I borrowed this book ,”Thunder Cake”, from the library a couple weeks ago to read to my children when it was raining nonstop here in the bay area and we had some hail and thunder (but alas, we saw no lightning, much to my son’s dismay). Maybe because of the hills, trees, and homes that block our view of the sky… But as my High School Chemistry teacher always used to say, “we digress”!
This book is a story about a little girl who is afraid of everything, especially thunder, and how her grandmother “distracts” her into overcoming her fears as they gather the ingredients to make this special ‘thunder cake’ that needs to go into the oven right when the thunderstorm is above them. Much to my children’s delight, there was a recipe at the end of the book for this special thunder cake which uses a surprising secret ingredient in the chocolate cake that (I must admit) made me giddy with excitement to try.
We did our own “gathering” of ingredients for the cake, most of which I already had stocked in my pantry, but we ran to the store to buy the ‘secret’ ingredient and some strawberries. Our run to the store could have been spared since we didn’t end up baking the cake until today and only because the strawberries wouldn’t last any longer if we didn’t bake it and I didn’t want to make another run to the store for one ingredient.
So what is the ‘secret’ ingredient you ask? Well, it’s pureed tomatoes! Isn’t that something? I was skeptical but hopeful that it would turn out into a delicious chocolate cake and BOY, did it turn out into a scrumptious chocolate cake! And dare I say, it may be the best tasting chocolate cake EVER, especially paired with some light, fluffy chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries. My kids are funny. They start with the strawberries and then they eat the cake. Every morning, I give them their fruit after their ‘main’ otherwise, they won’t finish their food and only eat the fruit.
*SEE BELOW for UPDATED METHOD!!! Some pointers about making the cake. The recipe really doesn’t give the step-by-step directions I’m used to in a recipe, but having baked enough cakes in my life, I started off creaming the butter (I substituted the shortening for unsalted butter) then added the sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks. Then I transferred the butter mixture to a large bowl, thoroughly cleaned and dried my stand mixing bowl to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. I sifted the dry ingredients together and set it aside. But here is where I panicked! I added the water and pureed tomatoes to the butter mixture and of course with that much water, the butter is NOT going to incorporate it and looked like a curdled mess with the tomato puree and water mix. But I just kept going, putting trust in the recipe (and crossing my fingers that it would turn out). I started adding the flour mixture into the butter mixture then folded in some of the egg whites and repeated until I had cake batter! It looked lumpy with butter still not incorporated in the liquid, but I still baked it according to the recipe and the cake turned out great! It really tastes SO soft and moist!
*1/14/2016 So, I had to make this cake again and found a much better way to make this cake batter come together without lumps of butter.
- Preheat oven to 350F . Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
- Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks.
- Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
- Measure out the cold water and pureed tomatoes. (I strained it so no seeds or tomato skin pieces)
- With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry mix to the butter mixture, next add half of the tomato/water mixture, then another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the tomato/water mixture, and finally the remaining third of the flour mixture. (So basically dry, wet, dry, wet, dry into the butter mixture.)
- In a clean, dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form w/ whip attachment.
- Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
- Divide the cake batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake about 30- 35 mins (toothpick test)
P.S. I used fresh pureed tomatoes (and my son drank the rest and wanted more 🙂
Oftentimes, I find butter cakes to be not as moist and soft as cake mixes, but this cake is so soft like a cake mix and tastes delicious! I could only slightly taste a hint of the tomato (maybe because I knew there was tomato in it… the hubby couldn’t tell), but it was very good and even gives the cake a slightly red-velvet cake-ish hue. I’m curious how the tomato helps the cake taste so good!
Now, the recipe in the book only says to frost the cake with a chocolate butter frosting. SO, I used this chocolate frosting recipe:
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate (melted)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
I melt the chocolate carefully in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments or you can melt using the double boiler method. Beat the butter until light, then add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Then add the melted chocolate (shouldn’t be hot).
After tasting the frosting, I decided I wanted to lighten up the frosting and whipped about a cup of whipping heavy cream added a bit of powdered sugar then folded it into the buttercream frosting. It made the creamy, intense chocolate frosting, into more of a chocolate mousse-like lighter frosting that I think paired perfectly with this cake and the strawberries.
Who knew pureed tomatoes could make the best chocolate cake, ever!!!
My 7 yrs. old has already requested that I make a copy of the recipe and save it so he can have it for his birthday (which is not ’til Sept). Then his 5 yrs old sister chimed in and said she wanted the same! It’s really that good! Don’t believe me? You’ve got to try it yourself!
Daddy came home while we were enjoying dessert so he got to read the book “Thunder Cake” to them while they ate their ‘thunder cake’! Nothing grand going on here, but they were all so happy. It’s the little things that count. 🙂 I love my family.
Thanks for reading!