If love had a flavor, it would, without a doubt, be some combination of raspberries, pancakes, and bittersweet chocolate. At least, that's what I decided Saturday morning when I set out to make a dessert for Valentine's Day dinner with my beau. The goal was simply to make a confection just for him. Nothing experimental, nothing exotic, nothing that screams "I've just been reading my Gourmet magazine and I'm not afraid to prove it!" No, it was Valentine's Day, and a perfect time to thank him with a dessert tailored just to his particular taste buds. After all, the man had been ever patient with my burned brownies, deflated meringues, and over-spiced biscotti and truly deserved a culinary break.
So, with eyelashes batting and heart aflutter, I set out to bake a cake that proclaimed "I understand you, and I love you" (and preferably not by spelling out the message on top with chocolate chips, though this had, indeed, been reserved as a back up plan.) I had three clues about my sweetheart to help me on my way: 1) nothing makes the boy happier than if you bring him a pint of raspberries, 2) he consumes an average of 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk a week, and has done so since he was five years old, and 3) on the nights we don't have dinner together, there's a 50% chance he's making himself pancakes for the evening meal.
Pancakes...Raspberries...Chocolate...Pancakes...Raspberries...Chocolate....I puzzled and puzzled.
And then I remembered an exquisite-looking recipe on one of my favorite sites, Smitten Kitchen, for a Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake made with browned butter, in other words, a perfect jumping off point for my own enamored attempt at baking love into a 9-inch cake pan. If I simply substituted raspberries for the pears and upped the brown butter quotient (a flavor which always does remind me of the crispy edges of a perfectly grilled pancake) I would have the ultimate, boyfriend-centric cake!
When I unveiled my creation to him that evening, his eyes grew wide. "Are those...raspberries...?"
Bittersweet Chocolate Raspberry (Pan) Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1-2 pints fresh raspberries (depending on your preferences)
10 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped into chunks
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and dust with flour until evenly coated.
Step two: Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and set aside.
Step three: Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed for about 5-9 minutes (depending on the strength of your machine), or until they become very thick and pale colored.
Step four: While the eggs are in the mixer, brown the butter. Heat the butter in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium head, stirring frequently. Cook it for about 6 - 8 minutes until it begins to turn brown and smell nutty. Be careful not to overcook it (as I did the first time) so that you get black specks in the bottom of your pan. When butter is browned, remove from the heat.
Step five: Add the sugar to the whipped eggs and keep mixing for a few minutes more. Turn the mixer down to stir and alternate adding the flour mixture and the browned butter until it's barely combined (you don't want to over-mix).
Step six: Pour the mixture into your prepared pan, and then sprinkle the raspberries and chocolate chunks on top. During the cooking process, these pieces will be enfolded by the rising cake, so don't let this alarm you. Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch (about 40 to 50 minutes). A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out relatively clean. Sprinkle the finished cake with powdered sugar if you like, and serve it with ice-cream, whipped cream, or anything else in the cream-department.