It’s tough to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, actually.
For one thing, it’s tough to remember that you have to make a reservation a month in advance, even if you write a note-to-self on the palm of your hand like Sarah Palin does. Then if, by any chance, we do have a reservation, it’s tough to dress up in red or pink finery (it clashes with my new hair color), and then you get there and it’s tough to order (who can read by candlelight?), tough to hear each other (too much ambient laughter), tough to stay sober (who can resist the champagne?) and tough to dance to “Our Love Is Here To Stay” in high heels. It’s just tough all over.
So we stayed home this year, which worked out well. I cooked dinner, which was fine once we figured out how to silence the smoke alarm, and the hand wound inflicted by my hyperactive chopping knife responded well to the snug bandages, Oliver only got mildly ill from eating all that chocolate cake , and the Olympic people were considerate enough to show only tape-delayed events, so we were spared any unnecessary suspense. So, yeah.
P.S. Our anniversary is next month. Yes, we’re going out for dinner; we decided we’re just gonna tough it out.
Valentine’s Day Cake
This cake is thin, dense, and a chocolate lover’s dream. Make it the night before you eat it.
12 ounces Scharffen Berger semi-sweet chocolate
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (plus extra for the cake pan)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325º F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and place a circle of parchment on the bottom. Butter the parchment lightly. Put some water on to boil.
2. Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set it aside to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until very light and frothy, 7-8 minutes. Add the coffee, vanilla and salt and beat briefly to combine. Gradually add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, about a half cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and place it in a larger pan, like a 9×13 Pyrex. Pour boiling water into the larger pan, enough to come half way up the sides of the cake pan, and place it in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top of the cake is springy to the touch and it is pulling away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely, then invert it on a plate and discard the parchment. Chill it overnight in the fridge, and serve the next day with vanilla whipped cream.
Serves 6-10, depending on whether you have a chocoholic in your midst.