All kinds of good. As much as I loved the hot cake–especially when the spread, cold from the fridge, got just the right amount of melty–the cold ones later in the evening with the spread cold, too, was unreal. Best way I can think to describe it is like a Swiss Cake Roll, but better. No hydrogenated fillers or mummification-by-preservative.

Crossover Potential: Enormous, especially with the spread. The cakes are rich, as one might imagine considering the ingredients. Mixing some blended berries into the spread would be good. Mascarpone in the place of the Neufchâtel would be a treat, too. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit at least a passing temptation with squirting a bunch of caramel sauce in place of the spread.

Also–in a nod to the S’mores part of the inspiration–some graham crackers crumbled into the batter might be pretty damn awesome.

The cakes recipe:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (organic)
  • 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (organic)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Healthy pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (organic)
  • 2 eggs (organic, cage-free)
  • 1.25 cups buttermilk (Kalona Supernatural Buttermilk)
  • Butter for griddle (organic, unsalted)
  1. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  2. Preheat oven or warmer drawer to 175 degrees
  3. Whisk together all dry ingredients
  4. Whisk together wet ingredients in separate bowl
  5. Add wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk together until blended and smooth
  6. Butter griddle (Tbsp. or so)
  7. Ladle batter onto griddle with 1/4 measuring cup, reapplying butter to griddle and keeping finished cakes warm in oven as you prepare the remainder
And the spread recipe:
  • 8 oz. Neufchâtel cheese (or some other soft cheese)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (organic, pure cane)
  1. Mix in small bowl with handheld mixer until smooth; refrigerate and spread cold over cakes

Note: Double your run the day after

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3 Responses to “Hot Cocoa Cakes (or, The Griddler flies solo)”

  1. Amber Cummer November 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    If my stomach could have handled more, I would have been all over these! I give you an A though, truly more a chocolate cookie than a pancake.

  2. Susan November 6, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    For the record, I happen to live with someone who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and he cooks without pants ALL THE TIME!!!!

    • The Griddler November 6, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

      My hero! Seriously.

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