Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cake & Poetry: A Recipe for Love

I have a sweet recipe and an achingly beautiful poem for you tonight, just because it's Valentine's Day, and, well, just because.

I have been making this cake for almost two decades, at least a few times a year.  I think maybe it originally came from the much missed Gourmet, but I have gilded the lily over time, adding my own touches.  This is one of those cakes that fits nearly every occasion.  It's sophisticated, and yet kids love it, too, so it's good for romantic dates, dinner parties, or family meals.  You can use whatever berries you like on top, or none at all.  I happen to love raspberries and chocolate together, so that's how I make it.  If you're allergic to dairy, it's still heavenly even without the whipped cream.  It seems like more and more folks I know are allergic to wheat, so this is a nice cake for them because it has no wheat all.  It does, however, have nuts.  You'll notice that it calls for very little oil. The nuts give it most of the oil it needs as well as acting, in combination with the cocoa, as the "flour" for this recipe.

Man, I love baking.  It's like alchemy--pure magic!

Serves 8 (or two people in love, or one person nursing a broken heart)

For the Cake:
~non-stick vegetable oil spray
~14 Tablespoons sugar (it's easier in this recipe to think in terms of Tablespoons because you divide them)
~2/3 cup walnuts, toasted (I toss them in a dry pan over low heat for a few minutes.)
~1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
~3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
~8 large egg whites
~pinch of salt
~powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line the bottom of an eight-inch springform pan with parchment or wax paper.
  3. Spray pan and paper with oil.  
  4. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of the sugar.
  5. Finely grind the toasted walnuts with 2 Tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor or blender.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  6. Mix in 10 Tablespoons sugar, the cocoa, then oil.
  7. Beat egg whites and salt in a large bowl just until soft peaks form.
  8. Fold the whites into the the cocoa mixture in three additions.  Spoon batter into the pan and smooth the top.
  9. Bake until cake puffs and a tester comes out with moist crumbs--approximately 30 minutes.  Do not over bake!  This is a moist, souffle-like cake.  
  10. The cake will fall as it cools.  Cut around the side and remove the side of the pan to let it cool.  
  11. At this point you can serve it with just a sprinkle of 10X sugar, but I like to add the following:

To Go With (all of this is optional, but you won't be sorry if you add it!):
~whipping cream
~splash of vanilla
~powdered sugar
~fresh mint leaves
~a Tablespoon or two of seedless raspberry or currant jam (I just press my seedy jam through a sieve.)
~a few whole toasted walnuts
~gorgeous dark (or white, if you prefer) chocolate to shave over the top

  1. Whip the cream in a well-chilled metal bowl with a well-chilled wire attachment.  As it thickens, add in a splash of vanilla and a little 10X sugar to taste.  I whip it almost until stiff peaks form. 
  2. Top the throughly cooled cake with the whipped cream.
  3. Melt a couple of Tablespoons of the preserves and toss gently with firm fresh raspberries.
  4. Decorate the cake with the raspberries and fresh mint leaves.  Sometimes I even shave a little dark chocolate over the whole cake.
  5. When I slice the cake, I often toss a few of the whole toasted walnuts onto the plate, along with an extra raspberry or two.  I love the idea of using an ingredient from the cake as a garnish, plus they're delicious!

My friend Relyn posted one of the great sonnets of all time over at her place today, which got us to talking a bit about sonnets, and we've discovered that we both love the ones by e. e. cummings, so I thought I'd share my all-time favorite of his sonnets.  It seems just right for today.  This is poem 92 from his book 95 Poems.  It is a sonnet, although, if you're a sonnet lover, you'll see that he plays a lot with the traditional form and makes it his own.  I love that.  Read it aloud and you will feel nothing but joy in the rhythms and images of this jewel-box of a poem.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e. e. cummings


  1. A favourite poem of mine.
    Love and chocolate.
    Nothing better.

  2. This sounds so delicious!! Thanks for sharing :) Gorgeous red roses too, Happy Valentines Day xo Louise

  3. ..... beautiful Gigi...i am making this...

    and with raspberries too...



  4. Greetings Valentines,

    This recipe will be added to my files, and it is all the more special as coming from you. And the poem has found its place in my heart.

    Love to you both,


  5. The cake looks and sounds delicious; thank you for sharing.

    And a wonderful choice of poem too. There are a number of reasons I love it too. The voice of the poet isn't cynical about love. Though the poem is meticulously crafted there's no sense of artificiality; the voice speaks freely, in an innocent heartfelt lilting way. A love given freely, generously and simply, and at the same time a love so deep and expansive that it's beyond all human reckoning or rational thought.

