I'm a huge fan of the written word. I love reading it, I love writing it and, above all, I love learning more about it. I'm one of those people that, when encountering a new word in a book, I immediately look up the definition. I can't read on without it. It's like stepping out your door with only one shoe on. You feel incomplete, imbalanced and unsure. You can stumble upon misconception just like a rusty nail.
I use my dictionary app more than my angry birds app. I probably google the origin of words and phrases at least five times a day. I just hunger for words, for knowledge, for understanding. I'm the sort of person that can't be content in knowing a thing, I have to know why and how and sometimes when and where too.
It fascinates me that, in the grand scheme of things, English is a relatively new language and therefore borrows from other European languages. There are few English words that you can bring to mind today that aren't influenced by another language either loosely or literally. Decimation comes from the Latin word decimatio, a punishment practice implemented by Roman generals whereby a legion would be separated into groups of ten and made to draw lots to determine the tenth to be executed. We even use words on a daily basis that are completely in another language like entrepreneur, kindergarten and chocolate.
English is this inconstant creature forever in a state of flux. It's constantly absorbing information, always influenced by culture and changing to meet our needs. We've gone from Beowulf to Romeo and Juliet to Great Expectations to Harry Potter. Fedex, dance-off and muggle are in the dictionary for crying out loud!
While it's easy to take the low road and subscribe to the opinion that popular acronyms like OMG, YOLO and LOL are somehow the architects of the English language's demise, I prefer another theory. We're just entering a different stage of evolution. Do you think Shakespeare and Dickens could carry on a coherent conversation without cliff's notes? We might resist at first, but eventually the transition will come naturally.
Words are magical. Words can frighten you, delight you, thrill you and definitely inspire you. With words I can't paint beautiful pictures before your mind's eye. With just a few words you can be saddened, overjoyed or enraged.
For example, I could tell you that this cake is the perfect balance of chocolate and orange, bitter and sweet, rich and light, dark and bright. I could tell you that beneath waves of velvety Dark Chocolate Frosting lies a cake striped with ribbons of deep chocolate and fruity orange surrounding and thick layer of aromatic Orange Curd. Each bite is so tantalizing to all five senses we may need to define a sixth or seventh. Immediately you should begin to feel the physiological effects of these few choice words. Your pupils start to dilate, your eyes widen, your mouth waters, your stomach growls and suddenly that cookie you're about to stuff in your face doesn't seem good enough.
Chocolate Orange Tiger Cake
Source: Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart's Dark Chocolate Frosting.
4 egg yolks Zest of 1 orange 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp orange juice 1/2 cup granulated sugar Pinch salt 5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar 1 vanilla bean 2 eggs 1 1/4 cup flour 1/2 cup cocoa powder 1/2 tbsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 3/4 cup milk 2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar Zest of 1 orange 1 tsp orange extract 2 eggs 1 3/4 cup flour 1/2 tbsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 3/4 cup milk 2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder 1/4 cup boiling water 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 1/4 cup powdered sugar 1/8 tsp salt 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Make the Orange Curd first since it needs time to set in the refrigerator.
In a small sauce pan combine the egg yolks, orange zest, orange juice and sugar with a whisk. Cook it over medium high heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 8 – 10 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and registers 160 degrees on a thermometer.
Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the salt and butter, one tbsp at a time and stirring until it's smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a medium sized bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the Orange Curd so as to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate it for at least an hour before using it to allow it to set.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and set them aside.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of your knife. Blend in the vanilla then the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil. Set the batter aside and start working on the orange batter.
In a large bowl an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Add the orange zest and orange extract.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt then add it in thirds alternating between the milk and oil.
Now the fun part! Alternate spoonfuls of chocolate and orange batter in each prepared cake pan, layering one on top of the other while they spread out forming tiger stripes. Bake them for 40 – 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let them sit until they're cool enough to touch and flip them out on cooling racks to cool completely. Level off the cooled cake layers with a cake leveller or a long serrated knife.
To make the Dark Chocolate Frosting, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl until the cocoa powder is dissolved and smooth then set it aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. On low speed, blend in the cooled chocolate and cocoa mixture.
To assemble the cake, center the bottom layer of cake on your cake plate. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip with the majority of the frosting. Pipe a thick border of frosting around the inside edge of the cake then fill it with a generous layer of Orange Curd. Place the top layer of cake on top and, with a palette knife, cover the entire cake with a thin crumb coat of frosting. To achieve the petal frosting effect, come back on tuesday for the tutorial. Enjoy!