The Icing on the Cake

The Ultimate Chocolate Icing
It's oft quoted that there are two kinds of people in this world and while that sentiment is most likely used in the context of dogs and cats, I'd venture that the divide goes much deeper. I've no research to back my opinion and I'm certainly not a psychologist, but based on my observations, the real categories that define us are pie and cake.

Of the first, I have little to say for it is not a category that I find myself. On the second, however, I could go on endlessly, even wax poetic. Not unusual, for I've noticed that cake people tend to be quite outspoken--even passionate--when the topic arises.

Of course, like any system of  categorization, there are subcategories to take into account and with cake people, it's no different. There are chiefly two subcategories--those who really are cake eaters, pushing the icing aside and even going so far as to use their thumbs to pick up any last crumbs, and lastly, but far more interesting are those who are in it for the icing, or if given the option, the frosting.

If it were at all possible to decipher personality traits based on preference, then cake eaters would be a cautious lot. For really, no matter the recipe, cake is nothing more than a precise mix of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and while any baker worth their weight can extract an amazing array of flavors, in the end, cake is just cake.

On the other hand, icing and frosting run the gamut--a barely there glaze, a dense and decadent ganache, an airy meringue, an impossibly light buttercream--mirroring the the emotional complexity and penchant for risk-taking that are the personality traits of those preferring the sweeter elements of cake and metaphorically, life.

Cake, unlike pie, is meant for celebratory occasions. No successful baker ever makes a living selling birthday pies, though much to my dismay, I'm sure that among pie people, many birthdays have been celebrated in such a dismal fashion.

Any birthday worth celebrating though--and there isn't one that's not--warrants cake with an extra thick layer of icing or frosting--or, for the most festive occasions--both. So this past weekend, in honor of Mr. B's birthday I whipped up his favorite and timeless classic--yellow cake with chocolate icing.

This year, however, I decided to venture into territory anew, so I ditched the buttercream for a more substantial choice--a quick setting, ultra thick and fudgy combination that expertly walks the line between squishy, velvety frosting and a dense glaze that snaps, if only slightly, when first prodded by the tines of a fork.

This frosting takes cake to a higher, almost ethereal level and while its texture makes sneaking a swipe unnoticed impossible, it emboldens any cake lover to unabashedly cut an extra large slice.

Forks and plates lend a more formal air, but I find this cake is best eaten over the kitchen sink while taking in the spectacular fall views, or if you fall victim to temptation, gazing upon the night sky.

The Best Chocolate Icing

1 stick of organic, good quality butter
1/2 cup of organic, grass pastured whole milk
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla
a pinch or two of salt
1 bag of powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and carefully cook until just beginning to brown.
2. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt and bring to a slow boil.
3. Turn off heat and add the powdered sugar in slow increments, beating well after each addition, until smooth and glossy.
4. Immediately pour over cake and allow to set for 1 hour before cutting.

* If necessary, add more milk to get desired consistency.


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