My apologies to the American -Englishman, Henry James, but I must argue that the two most beautiful words in the English language are not "summer afternoon". Most certainly they are "chocolate cake".
(Summer afternoons are nice second though)
I simply love good quality chocolate in any of its delectable forms; chocolate cake, chocolate eclair, chocolate truffle, chocolate bar...death by chocolate. If it has good quality chocolate in it...chances are I will like it. If it doesn't have good quality chocolate in it...well, chances are I will try it anyway.
My mother called me this evening with a fun recipe for 5 minute chocolate cake. This is a wonderful individual serving cake that bakes in a mug in your microwave (you can find the recipe on her blog: http://www.k-fallsfarmgirl.blogspot.com/ - we've coordinated!)
This cake is very good, and because its very quick and easy, it lent itself very well to a little cocoa experimentation.I baked three of these little gems using three different brands of cocoa and served them blindly to my "English-American" husband and to my "all-American" son.
It is important to note, that by some freakishly weird (perhaps Henry James-American- English- type) defect, my good-humored husband, Simon, is not a big chocolate fan.
He will eat chocolate, (even though I am always willing to spare him the ordeal) but he is not passionate about it. In fact, I know for certain that he finds strawberries on summer afternoons much more favorable. (and that IS very Henry James-like if you ask me.)
My son, Jake, on the other hand, must have inherited his penchant for all things chocolate from his mother. (if it is on the dessert menu, you can bet he will order it).
Jake had arrived home this evening in a particularly depressed state - he had just witnessed the trauma of an unthinkable Steeler's Super Bowl win.
The opportunity to participate in this experiment - I like to think- brought a few moments of happiness, and much needed distraction to his shattered spirit.
(Something that we chocolate enthusiast know only chocolate can do....and not a summer afternoon, Henry....and Simon.)
In this taste test, I prepared the cakes in the same way, using the same ingredients, but substituted different cocoa. I chose three different cocoas:
- An organic, free trade Green & Black's Cocoa powder "made from the finest organic fair trade cocoa beans"
- An American staple: Hershey's Cocoa "Special Dark - dark cocoa with rich chocolate flavor"
- A not-so-well-known SaCo Premium Cocoa powder "a special blend of natural and Dutched cocoa..."(I do have three of the SaCo product in my baking cupboard, so I would surmise that this cocoa is: A) readily available in the supermarkets, and, B) probably cheap.
I served up a chunk of each cake to my men (with a glass of organic, hormone free milk to cleanse the pallet) and I asked the question: Which cake is more chocolatey?
Hands down the least favorite was the Hershy's special dark.
This is surprising, because you would think that dark chocolate cocoa would have a much more chocolatey flavor. The cake was visibly dark chocolate in color, but not nearly as chocolatey as the other two options. Also the term "special" dark implies to most consumers that they are purchasing a quality product. I disagree, and so did my two esteemed taste testers.
The difference between the other two cocoas was virtually undiscernable. Initially Jake chose the Green & Black's, while Simon selected the SaCo. Another round of tasting of just the two finalist brands and both judges switched their answers.
The verdict: If you want cheap and great, and don't care about using a free trade, organic product, then Sa Co Premium Cocoa both an economical and good quality option. If, on the other hand, you like your cocoa "socially conscious", then Green & Black's is for you.
*The beautiful chocolate cosmo picture above is just one example of the fabulous artwork of Gianna Marino, you can find more of her masterpieces at http://www.giannamarino.com/