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HOME COOK : Like Water for Chocolate Cake


Webster writes in his dictionary defining water: "A liquid that descends from the clouds as rain, forms streams, lakes, and seas, and is a major constituent of all living matter and that is an odorless, tasteless, very slightly compressible liquid oxide of hydrogen H20 which appears bluish in thick layers, freezes at 0 degrees Celsius and boils at 100 C." Webster obviously was not a cook, because water is also magic with food.

Add two tablespoons of water to angel food cake batter and the texture is transformed from the typical airy sponge cake into a sublime, tender, cloud-like cake. A basic, easy-to-make chocolate cake gains a delicate, moist texture when ice water is substituted for milk.

And whoever said that oil and water don't mix never added a little water to a salad dressing. Add two tablespoons of water to a half-cup of vinaigrette and it becomes smooth and integrated, with any cloying oiliness removed.

If you add a little milk to scrambled eggs, they are coarse and "curdy." Add a little water instead and the texture becomes light and soft. (Add two tablespoons of water to every three eggs before scrambling and cooking.)


This comes from the grandmother of Tom Roach , a fine baker and owner of Tom's Cookie Shop in San Francisco. Tom became famous when President Clinton had 15,000 of Tom's chocolate cookies at his inauguration.


1 cup sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups unbeaten egg whites (about 12)

2 tablespoons cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, optional

Few drops almond extract, optional

Combine flour and 1/2 cup sugar in mixing bowl. Sift together 3 times. Set aside.

Put egg whites in separate mixing bowl and add water, cream of tartar, salt, vanilla, lemon extract and zest and almond extract. (Reserve yolks for another use.)

Beat until barely stiff enough to hold peak when beater is lifted. Do not beat until egg white mixture is dry (if whites are too stiff, folding in remaining dry ingredients will knock air out). Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at time, beating gently after each of first few additions. Then fold, rather than beat, in last amount. Add sifted flour-sugar mixture, 3 or 4 tablespoons at time, and fold gently until blended.

Pour or spoon batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan and tap pan sharply on table twice to break large air bubbles. Bake at 325 degrees 50 to 60 minutes, or until straw comes out clean when inserted in center of cake. Cool upside-down (cake will collapse if left to cool right-side-up). Makes 12 servings.

Each serving contains about:

146 calories; 174 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.02 gram fiber.


2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup ice water

Portsmouth Frosting

Melt chocolate in small bowl over simmering water. Set aside to cool.

Cream butter, slowly beat in sugar and beat until light. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Add cooled chocolate and combine thoroughly.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together. Add to chocolate mixture and blend. Add ice water and beat until smooth.

Pour batter into 2 buttered and lightly floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes, until wood pick comes out clean when inserted in center of each cake.

Cool in pans 5 minutes, turn out of pans and cool on racks. Frost with Portsmouth Frosting. Makes 12 servings.

Each serving contains about:

525 calories; 240 mg sodium; 78 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 90 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.15 gram fiber.

Portsmouth Frosting

5 tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla or rum

5 cups powdered sugar, about

Mix butter, cream and vanilla together in large mixing bowl. Slowly beat in sugar until thick and creamy and easy to spread on cake. Makes about 2 cups.


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