Q: Some recipes say that you can prevent candied fruit from sinking through a cake batter by coating the fruit in flour. I tried it, but it didn't work. Why not?
A: Flouring candied fruit to stop its falling makes as much sense as leaping off a cliff and attempting to fly by flapping your arms. Gravity pulls you down, anyway. It's a question of buoyancy -- the difference in specific gravity between the cake batter and the candied fruit.
Cake batter has a specific gravity somewhere between 0.3 and 0.7. Candied fruit's specific gravity lies somewhere around 1.1 (the larger the difference in specific gravity, the more quickly the substance with the higher number drops toward the center of the earth).
There really isn't much you can do about sinking candied fruit other than:
1. Chop the candied fruit into smaller bits. This increases the ratio between surface area and weight. The drag of friction experienced by the candied fruit as it falls through the cake batter is therefore greater.
2. Add so much candied fruit that each piece rests on the piece below and the cake batter acts only as mortar. Fruit cakes work that way.
3. Use a dense cake batter. The traditional pound cake, which contains no leavening and no added liquid, would be appropriate.
Q: Friends and I have tried this recipe, known as Denver Chocolate Pudding, and have always been a bit disappointed. It's just not chocolatey enough. Is it because of a lack of eggs, cocoa or butter? Or is the idea flawed? I want a brownie-like cake that makes its own sauce.
A: The idea is flawed. This is a baked chocolate dumpling, not a cake. Just as you cannot make a Cadillac by fastening VW fenders to a Chevrolet body, it is impossible to make even the semblance of a brownie by preparing an eggless chocolate dumpling batter, then dousing it with 1 1/2 cups of cold coffee.
The enclosed recipe is not really a pudding since it contains no eggs. I simplified several instructions and added a few ingredients to improve its taste. The texture is still that of a dumpling, however.
If you want a brownie-like cake with a sauce, bake any brownie recipe and let it cool. Melt 4 squares of semisweet chocolate shaved into little bits over hot (not boiling) water. When melted, add 4 tablespoons warm heavy or whipping cream. Add more cream if you want it runnier. Spread over the cooled brownie, refrigerate, and cut into squares. DENVER CHOCOLATE PUDDING (Makes one 9-inch "cake")
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup pastry or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted almonds, ground
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipping cream (unwhipped) plus extra whipped cream for serving
Place 3/4 cup of the brown sugar, flour, ground almonds, baking powder, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, salt, butter, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir quickly into a batter for just a few seconds and transfer to a greased 9-by-9-inch cake pan.
Scatter over the top the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of cocoa. Pour over it the cold whipping cream. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake for about 35 minutes. The cake's top will be dry (it's sitting on top of the sauce). Remove from the oven and turn over onto a plate -- watch out for the very hot sauce. Cool, slice into portions and serve with whipped cream.