HECHO EN MÉXICO
Celebrate the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe with this delicious Mexican chocolate cake
There are three Mexican imports that I love: the cuisine, Our Lady of Guadalupe and chocolate. And December is that time of year for the Mexican people when all three are featured together rather nicely a couple of weeks before Christms.
On a December night in 1531, on Tepeyac Hill, just outside of Mexico City, a poor Aztec, Juan Diego, heard a woman’s voice calling him from that hill. He climbed it to see who it was. The woman stated to Juan that she was the Virgin Mary, and she told him to ask the bishop of Mexico City to build a church on the hill so that millions would turn to Christ.
Well, the bishop wasn’t buying Juan’s story. He wanted a sign from Our Lady, so Juan returned to the hill, and, miraculously in the middle of winter, roses appeared. Juan gathered them and placed them in his cloak, or tilma, and then returned to the bishop. When Juan removed the roses to give to the bishop, a miraculous image of the Virgin was permanently left on the tilma. The bishop fell to his knees and a church was built on the spot of the apparition. And, just as Our Lady foretold, more than 8 million converted to Catholicism under the influence of the miraculous image.
Today, millions of believers from all over the country travel by foot to visit that image of Our Lady at the Basilica de Guadalupe in early December. And, on her feast day, which is Dec. 12, the partying begins. With processions and fiestas, the faithful enjoy plenty of music, dancing and (dear to my heart and stomach) Mexican food. And all of it is centered upon the one woman to whom they have a special devotion, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patron of the Americas.
And now, for the third element of my favorite Mexican-import trio: chocolate. The Central American climate is wonderful for growing cocoa. The product manifests in a lot of ways in the local cultures, especially in the many wonderful drinks and desserts. Here is one that is, in a word, delicious. It honors Our Lady, it’s authentically Mexican and did I mention it contains chocolate? Enjoy!
Mexican chocolate cake
• 4 squares (4 ounces) unsweetened baker’s chocolate
• ½ cup (or one stick) softened butter
• 1 cup hot water
• 2 cups flour
• 2 cups cane sugar (or white)
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
• pinch of Cayenne pepper (optional)
• ¹/3 cup buttermilk
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 package (or 1 pound) confectioner’s sugar
• 2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened bakers chocolate
• ¼ cup softened butter
• 8-10 tablespoons milk
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• Sliced strawberries for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Set aside. In a medium saucepan on high heat, melt the butter and chocolate in the water. Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat. Slowly add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and mix well with an electric mixer. Stir in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Pour into a greased 13”x9” pan (or two 8” pans for two smaller cakes) and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Cool for 15-20 minutes before adding the icing.
For the icing, melt ¼ cup butter and 2 squares of chocolate in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and add ¾ of the box of powdered sugar, 8 tablespoons milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat well. You may have to add more confectioner’s sugar or 1 or 2 additional tablespoons of milk, so the icing easily pours over the cake.
Pour the icing over the cake and garnish with sliced strawberries.
By Michelle DiFranco, who is a designer and the busy mom of two children.