Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cousin Meg’s Big Heart (Cake)

This is probably the closest I’ll ever come to writing a Valentine’s Day post. I’m hardly a fool for love, and Valentine’s Day doesn’t rank in my top 10 holidays. Actually, it’s right there at the bottom of the list along with Arbor Day. But this story has chocolate, a slightly-warped spring form heart, and a healthy serving of generosity. And, it’s a good example of how love can come in all shapes and sizes.

Meet Cousin Meg. We’re related by marriage. She married my first Cousin Frank. Cousin Frank is twin brother to Cousin Steve who is kind of a cross between graphic artist Todd McFarlane and Chef Anthony Bourdain. The twin thing (I call it “The Patty Duke Syndrome”) can be a little disconcerting, albeit entertaining at family gatherings.

But, back to Cousin Meg. The Barritt’s are rather a small, and somewhat reserved, close-knit family. Cousin Meg has several dozen brothers and sisters (I’ve never quite gotten the accurate count) and is what I fondly describe as a “big personality.” This is not a bad thing, but sometimes I have found it slightly intimidating. I’m a listener. She’s a talker. It’s what makes the world go-round. But it’s not idle chatter. In fact, Cousin Meg is generous to a fault.

Take the soap opera-worthy saga of this amazing Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. I invite Meg and Frank for dinner. Meg decides we should do a Valentine’s Day theme. I’m a little reticent. I explain that my best Valentine’s Day ever was a long-ago dinner with two of my college roommates. We were all single at the time, and it happened to be Valentine’s Day. One of them stopped at the bakery on the way home from work and bought a gooey, heart-shaped cake at half price. It was perfect. No complicated relationships – just three guys and a ridiculous dessert. Nothing since has quite measured up.

Of course, this story is enough to elicit extreme pity from any true romantic, and Cousin Meg announces that she is going to bake me a heart-shaped cake. Not many people bring homemade desserts any more. But, Cousin Meg starts with an Internet search using the words “amazing chocolate cake” which quickly brings her to this recipe. (For those of us who spend hours studying search terms in the blogosphere, her approach is refreshing.) She then buys an expensive heart-shaped spring-form pan, and attempts a practice run.

A day or two before the dinner I get an apologetic e-mail:

“HATE to disappoint you, but I tried the heart shaped cake pan last week and it was a bust. The springform was crooked and it leaked out. Ridiculous considering the price I paid for the pan, but there you go. I hope you don't mind if the pan is in 8" rounds. It will still be yummy, trust me.”

This is probably why Entenmann’s does such a good business.

Now, let’s take stock for a moment. Already, Cousin Meg – mother of two and full-time teacher – has purchased an expensive pan, done a trial run that flopped, and will have to clean her oven, all in an effort to improve my Valentine’s Day experience. You’ve gotta love her.

Dinner night commences and Meg and Frank arrive, carrying an impossibly tall and scrumptious cake creation. It looks like she has spent hours – no days – preparing it. Now, remember. This is “Take Two.” They are also bearing gifts, and present me with a copy of “Martha Stewart’s Cookies” along with everything else. I won't even go into Meg's opinions about Martha.

I’ve made a kick-ass entrée of Beer Braised Beef and Onions in the Dutch oven, although I get a little nervous when Cousin Meg announces that she, by nature, gives everything a rating. Ratings make me uncomfortable. They’re hard to take back. But according to Cousin Meg, it helps her decide where things fit in the spectrum of “good” to “best.” Then, comes the moment that every chef dreads. She rates my dinner. The Macaroni and Cheese is a 7 or 8, and fortunately, the beef is a 10. Sigh of relief. It’s all part of the package with dear Cousin Meg.

As for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake? It is rich, decadent, and layered with sweet dollops of TLC. I typically don’t believe in giving food or wine a rating, but on a scale of 1 to 10, Cousin Meg’s Cake is indeed a 15! Just like Cousin Meg.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

12 comments:

Brilynn said...

I'm not big on Valentine's Day either, but it's always nice to have someone bake for you!

Kathy said...

Nice story, T.W.! Your Cousin Megs sounds like a wonderful person to have in the family. Happy Valentine's!

Kalyn said...

The cake definitely looks fantastic and your cousin Meg sounds like a winner too!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Whatever the fate of the heart-shaped pan, keep Cousin Meg -- anyone who can make and transport a regal cake like this one is someone I'd want in my family! We're not big Valentine's Day people, either (my husband calls these Hallmark Holidays). The other 364 days of the year are the days when romance really means something!

Cakespy said...

Oh my goodness. Enjoying such a masterpiece of a cake with such an awesome person--what could be sweeter! And oh man, that is one babe of a cake!

~~louise~~ said...

Love indeed makes the world go round...

I have a sneaky feeling any reason to present you with such a luscious creation is worthy of remembrance. If not only for igniting the lapse of Valentine's Day past...

Did you get to keep the leftover cake? Only kidding. I'm sure it was devoured!

Happy Gumdrop Day!

veron said...

we did not celebrate valentines either. I barely realized it was valentines actually... but this cake looks delicious. I've had my share of the "leaky" pans.

Lori Lynn said...

Oh sweet, how fortunate your are to have a Cousin Meg!
LL

Helene said...

This cake looks so moist and decadent.

Cousin Steve said...

What a wonderful, heartfelt post! Let's start calling it Megantine's Day!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Well, I think Cousin Steve has the right idea. He can create the logo, and we should all head for Cousin Meg's house for more cake! And, for those of us who eschew Valentine's Day, we'll talk next year ...

Pamcake Girl said...

Oh yes! I would make the trip for that cake. Meg's Cake looks great!