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September 07, 2005

Chocolate Layer Cake, Champagne, and Ghosts

Update: Welcome, food bloggers! This is the first time most food bloggers have found my blog. I recommend after reading this post that you check out my Food and Drink category. Thank you for visiting my blog.



Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini is this week's host for Wine Blogging Wednesday. Her theme is "Like Wine For Chocolate", named after Laura Esquivel's novel "Like Water For Chocolate". This post is my submission. Instructions are to bake a luscious chocolate cake, pick a wine to enhance, compliment, or magnify it, blog about it, and e-mail Clotilde when the post is up. This is probably the first time some food bloggers have been to my blog, so - to all of you - welcome! Have a seat, help yourself to glass of wine, and enjoy yourselves.

"Like Wine For Chocolate" is a perfect fit for my Ghost Hunting Wednesday, since the recipe I've chosen to bake comes from Woburn Abbey, in England. Woburn Abbey is reportedly haunted by seven ghosts. One of the ghosts is said to be that of "a young man who was half strangled and later drowned in the lake. Although he cannot be seen, doors open and close for him as he walks through rooms. Witnesses claim that the door handle would turn and then open, as if a person was coming through. In the time it would take for a person to cross the room, the door at the other end would open and close again for this invisible figure."

Another ghost is that of a monk who "is also said to haunt the Abbey and has been seen most often in the crypt - the place where monks were buried. He is thought to be the abbot of Woburn who was hanged when he opposed Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn."

Yet another ghost is that of the Duke's grandmother. She haunts the Summerhouse. "She died at the age of 64 when the plane that she was flying mysteriously crashed on the east coast. It is not her ghost that haunts the place but an overwhelming feeling of sadness, as if her unhappy spirit lives on."

I've already written about this cake in a previous post, but I had not baked it yet. Here's what I wrote:

I found the recipe in my cookbook written by Vincent and Mary Price. I've written about this book before. Price, of course, is well-known for his horror movies, but he was also a well-known food and wine connosseur. He and his wife had visited famous restaurants from around the world, and sweet-talked the owners into giving him recipes to be published in the book.

Woburn Abbey has been the home of the Dukes of Bedford for over three centuries. It was rebuilt by Inigo Jones in the mid-18th century and further additions were added a century later. There are supposedly seven ghosts at Woburn Abbey.

This is what Price had to say about the chocolate layer cake recipe. The Mary he refers to was his wife.

"There are no halfway measures about this chocolate cake. The filling is chocolate, the icing is chocolate, and so is the cake itself, which is more of a flat torte than the kind of high layer cake so familiar here. We served it to a friend recently and mentioned that the recipe came from Woburn Abbey. Our friend took his first bite of the cake, tasted it carefully, and exclaimed, "Good for old England!" And good for us too. A marvelous cake which, Mary tells me, is not at all difficult to make."


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 drops vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
3 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon hot water


1. Preheat oven to moderate (350 degrees F.)
2. Grease and flour two 8-inch round layer cake pans.
3. Cream togehter butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla extract, salt, and eggs.
4. Sift together flour and cocoa. Stir into egg mixture.
5. Stir in hot water.
6. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly over bottom, making a layer about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove, cool, losend edges with knife, and turn out on cake racks.


Cream 1/4 cup butter and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Stir in 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted, and 2 drops vanilla extract.


Put into mixing bowl 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter. Place bowl in skillet containing simmering water. When chocolate and butter are melted, remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons cocoal.


Put the two thin layers of cake togehter with the filling and swirl the chocolate icing over the top.

The book is called "A Treasury of Great Recipes", by Vincent and Mary Price. It was published in 1965. The Count and I found it at a horror convention in Baltimore. We were able to get the book for $30 instead of $60 because the binding was a bit frayed. It wasn't in bad shape, though. The guy selling it to us kept bringing up all the great photos of Vincent Price in the book. After all, this was a horror convention. The Count and I were interested in the recipes. The bonus is that I have great photos of Vincent Price throughout the book. My favorite one is the one of him sipping a glass of wine in his wine cellar.

I baked the cake on Sunday, while listening to Basement Jaxx. That group is dance/house. It had the nice pick-me-up beat I like to listen to while I'm baking. This cake was very easy to make. I placed the finished cake on my cobalt blue Mosser cake plate; the one with the thistle pattern on it. You should see the way the light catches the glass. It's very pretty. I like to showcase my desserts on the best possibly platters.

I used cake flour instead of self-rising flour. I also used Droste cocoa for the cake itself, and Lindt baking chocolate for the filling and the icing. This cake was a nice balance of chocolate without being too rich. I baked a Sachertorte a few weeks ago that was so rich that you could feel your metabolism rev up. The Royal Spawn's best friend had a slice. (Note to new readers: The Royal Spawn is my teenaged son.) His eyes bugged open at the first bite, he raised his arms in the air, and said "ROAR!" That is one rich cake. I love it. I, like Clotilde, am a chocoholic. This layer cake doesn't make your adrenaline go into overdrive.

Now, about the wine... We live in Tinytown. There are no liquor stores in our town. In fact, you could not buy or sell liquor in this town for over 100 years. A recent election changed that. Now, businesses can sell liquor. There still aren't any liquor stores here. To buy wine, we have to go to the next town, which is a ten minute drive away. That town is also Tinytown. There is a pretty good selection of wine, but not of champagne, which is what I wanted for the cake. I already had a bottle of Louis Latour's Pinot Noir (2003) handy, but I thought the wine was too dry to go with the cake.

I don't know much about wine, and I need to learn more. Our budgets don't permit much expensive wine-buying. I'd like to know which reds in the $10 to $25 dollar price range are good. That will take a bit of research on my part.

I bought a bottle of champagne - Brut Dargent, from France. I've never heard of this champagne, and I was curious to try it. I wanted a bottle of Moet & Chandon, but our budgets didn't permit it. The one I bought cost $10.00. I know that champagne would go nicely with the cake. I'm currently reading Mireille Guiliano's "French Women Don't Get Fat" lately, which is about the French Paradox. She says champagne goes with nearly everything, and I agree with her. I've been drinking red wine lately, but champagne remains my favorite wine.

The champagne had a nice sweetness to it and no aftertaste. It went very well with the chocolate in the cake. It was not as dry as I had anticipated it might be, which was good. A dry champagne would have spoiled the taste of the cake, while a sweet asti would have been too cloying. I don't like asti. It's too sweet. Our liquor store had only the usual cheaper champagnes for sale, such as Cooks, various astis, and (gag) Andre. It also carries Moet and Chandon and Dom Perignon, but we can't afford them, at least not right now. The timing is really bad. In addition, while good, I hear Dom Perignon is over-rated.

I've been wanting to bake this cake for a long time, mainly because the recipe comes from a haunted abbey. Everyone who reads my blog knows I'm a fan of ghost stories. I believe Woburn Abbey is open to the public for meals. You can order a nice dinner, enjoy a bottle of wine, have a slice of this chocolate layer cake, and keep an eye out for ghosts. There's a good chance you will run across one. After all, there are supposed to be seven ghosts haunting the Abbey.

Posted on September 7, 2005 at 03:01 AM | Permalink