I have a slight obsession with making sure there is dessert after dinner at least once a week. Growing up, dessert after dinner was pretty much a birthday thing. If it wasn't someone's birthday, there was no dessert. That is just not how Italian households *do* dinner. I envied my friends for having American moms who would, after having the table cleared, pull out a pie, cake, or cookies. They had moms that baked. On the other hand, my friends' moms didn't know the first thing about homemade soprassata with a good loaf of crackling bread and some fresh figs, so there was the tradeoff.
Because nearly every meal in this house is made by me, dessert is usually something that can quickly be thrown together. Sometimes it is a bowl of freshly sliced peaches with a dollop of whipped cream and a crumbled gingersnap on top. Sometimes it is something gloriously rich, like chocolate mocha syrup cake, which makes its own sauce by some small chemical miracle. I have seen recipes that call something like this "pudding" cake, but the resulting product isn't pudding by any means (meaning custard. It is pudding in all sense of the British meaning, though.) The basic premise of the recipe is that you make a thick batter, pour a hot liquid on the top, bake it, and it magically becomes something altogether sinful. I will warn you that a tiny bit goes a very long way. You will also need something to cut the richness of this dessert, like a scoop of vanilla ice cream or very, very lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Chocolate Mocha Syrup Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I like the acidic bite of the regular reddish cocoa)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (half of a stick)
1 oz square unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups strong coffee (I just use whatever is left over from that morning's pot of coffee.)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375*F
In a small saucepan, or in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate. Set aside.
In a bowl, sift flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt, cocoa, and baking powder together. Add milk, vanilla, and butter/chocolate mixture, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
Combine remaining sugar and coffee in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spray a 10-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and spread the batter into the pan evenly. Slowly pour the coffee mixture over the batter - DO NOT STIR - and carefully place the pan into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Spoon servings making sure to get a bit of the syrup with every serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream (below) or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Using a mixer, beat the cream with the powdered sugar until firm peaks form.