Monday, August 27, 2012

thunder cake!

Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book  Thunder Cake
If  you love thunderstorms, beautiful illustrations and chocolate cake, and if you like reading stories with kids, then Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco must be one of your favorite books?  It is definitely one of mine.  If you like it, I want to remind you of it, and prod you to make a thunder cake... not only is it still summer thunder season, but it is also abundance-of-over-ripe-tomatoes-on-the-vine season.

In case you haven't read the book, it is the story of how Patricia Polacco's Russian grandmother taught her not to be afraid of thunderstorms.  At the end of the book, she shares her grandma's chocolate cake recipe - with the secret ingredient of tomatoes - and I think it is the best chocolate cake recipe ever.  It is delicate and moist and perfect!
Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book Thunder Cake
Here is an excerpt from the forward to get you inspired:  "On sultry summer days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy. Stormclouds drift low over the fields.  Birds fly close to the ground.  The clouds glow for an instant with a sharp, crackling light, and then a roaring, low, tumbling sound of thunder makes the windows shudder in their panes."  - Patricia Polacco

And here is the recipe!

Cream together, one at a time
    1 cup of shortening (I use butter)
    1 3/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    3 eggs, separated  (Blend yolks in.  Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in.)
    1 cup cold water
    1/3 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together
    2 1/2 cups cake flour
    1/2 cup dry cocoa
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture.  Bake in two greased and floured 8 1/2-inch round pans at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Frost with chocolate butter frosting.  Top with strawberries.

Last week I made thunder cake because my mom, dad, grandma, aunt and cousin were coming over for dessert.  It is delicious with the chocolate butter frosting and strawberries, but really you can do all kinds of variations.  This time I made it with vanilla butter frosting and decorated it with slivered almonds and chocolate mint leaves.

Happy baking!  And enjoy the last thunderstorms of summer!
Illustration by Patricia Polacco from her book Thunder Cake

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