    "which grows
    higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)"

  6. Oh Gigi, When I saw your beautiful cake I was thinking it looks so delicious but there's very few desserts that I come across that my hubby and I can eat because of a gluten intolerance. As I read on, you mentioned it doesn't have wheat and that made me so happy!
    Thanks so much for sharing this special recipe.
    Someday we will have to try it. I love the poem, too! Nan

  7. oh it's just beautiful. happy valentines to you! xox

  8. happy love day to you and your sweetie pie, dear gigi!
    gosh oh gosh how i love your words, the perfect poem ... and this most divine cake!
    wowzers ... good thing hb is on the couch, and i'm over here in my comfy chair, or he would be leaping through my little laptop to get to that cake! (a romantic evening watching olympics ;)
    thank you so much for the recipe ~ this is one to try for sure ...
    and omgoodness truly all a recipe for love ...
    happiness and hugs always,
    prairiegirl xo

  9. I'm swooning. The cake looks divine (the recipe is going straight to Mr B) and the poem .... beautiful. Could one wish for more! Leigh

  10. Gigi,
    Splendid from beginning to end! This poem was the perfect finale to my Valentine's Day! And the cake - I'm bookmarking this for future decadence!
    Hope you and your beloved enjoyed lots of extra hugs and kisses today!

  11. Happy Valentine's Day!

    I love that poem by e.e. cummings. And I spent the day doing poetry, since I was putting poems on a website.

    Thanks for sharing it. Lovely.

  12. Hi, friends! Wow, your comments made my night. Well, first the chocolate cake made my night--twice--and then your comments were like the cherries (or raspberries, in this case) on top.

    Em, I just went and read your bio, which I really loved. You made me laugh and you freaked me out a little bit with that sleeping statistic, partly because of the number itself and partly because I'd never even thought of that before. Although, with the insomnia I'm experiencing lately, I think the number of years I will have slept by the end of my life will be far fewer! Don't know whether that's good or bad.

    xo Gigi

  13. Oh my, what a wonderfully romantic post!
    I love that last photograph with red roses and typewriter to bits.
    Happy days (and nights) to you dear friend!

  14. e.e.cummings always manages to take the cliché out of a cliché while retaining the carapace of the cliché for extra impact. This is a super poem of his and reminds me of 'my sweet old etcetera', where the love element is incidental to the anti-war theme but bolstered by it. I'd love a slice of cake, please.

  15. Yes, Mise. You hit the nail on the head. That's just what he does. Come on over. I've got a kettle on the stove.

  16. Many thanks for the cake & poetry, Gigi... a little love-fest, this post...*sigh*... How glad I am to stop by for a bite! Sounds like you had the sweetest Valentine's weekend...mmm... Happy new week, my friend ((HUGS))

  17. I just knew it was going to be that poem....that is one of my faves! And the chocolate flourless cake - I am definitely making...this is one of my fave types of dessert. YUM! xxoo:)

  18. What a perfect post for Valentine's Day...chocolate and poetry, a match made in Heaven.

  19. Gigi, the cake looks absolutely delicious, and thanks for reminding me of this wonderful cummings poem. It has been years since I read cummings -- and that is a mistake, isn't it?

  20. Love, love, love e.e. cummings! And that cake with raspberries (my favorite fruit) is pure heaven!

  21. LOVE IT! my friends had us all read that cummings poem antiphonally at their wedding, like a hymn. it was pretty spectacular, and really moving read out loud in a big group with the bride and groom saying reciting it from memory in front of us.

    and yes, please, on the cake. will bookmark this recipe to make before the weather warms up here in the desert. LOVE TO YOU GIGI!!!

  22. Wow, Lily, that must have been amazing. It is such a musical poem! xo

  23. gigi
    that recipe looks like a keeper. thank you.
    the poem... sweet

  24. oh my gigi.. i want some cake right now....
    and such a lovely poem too....

    you are the BEST...

  25. In fact - reading e.e. comings will never be the same if I don't eat that cake at the same time!! Melt, melt...

  26. Raspberries and chocolate my absolute favourite combination and roses red red roses i hope they have the scent from heaven in them and a delightfully precious poem

  27. Oh, boy! Do you ever know how to celebrate Valentine's Day. I am going to try your cake and I am definitely wondering which valentine is the one you made.

    Hey, my word verification was cistur. Say it out loud. See? Sister. And that's exactly right. You're my sister of the heart. Love to you today, Gigi. Today and every day.

  28. I love your verification word! How perfect. Come over for coffee when you get off work! Wouldn't that be just perfect?

    xo Gigi P.S. The lacy heart on the left is the one I made. ; )


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