Monday, September 29, 2014

September 7th Cake

While looking through Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, I stumbled across September 7th cake. We have several September birthdays in the fam, so I jokingly said it was too bad no one's birthday was September 7th.   They decided it was close enough and requested it for the party.  Who came up with this crazy idea?  Oh, I think I did...


After some initial terror, I read through the recipe (all four pages of it) and decided I could make it. (I think I can! I think I can!) After the third reading, I realized that there is very little "cake" in this cake. It consists of two thin layers of a flour-less chocolate cake, with a filling of stabilized whipped cream frosted with more whipped cream mixed with 1/2 pound of semi-sweet chocolate and some coffee.  How could that possibly be bad?

So, full of confidence, I set about making the cake.  About 10 minutes into the baking, I smelled something burning.  I opened the oven and it didn't look too bad, so I turned it down to 350 and crossed my fingers.  Alas, it was a lost cause.  The cake was not only burned on the edges, but it the smell had permeated the entire cake (as well as the house).  I tried to save it by cutting off the burned parts, but by the time I got the first layer to something that looked cake-like, it was about 1/4" thick and 6" in diameter.  

At this point, the swearing commenced.

Oh the humanity! 
Right after I threw the whole mess in the trash, Farm Boy called and said a friend had invited us out to dinner.  Which was good because it meant that I didn't immediately try again.  When we got home, I started over, but inserted a new first step into the recipe:  Pour a glass of wine. 


I lowered the oven to 350F this time (it may have even been slightly lower - see wine above).  This time instead of smelling like a coffee pot that has been on the burner too long, it smelled like chocolate. So much better.


The recipe gives very detailed directions on how to apply the icing with a pastry bag.  I decided that my sanity was more important than trying to pipe whipped cream icing in my warm kitchen, so I slapped it on with a knife and brushed it with a comb.  It's not as glamorous, but it was a lot faster.

This cake, as promised, is delicious, light and airy (and rich).  I would describe it as like eating chocolate air, but my favorite description of the day was, "It's like eating baby angels!". 

September 7th Cake (Printable Recipe )
from  Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

6 extra-large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon gelatin
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 stick butter
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1/4 cup boiling water
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F degrees (original recipe calls for 375F). Butter two 9-inch round layer-cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of wax paper or baking-pan liner paper cut to fit. Butter the paper and dust the inside of the pan all over with flour, invert the pans and tap to shake out excess flour.

In the small bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg yolks at high speed for 5 minutes until they are light lemon-colored. Add about half (6 tablespoons) of the sugar (reserve the remaining half) and continue to beat at high speed for 5 minutes more until the mixture is very thick and forms a wide ribbon when the beaters are lifted.

Add the cocoa and beat on lowest speed, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, and beating only until the cocoa is completely mixed in. Remove from the mixer and set aside.

Add the salt to the egg whites in the large bowl of the electric mixer. With clean beaters, beat at high speed until the whites increase in volume and barely hold a soft shape. Reduce the speed to moderate while gradually adding the reserved sugar. Increase the speed to high again and continue to beat until the whites hold a definite shape when the beaters are raised or when some of the mixture is lifted on a rubber spatula—they should not be stiff or dry.

In several additions, small at first (about a large spoonful), fold half of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites. Do not handle any more than necessary.

Turn half of the mixture into each of the prepared pans. Gently smooth each layer.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the layers spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip and begin to come away from the sides of the pans.

Remove from the oven. With a small sharp knife carefully cut around the sides of the layers to release them. Cover each layer with a rack, invert pan and rack, remove pan, peel off the paper lining, cover layer with another rack, and invert again to let the layers cool right side up.

While they are cooling the layers will sink and the sides will buckle and look uneven but don't worry. That is to be expected in this recipe. The filling and icing will cover them and they will be light, moist, and delicious.

When the layers are completely cool, prepare a flat cake plate as follows. Cut four strips of wax paper, each one about 10x3 inches. Place them around the outer edges of the plate.

Place one layer upside down on the plate and see that the wax paper touches all the edges of the cake.


Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small heatproof cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place the cup in a small pan containing about an inch of hot water. Set over moderate heat and let stand until the gelatin dissolves, then remove from the hot water and set aside.

Reserve 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cream and place the remainder in the small bowl of an electric mixer (if the room is warm the bowl and beaters should be chilled). Add the sugar and vanilla. Beat only until the cream has increased in volume and holds a soft shape. Then quickly stir the reserved tablespoons of cream into the warm, dissolved gelatin and, with the mixer going, pour the gelatin all at once into the slightly whipped cream and continue to beat. The cream should be beaten until it is firm enough to hold a shape.

Place the whipped cream on the bottom cake layer. Carefully spread it evenly. Cover it with the other layer, placing the top layer right side up. Place in the refrigerator and prepare the icing.


Break up or coarsely chop the chocolate and place it in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Add the butter. In a small cup dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and pour it over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is melted and smooth. Remove it from the hot water and transfer it to a medium-size mixing bowl.

Let the chocolate cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

When the chocolate has cooled, place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the small bowl of the electric mixer. Beat only until the cream holds a soft shape. It is very important that you do not whip the cream until it holds a definite shape; that would be too stiff for this recipe and would not only cause the icing to be too heavy but would also give it a slightly curdled appearance. Everything about this cake should be light and airy, and the chocolate will stiffen the cream a bit more.

In two or three additions fold about half of the cream into the chocolate, and then fold the chocolate into the remaining cream.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator.

If you have a turntable for decorating cakes or a lazy Susan, place the cake plate on it.

Use as much of the icing as you need to fill in any hollows on the sides of the cake—use a spoon or a metal spatula—and then smooth the icing around the sides. If you are working on a turntable, rotate it while you hold a small metal spatula against the sides to smooth the icing.

Now the cake can be finished in one of two ways (depending on whether or not you want to use a pastry bag). You can either use all of the icing to cover the top very thickly, or you can spread it very thinly and reserve about 3 cups of the icing and decorate the top with a pastry bag and a star-shaped tube.

Place the icing on the top and spread it smoothly. Then spread the sides again to make them neat.

To decorate the top, which will be completely covered with rippled lines of icing, fit a 15-inch pastry bag with a #6 star tube and fold down a deep cuff on the outside of the bag. Place the icing in the bag. Unfold the cuff. Close the top of the bag. To form the icing lines, begin at the edge of the cake furthest from you, at the middle of the edge. Squeeze an inch or two of icing out of the tube in a line coming toward you. Continuing to squeeze and without stopping the flow of the icing, move the tube back away from you over about half the line you have just formed, making another layer of icing on the first. Still without stopping the flow of the icing, bring the tube toward you again and make another 1- to 2-inch line, then double back over half of this distance again. Continue across the whole diameter of the cake. The finished line will be along the middle of the cake. Make another, similar line to one side of the first, touching it. I find it easier to work from the middle—one side all the way and then the other side all the way to entirely cover the top of the cake with these wavy lines.

Remove the strips of wax paper by pulling each one out toward a narrow end.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight and serve cold. To slice this cake without squashing it, insert the point of a sharp knife in the center of the cake. Then cut with an up-and-down sawing motion.


  1. Persistence is our friend! I think the combing looks fancy and taste matters most. Love your blog-brings memories of the church lady cookbook I received as a shower present.

  2. Thanks for the visit! I have quite a few of those church lady cookbooks and my favorites are the ones that someone else clearly treasured and used.

  3. Oh, man... I have the same book. I love it so much I had a friend who does duct-tape art make a cover for it that says THE HOLY BIBLE.

  4. I love it! Chocolate can definitely be a religious experience!

  5. What is the purpose of the waxed paper strips in the recipe? I don't get it.

    1. To keep cake plate free of icing smears...good trick

  6. My birthay is September 7. I found this recipe in a magazine years ago (along with another fave, Julia Child's Los Gatos Gateau. I was so grateful for the cake I sent a note of gratitude to Maida, which she answered. The next year for our birthday I sent her a packet of Hawaiian-grown chocolate. I've never burnt the cake but there's always a first time. I don't make it every year but am going to this year, will start it tomorrow.