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Friday, September 10, 2010

$1200 Waldorf Astoria cake

Growing up, we lived in a prosperous little town, and a few of my mother's friends took a trip to New York City in the 1930’s. They splurged by staying at the legendary Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and for desert one night in the grand dining room, they ordered chocolate cake that turned out to be absolutely scrumptious.

Impressed and in high spirits, they asked the waiter if they might have the recipe. The chef himself eventually appeared, and it made quite a scene as he, in full regalia, recounted the details of how to make his special creation. When the 'girls' got home, however, they had a story to tell! Their bill revealed that they had had to pay $100 for the recipe - that's about $1,200 in today's money - shocking! Looking back, I've used the recipe so many times over the years I consider it was worth it! Besides being the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten, this cake is so quick and easy to put together from scratch that it's the only one I ever make now - and I decided it had to be shared.

The amounts of the ingredients used in the cake are not critical. In a pinch, I just use what is at hand for measuring - like any normal cup for the flour and sugar, and every-day spoons for the smaller amounts. For those who like precision, I’ve included exact measurements. The mayonnaise can be messy, so I usually use a 2-cup measure or big glass jar. Put the water in first, and then spoon in mayonnaise right from the bottle to double the volume.

In one bowl mix:
     2 cups of flour [16 oz. or 500 ml]
     1 cup of sugar [8 oz. or 250 ml]
     4 big spoonfuls unsweetened cocoa [4 tablespoons]
     1 really heaping teaspoon full of baking soda [1 ½ teaspoons]
     a good pinch of salt [½ teaspoon]

In a 2nd bowl mix:
     1 cup of water
     1 cup of mayonnaise [recipe says Miracle Whip, but any kind will do]
     1 cap full or so of vanilla [1 ½ teaspoons – it's optional but good]

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir and pour into a cake pan, preferably one with a cone in the middle. If your baking pan is not non-stick, smear the inside with butter or oil and shake a little flour around to coat it. Bake at 350 F [175 C] until you smell the cake, 30 to 40 minutes. I stick a toothpick or straw in it and it comes out clean when done.

Bon appetit! Rie

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