How BBC Good Food Guide and David Lebovitz changed my Life

Warning: The following is a real story and will be long and maybe even a tad boring. If you are patient and read through it all, you will be rewarded with an out-of-the world recipe for the Devil’s Food Cake. If you are not patient, you can simply scroll down for it.

In life, sometimes, you encounter that one person or thing that changes the course of your life forever. When I look back on my life in the past one year, I can see how much my life has changed, as a result of my decisions. A year ago, I was this highly stressed out business-consultant with one of the Big Five, with responsibilities and stress that grew with every new project that I worked on. My life was ruled by crazy work hours, managing large teams of just-of-college-starting out on their corporate life kids, the pressure of networking, managing king-sized egos of some peers and all the resulting sleepless and stress. In short, I had a miserable life where I was busting my behind to make myself unhappier.

Then on the way to our planned annual vacation I bought the December issue of BBC Good Food Guide (BGFG) at the Bengaluru airport (They had launched the India edition of the magazine a month ago). And life was never the same again. A wonderful 7-day vacation in the Andaman Islands later, I was back in office fighting even bigger fires. A few melt-downs (private) later, on 31st of December, 2011, I decided to take a break from it all and go on a baking spree. So I baked the familiar chocolate cake (huge), an Orange & Blueberry (huge) cake and Strawberry & Almond muffins (recipe from BGFG).  Ten huge strawberry muffins got over in a jiffy, I saved two to take for a like-minded colleague, N. I took pieces of the remaining two cakes and two muffins on Jan 2nd and they were a huge hit and vanished promptly. N, who was on a diet, didn’t share those muffins with either her best friend at work or even her new husband, she gobbled them all herself (and she was on a diet!). And that’s how I began to use the recipes from BGFG. BGFG became a big part of my life, I waited for the first week of every month when I would drive to the only bookstore (Landmark) in town that stocked it. I know it was easier to subscribe, but I enjoyed the ceremony, so still continue it. The magazine changed the food culture in my house, I’ve tried so many recipes from it and successfully too.

A few months and more stressful projects later, I was down with a bad back for 21 days. Towards the end of my recovery, when I was better but still couldn’t get out of home, I tried out a few recipes from a link that N had shared with me a long time ago. I tried some cookies (not so successfully, I must’ve messed up the proportions), Lamingtons (perfected them the 3rd time) and soon I was hooked to the David Lebovitz’s blog. I realized that these recipes worked very well for me when I stuck to the proportions and the given methods. I began trying more and more recipes from the blog. Oh I loved the recipes and the writing, which was fun and funny. DL is now top-most in my list of favorite food writers. I’ve never met him (or even commented on his blog), but have learned so much from him, much like Ekalavya from Mahabharata.

So how did the two change my life?

A year later here I am sitting in a small but really hep office writing this blog, working-out, working on projects that I like and are meaningful and am baking more and more cakes and toying with the idea of turning part-time baker. Yes I quit my corporate career of 13 years in July and am discovering myself, doing things I love. Of course there are challenges in this life too, but they revolve around how do I add more meaning to my life, how do I make money with my skills and how to get that next project. But I am relaxed and have more time for life and the people I love and more time to express my love (ask my friends who have benefited from my baking for their birthdays). I am ever-grateful to DL, the BBC Good Food Guide and N for sharing an amazing treasure-house of recipes with me.

Since you have been so patient with me, I leave you with the recipe for the most amazing chocolate cake in the world, The Devil’s Food Cake from David Lebovitz’s blog. I made this for a dear friend’s birthday and he relished every bit of it…along with us of course!

 You will need:

  • 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ cups cake flour (not self-rising) – Cake flour is really easy to make at home. Add two tablespoons of corn starch to each cup of regular flour and sift this mixture together twice. Measure your cups of flour from this mixture.
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups castor sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup strong coffee
  • ½ cup low-fat milk (considering how rich this cake is the low-fat milk is a good option)

  For the Frosting

  • 285 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup water or cream (Water will make it a little runny and glossy, while cream will lend it a more matte finish. Since I am a purist, I used cream)
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter

How you make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees C).
  2. Butter two same sized circular cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of butter-paper.
  3. Sieve together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt thrice.
  4. Using an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Make sure to scrape the sides to ensure everything is getting mixed in.
  5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Add the half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, then add the coffee and milk. Mix and then add in the other half of the dry ingredients and beat till the mixture is smooth.
  6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting by putting them in the refrigerator. It is a good idea to bake the cakes a day before you frost them, this helps the cake to firm-up and also ensures that the caked don’t crumble when frosting.
  7. To make the butter-cream frosting, melt the chopped chocolate with the cream (water if you insist on reducing the calories) in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
  8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the Ganache is smooth. Cool in the fridge or at room temperature until spreadable. The cooling will take atleast 1.5-2 hours.

To frost the cake:

Run a knife around the sides of each of the cake-tins to help release them. Flip the cakes out of the pans, remove the butter paper from the bottom and invert them back onto separate plates. Place one of the cakes over a cake plate and spread a generous layer of frosting over the top. Place with the second cake layer over the frosting and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want. If you want those swirls on the cake, you will have to do a lot of back-forthing with an icing knife to achieve that effect (a novice like me took 1 hour).

I always store my chocolates cakes in the fridge and they taste even better the days after. There’s nothing to soothe your soul and stomach like a chilled chocolate cake.


The Devil’s Food Cake in all it’s glory


After 4-people had eaten it and 3 hours after it was out of the fridge, the DFC began to sweat and moved to looking a very desirable  rich glossy brown.


2 thoughts on “How BBC Good Food Guide and David Lebovitz changed my Life

  1. Pingback: Indo-Italian Tomato and Cheese Pasta Bake « sweetinsomniac

  2. Pingback: Addiction and the Devil’s Food Cake « sweetinsomniac

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