This takes the cake, Part II 

Last week, I began my adventures in unearthing the best chocolate cake ever.

After tasting a gorgeous hunk of the "Very Good Chocolate Cake" from The Gift of Southern Cooking (by Decatur's own Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock), I had declared it the best I had ever eaten, but I still wanted to know if it would be the best I'd ever bake.

Herein the countertop notes:

Adaptations: Instead of coffee, I used hot water. All-purpose flour was subbed for cake flour, and applesauce for vegetable oil in the original recipe.

Analysis: It might be the most tender cake on the planet, almost to a fault. DO allow cakes to cool completely before removing parchment paper or transporting layers to cake plate. I learned the hard way; the still-warm layers suffered a few torn gashes as a result.

Fork time: With a luscious mouth feel, grown-up intensity and a seductive frosting made with a sickening amount of chocolate (1 pound), this is undoubtedly the best damn chocolate cake I've ever eaten AND baked.

Go ahead. Rock someone's world.

Very Good Chocolate Cake

Adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

Cake:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup hot (not boiling) water

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting:

1 cup heavy cream

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into several pieces

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup hot water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• Preheat oven to 325. Butter, flour and line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

• Sift together sugar, flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In another bowl, pour hot water over chocolate, allowing it to melt completely. In a third bowl, whisk eggs and applesauce, then add sour cream, vanilla and chocolate mixture. Fold wet mixture into dry, by thirds, incorporating after each addition. Divide batter evenly between the cake pans.

• Bake 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cake pans to racks and allow to rest for five minutes before turning out of pans. To unmold, run a flat-edged knife between cake and sides of pans. Turn pans facedown onto rack and carefully lift. Allow cakes to completely cool before peeling off parchment and frosting.

• Frosting: Heat cream, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan until butter is melted. Add chocolate, cooking over very low heat, until just melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and blend in water and vanilla. Transfer frosting to a bowl to cool, stirring only occasionally, until it is spreadable -- about an hour. Do not refrigerate.

• Assembling cake: When frosting is ready, put one cake layer on cake plate and frost from center, thoroughly covering surface. Top with second layer and frost the top and sides. Allow cake to sit two hours before slicing.

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