I miss the 60’s. I’m not talking about the flower-child late 60’s. I would have been a terrible hippie—not enough structure and not enough bathing. No, I miss the early 60’s and it is Doris Day’s fault. When I was a kid Channel 9 used to show all those (I thought at the time) saucy movies with her trying to keep Rock Hudson at bay (no comment), their wink-wink banter and poor Tony Randall sneezing alongside them. She was a sassy career gal (who seemed to always have a full-time and even sassier housekeeper) with her own apartment, great pastel jackets with ¾ length sleeves and that perky helmet of white-yellow hair. 'Someday,' I’d think, 'I’m going to live just like that.'
Yeah, no. It didn’t exactly turn out that way. But, it should come as no surprise that I am a devoted Mad Men fan. Same era, same clothes, same dark handsome leading man. Although the show’s career gal has the frumpiest clothes, the creepiest looking bangs, a roommate and an apartment that looks like it could use a housekeeper, sassy or not.
Two recent events made my longing for those days even stronger. First, I finished reading “The Help,” Kathryn Stockett’s can’t-put-it-down-till-I-finish-it novel set in Jackson, Mississippi circa 1963.
And then season three of “Mad Men” came to a close. Such a great finale but how depressing to know it will be at least nine months before we see Don Draper again.
In an attempt to put living in the past in the past (until at least season four or the next time Doris and Rock are on TV) I decided to honor 1963 with a dessert. My father was a "mad man" himself, starting in the mailroom at McCann Erickson and spending his 40 odd year career on Madison Avenue (really the Pan Am building and West 23rd Street, but you get the point). Luckily for me I have a built-in Betty Draper—my mother. For the record she’s not a disappointed, passive aggressive sour-puss like Betty and, as far as I know, my father is not an identity stealing philanderer like Don. If anyone knows what the wives of mad men were making back in the day, it is Mom.
After some ‘hmmm’ing and ‘let me think’ing my mother called with an “I found it! Ann Seranne’s Mocha Torte. I thought I was such hot stuff and so sophisticated!” she said, laughing at the memory of herself at 23 when she became a “Mrs.” and had yet to set foot in a kitchen.
The thought of my mother attempting to make this cake in their tiny East 50’s walk-up gave me the energy to embark on my experiment. In the spirit of veracity I followed most of the original recipe’s instructions which made my project more time consuming (big shock that recipes would assume a woman had nothing better or else to do all day) and a little annoying. I did love the look of the chocolate disks on the side—groovy in a mod kind of way. Some of the techniques in the adapted version below are slightly updated but the photos chronicle my own experience.
And yes, after this time warp adventure I am committed to living in the present. Looking at these pictures I’m sure you’ll understand why.
Ann Seranne's Mocha Torte
Updated from The New York Times, 1963 or 1964
Printer Friendly Version
1 cup sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup very, very strong coffee (make one cup of either a triple strength coffee or espresso)
Preheat oven to 350
Butter two 9" cake pans, line them with a disk of parchment paper, butter paper.
In microwave safe bowl melt chocolate in microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until fully melted.
(Note: This photo is per the instructions from the original recipe)
Pour coffee into melted chocolate and whisk until combined.
Combine eggs and sugar in electric mixer and beat with whisk attachment till very think and pale.
With spatula, fold in flour until fully combined. (Keep your eyes open for hidden pockets of flour)
Fold chocolate/coffee mixture into egg/sugar/flour mixture till uniform in color.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 35 minutes till cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, peel off parchment paper and let cool completely.
Ingredients-Mocha Butter Cream
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup very, very strong coffee (see above)
3 sticks of butter, softened
In bowl of electric mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks till light and fluffy. Leave in mixer.
In microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate in 30 second intervals as above.
(Again-photo is for original recipe's instructions)
Whisk coffee into chocolate till completely combined. Set aside.
Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar in small saucepan.
Bring to a boil until sugar dissolves.
Boil rapidly until syrup registers 236 on a candy thermometer.
Gradually beat the syrup into the egg yolks using whisk attachment of mixer, continue beating until the mixture thickens.
Switch from whisk attachment to paddle attachment and beat in the butter a little at a time until light and fluffy.
Chill until buttercream is spreading consistency. For a little lightness after chilling you could beat the buttercream again to fluff it up. (I did below.) Or not, it's up to you.
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate as above.
Quickly pour chocolate onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate into thin layer.
Chill for 5 minutes
Using 2 1/2" cookie cutter, firmly press cutter into chocolate and place sheet back in fridge.
10 minutes later, or whenever you are ready, pull sheet out of fridge and separate disks from sheet of chocolate.
To keep things neat, center strips of wax paper on turntable or serving platter so that they fan out in a sunburst pattern.
Place first layer of cake on top of strips.
Frost cake with butter cream as you would any layer cake. An offset spatula will help to keep the frosting even.
Top with second layer and continue frosting.
Gently pull out wax paper strips.
Press chocolate disks around the side of the cake, evenly spacing them all the way around. You will have room for 11-12 disks.