The New Convivialist

Month: April, 2012

The Accidental Chocolate Cake

How can a chocolate cake be accidental, you may ask?

It all started with a bar of unwanted milk chocolate. An Alpenmilch bar of Milka chocolate to be exact. It had been a spontaneous late afternoon purchase that ended up sitting in the very bottom of my bag for days, then was transferred to the very back of the refrigerator, where it also remained for days. It stayed on my mind, though, this bar of chocolate. You see, I am a great fan (dare I say connoisseur?) of dark chocolate, but milk chocolate… it generally just leaves me bored and unsatisfied. So to have it just sitting there in the refrigerator, with no hope of a future, just gnawed away at me.

A few days ago, however, I found a wonderful solution to the dilemma surrounding that lonely purple package. I would make milk chocolate brownies, using less sugar than normal brownies and adding a bit of cocoa powder for some pure chocolate heft. With my mother’s old classic recipe as a base, I forged ahead.

It involves a pretty standard start, slowly melting the chopped bar of milk chocolate with the butter over a bain-marie. Then come the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract, followed by the dry ingredients. I put the batter into a round form, which made the result distinctly un-brownie and I suppose the real thing would not have contained a leavening agent (I used baking powder). Not to worry (as I admit I did for a while), as the Accidental Chocolate Cake was thus born.

This is not just any chocolate cake. Typically I am very critical of chance discoveries (baking is quite a science, after all), but I must say that what we have here is a real come-from-behind champion. Naturally, I under-baked it a bit so that it would retain that gooey center, similar in texture to a brownie. But, given the baking powder, this mixture did rise to create a nice and moist, but not overly-airy, crumb. I did not find it too sweet, even with the milk chocolate base. This was most likely due to using less sugar than I would have with dark chocolate, and the ¼ cup or so of cocoa powder. Leave it overnight; this accident is even the better the next day.



½ cup butter (113 grams), in pieces

90 grams milk chocolate, in pieces

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

¾ tsp. vanilla extract

¾ tsp. baking powder

pinch of salt

½ cup flour

¼ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)


  1. Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder; set aside.
  3. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in the top of a double boiler (bain-marie) over—but not touching—simmering water (or in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring frequently. When the chocolate and butter are both melted and smooth, remove from the heat.
  4. Cool for just about a minute then add the sugar, stirring well. Add one egg, again stirring well to prevent it from scrambling from the heat. Beat the second egg in a small separate bowl well, then beat into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Gently stir in the dry ingredients until completely incorporated.
  6. Butter lightly an 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) cake form (I used a Pyrex one). Scrape the cake batter into the pan and drop onto the counter a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Place in oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. Be sure to check a bit earlier, as you want to pull it out of the oven when it is still slightly under-baked (set, but not raw) in the middle.

*Note that this makes a fairly small cake, but all the better to just keep at home and snack on with your partner, roommate or – why not? – alone.









A post-food-coma Feiertag salad

Easter in Germany is a big deal. We get four whole days off. Yes, that means another two days, Friday and Monday, of holiday-ish (over)eating.

But I will be honest- today, with no invitations to Easter Monday brunches, egg hunts or other pressing culinary agenda, I decided to take it light after yesterdays feast, which included, among other things, a superb eggplant parmigiana made by my friend Emanuele. I promise I will devote an entire post in the very near future to this melt-in-your mouth Italian dish. Even after an hour or so walking along the canal after our lunch, I retreated home and, in an immense food coma, crawled straight into bed for the night. Ten (yes ten) hours later I awoke, but still with little desire to eat like it was another holiday.

As we start to edge into spring and summer, you will find how fond I am of salads of all kinds. I consider them the perfect palate on which to mix textures, flavors or just about any ingredient that’s fresh and seasonal. The possibilities are simply endless and I pride myself with having invented some pretty good ones. So today, a quick and easy salad was definitely in order, of the kind that just requires a bit of deep digging in the pantry or vegetable drawer.

Arugula- a base that never fails. Just arugula would have been fine. How about some of that chèvre with herbs de Provence I bought the other day? Sure. Something else vegetal- a shaved carrot, yes. Now, some crunch. Deep in the pantry I found some walnuts, which, quickly dry roasted, are always the perfect crunch. One last addition for a touch of sweet was two chopped dried plums (Pflaumen? actually, maybe prunes…) A simple dressing of a drop of maple syrup with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper rounded out this fresh, pretty healthy salad.

And so goes Easter Monday. But don’t forget a chocolate marzipan egg for dessert.