Ahh Valentine’s Day. A time for love, candies, roses, movies so sappy they hurt to watch. Romantic dinners, Hallmark cards. La di da…
And of course we all know what my favorite part of this Valentine’s season is...
In Korea, we’re lucky to have not one, but two Valentine’s Days… kind of. The first, the typical February 14th edition, is the day when girls take their male partners out and buy them things and give them chocolates and whatnot. (Hmmpf) A month later, however, Koreans celebrate White Day, the day when boys reciprocate the kindness of their superawesomegirlfriends and take their girls out and spoil them with chocolates and gifts and so on. This two separate Valentine’s Days situation works well for me – as a single girl at present, I don’t have to spend anything on a guy come Monday, but as long as I have found myself a boy by March 14th, I get to reap the benefits of White Day. For free. Win win win.
But I digress. Monday is Valentine’s Day, and in honor of the holiday I decided to 1) spend some time with Kimchi, my furry little Valentine (who is significantly less furry after a certain recent haircutting snafu… I asked them to take just a little off, and they left just a little on. Don’t expect puppy pictures anytime soon…) and 2) bake a cake.
Wait just a second, you might be asking yourself. Didn’t you say back in July of last year how unlikely it would be for you to bake a cake, much less find an oven in Korea? Well dear readers, the time has come for me to admit to a six-month long blonde moment…
So my apartment came with a tiny toaster oven comparable in size to an EZ Bake oven. At most, it can potentially hold maybe two cupcakes at a time, tops. We’re talking tiny. Even worse, the temperatures on the dial start at 70 and max out at 230, meaning that to bake anything worth baking, I would need to leave it in the oven for maybe twice as long as usual, probably longer. It hardly seemed worth the effort to figure out such a tiny and strikingly inconvenient little toaster oven…
However, as I checked the weather one morning, it dawned on me that like everything else in Korea, the oven temperatures were probably just written in this Celsius thing the rest of the world uses. Whomp whomp. Intuitively it should have clicked months prior that there would be no reason for the lowest setting on any oven to be 70 degrees (or room temperature). Needless to say, I’m embarrassed for myself (and worried about the futures of these poor kids I’m supposed to be educating, dear lord!), but simultaneously thrilled to have a working, (albeit still tiny) oven at my disposal.
So back to this chocolate cake I keep digressing from. I haven’t baked a cake in months, much less one entirely from scratch, but with a complete absence of Betty Crocker and Dunkin Hines boxes in my local Emart (combined with my diet which prohibits processed foods, preservatives, and ingredients I can’t pronounce), scratch turned out to be the way to go. Still having no Internet in my apartment (thanks to my now-shaved puppy and her teething tendencies…), I decided to keep it simple and follow the recipe on the back of the box of cocoa my parents so lovingly sent me from the states months ago.
Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake
2 c. sugar
1 ¾ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c. milk
½ c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water
Although my natural- food diet is markedly accommodating of desserts, so long as they use just a few preservative free ingredients (making dark chocolate covered strawberries a veritable health-food), the very first ingredient alone made me start to shake with diabetes. I tried to think of substitutions I could make, but not having the trusty Internet to help me, I decided to do the next best thing and just make a half recipe. Whew. Same thing with the frosting…
“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting
1 stick (1/2 c. butter)
2/3 c. Cocoa
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups of powdered sugar?!?! Holy size 35 batman, it’s no wonder Americans are getting more and more obese! Even my flexible dessert-friendly diet couldn’t accommodate this one. I made a little less than half the frosting recipe, and tossed some chopped walnuts on top to trick myself into thinking I’m being healthy.
Voila! Although it is far from the most beautiful cake creation I’ve ever made, it’s my first janky Korean cake, and given my tiny oven and outright refusal to put a grand total of 5 cups of sugar into anything, I couldn’t be happier.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
- Christine –