Mary T. Wagner is a criminal prosecutor in Wisconsin and a former journalist. She has published three award-winning essay collections: “Running with Stilettos,” “Heck on Heels,” and “Fabulous in Flats” that are available in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Her website is www.runningwithstilettos.comWhenever I’m called on to “bring something along” to a potluck dinner…or a recital…or a gathering of any sort, the one thing you can always tell about me is that whatever it is, it’s going to involve chocolate.
Sometimes, if I’m in a hurry and I don’t have time to bake, I’ll show up with a pound of dark chocolate-covered raspberries from the Victorian Chocolate Shoppe near my office in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Trust me, those hand-made confections are absolutely sin on a plate. And they get me to even eat fruit!
But for the most part, if I’m coming to your doorstep with something for the party, it’s going to be home-baked…and it’s going to be chocolate. Chocolate-chip cheesecake. Or bittersweet chocolate tart. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or (a favorite at the office)a pan of chocolate mint squares made with nearly three sticks of butter and a couple of generous splashes of crème de menthe.
I have been stuck on chocolate since I was old enough to hold a mixing spoon, and to hear my mother tell it, even earlier than that. Apparently she shunned the idea of feeding me other types of candy that contained artificial food coloring and instead treated me to Hershey Kisses. And so the addiction took hold, fueled by the best of intentions. Now, decades later, chocolate is still my crutch of choice when I’m working on a writing deadline or trying to figure something out on a case. It’s what I reach for when I’m tired…or when I’m happy…or when I’m celebrating…or when I’m mourning. Are you sensing a theme here? I swear one of the reasons I did so well in law school (my second career after journalism) was that I always went into those law school exams with a Diet Coke and a handful of chocolate bars. That would be AFTER I’d had my “breakfast of champions” that started an exam day with a mug of cocoa and two pastries, one of which involved chocolate frosting over chocolate dough.
I’ve written about trying to quit cold turkey in Chocolate Sobriety, and I’ve written about the healing, comforting properties of baking cookies for my kids in Cookie Therapy. And you know what? While I may start every New Year with the resolution to eat less chocolate…I know I’ll never succeed in breaking away entirely. There’s too much love, and too many memories, and too much history that’s tangled up with that delicious taste. And one of the recipes that has the deepest roots for me is the one I’m going to share here—my wicked Sour Cream Chocolate Cake.
Mary’s Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
4 baking squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled.2/3 cup of soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour either two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla. Beat in melted chocolate until all light and fluffy. (It is very hard to resist “snitching” some of this before the next step—I think this is the closest we humans can get to ambrosia, the “food of the gods.”)Add in one cup of flour, stir thoroughly.
Beat in sour cream.
Slowly beat in cold water (careful, this is probably going to splatter on you!)
Add in remaining flour, salt and baking soda, then pour into pan(s).
Baking time for cake layers: about 30 minutes.
Baking time for single 9x13 pan: about 35 minutes. Cake is done when surface lightly cracks and a toothpick inserted in middle of pan comes out clean.