7:30 Christmas eve & I was in the home stretch. Pat & Edie were cleaning up dinner dishes and I was heading upstairs to start wrapping. It had been an impossibly long day that started with the snuggling of a baby pig in the kitchen of Farmer Tom when we went to pick up our freshly smoked Christmas dinner ham.
After leaving the farm, we hit the grocery store for the forgotten holiday essentials like candy canes (it’s not a proper tree without them I was told) before heading home to start the baking & wrapping. After a long afternoon of cooking, I was looking forward to calling it quits when that timer went off and I could pull the cake destined to be Christmas dessert out of the oven.
The black forest torte is one of my favorite cakes. I never fail to declare it the best thing I’ve ever made upon the first bite. A dense, chewy dark chocolate brownie type bottom layer, studded with dried cherries soaked in cherry brandy then combined with cherry preserves as well as chocolate chips, topped with a marscapone cheesecake layer, decorated with more cherry preserves. All of my favorite sweet things – chocolate, cherries & cheesecake, rolled into one. The bottom layer is fairly easy, although there is quite a bit of multi-tasking involved. Melt the chocolate & butter in a pan, while simmering the cherries in another. Combine the dry ingredients & whisk together while beating the eggs & sugar together, then combine everything before putting it in a spring form pan to bake.
As I was loading the pan into the oven, I realized there was a small bowl of sugar left sitting on the counter top – the 1/2 cup I’d portioned out that was to be combined with the melted chocolate & butter. Pat to the rescue when he told me, just dump it in & mix it all up in the pan. Bless his heart, he even wiped down the sides to avoid the smell of the batter becoming overdone. This from a man who enters the kitchen mostly to fix himself a bowl of raisin bran. I was impressed – clearly all the cooking shows I make him watch with me were rubbing off.
As the timer went off, I checked the cake for doneness, then proceeded to pull it out of the oven. As I grabbed the side of the spring form pan, the bottom suddenly gave way, dumping the cake all over the floor of the kitchen, the oven door and interior of the oven. I’m pretty sure some of it was on the oven racks too.
I stood there holding the emtpy pan. I couldn’t even speak. I had spent close to an hour assembling that cake, another 45 minutes monitoring the baking. It was 7:30 Christmas Eve, nothing was wrapped and I was in no frame of mind to start over. Also, there were no more dried cherries on hand to start over. Worse, I had invited Kitchen Intern & her family for Christmas dessert, having gone on & on about how this was the best cake I make.
I set the empty pan on top of the stove and just walked out. I walked upstairs and went into the attic to start pulling out the gifts I had stashed to be wrapped. I just couldn’t begin to think about what had happened. I was so tired and so upset that I couldn’t even bring myself to muster one word. All that work for nothing.
After getting my gift wrap station set up upstairs, I went back downstairs to assess the damage. In the 10 minutes I’d been upstairs hiding in the attic, Pat had managed to salvage as much as he could of cake, dumping it in a pan, while cleaning out the oven. There was no trace of the recent disaster other than a pan of crumbles that he pointed to saying, “I think you can salvage that.”
Salvage I did. After all, there was another layer to be assembled and placed on top. The cake was edible so Christmas Day, as I moved into the kitchen to start dinner, I piled the remains of the cake in a glass bowl. I smeared a layer of cherry butter from the pantry on top and then finished with the cheesecake layer. Voila! A Black Forest Trifle!
And that my friends, is the tale of how my fabulous husband saved Christmas dessert and cleaned out the oven at 7:30 Christmas Eve night in one fell swoop. He’s awesome like that.