Today is February 29th. Leap Day. And on this intercalary day (I looked that up), tradition dictates that it is perfectly acceptable, nay, recommended that women do the proposing to men. Of course, they (the men) have to say yes, or else. Seriously, refusal is not a viable option. To do so would bring hellfire, damnation and plagues of back luck raining down on your head. Ok, maybe folklore says you’d have to pay me gloves (12 pair) if you refuse, necessary to hide the fact that the bling is conspicuously absent from a certain finger. But since I have plenty of gloves already and believe every ancient tradition could use a little sprucing up, nasty apocalyptic repercussions for rejection it is. Now George, you wouldn’t want that to happen, would you? Think of the ramifications! No more fancy house on Lake Como. No more pick of ‘serious’ pictures, or making a boatload on the fluff so you can make the ‘serious’ pictures. Do you think James Lipton will want to ask you that questionnaire made famous by Bernard Pivot on Bouillon de Culture??? (Liptonesque affectation implied.) Nuh uh. He won’t give a crap about your favorite curse word. You’ll be lucky to get work in a commercial, in this country…on CABLE! And no more really tall slinky-dressed teenagers as arm candy (ok, so she’s what, 32?? A child!) They’ll be running off to make Ryan Gosling look short in a heartbeat.
I want to save you from all of that. So I think it’s best you say yes to me. I’m really quite a catch when you come down to what’s important. I know how to cook and bake, and I’m not too shabby at either. I clean up pretty well too (with ample time and appropriately affixed spackle, paint, spray and Spanx), have manners (when I need them), and am generally pleasant and amusing company. Prefer a partner in snarky comments or cursing like a sailor? Hell, I’m your gal! You should just see me at an Oscar broadcast (you were robbed) or Yankee game. I’d be more than happy to let you take the spotlight (well,mostly), and get your references to popular culture before the inception of the ‘E’ Network, reality TV and the Internet. (I even know who the Cowsills are….betcha can’t say that about wrestler-girl, huh?) Plus there are other benefits I can bestow, willingly, trust me on this… If nothing else, I promise to always have your back, wear 3-inch heels or less when walking a red carpet with you, and always keep you well fed, well-loved and laughing. So what do you say George? Isn’t it time to play with someone your own age?
The menu you serve prior to asking such an important question is up to you. That could mean going out, buying all the ingredients for an elegant feast, or ordering in pizza with your intended’s favorite toppings. What’s important is what you serve as you ask. It has to be something that would make them so rapturous, so enamored, so out of their head with pleasure that they would have no choice but to say yes…YES…YES!! After all, you may as well hedge your bet, right? These Woo Cakes (truffle-filled chocolate whoopee pies) could just seal the deal. And if it all goes to pot and they say no? Well then, at least someone is getting a little whoopee at the end of the evening, and your hands will never be cold again.
These are basically a version of a whoopee pie, but instead of a butter cream filling, there’s dense, melt in your mouth caramel truffle with a hint of sea salt. If you wanted, you could make the cake part from scratch with your favorite chocolate cake recipe. Me? I have better things to do if I’m going to be ready for the event, (mani/pedi, maybe a waxing, and definitely shopping for the right pair of proposal heels.) So I use my favorite fudgy chocolate cake box mix and save a step. The real star of the show is the caramel truffle ganache filling anyway.
This recipe makes about a dozen 3” cakes, more if you want smaller ones. You are in charge of the amount of woo you need to close the deal.
For the cakes:
- 1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix. I like to doctor up a box mix a little with the following additions:
- ¼ tsp cayenne, chipotle or your favorite chili powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp instant espresso powder
- Optional: a can of pumpkin (not pie filling, just pureed pumpkin–tell you why in a minute)
For the truffle ganache filling:
- 1 3.5 ounce bar of dark chocolate
- 1.25 ounces sugar (approximately half of a 1/3 cup measure)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- ¼ tsp flakey sea salt (I prefer fleur du sel or Malden sea salt)
- 1 TBSP water
Preheat oven to 350ºF and line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Prepare the cake batter according to the package directions, adding in the chili, cinnamon, espresso powder and vanilla.
OPTION: If you’d like to reduce the calories a little and pretend you are making something healthy, forget the oil, egg and water the box recommends and add in one whole can of pureed pumpkin into the adulterated box mix. It makes a stiffer dough that won’t spread as much so you’ll have rounder cakes, but it’s a neat trick and you’ll never taste the pumpkin!
Drop the batter by 2 TBSP portions (for 3-inch cakes) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Try to make them as even a circle as possible, since they get paired up in the finished woo cakes. You’ll need 24 for 12 finished cakes. Bake 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cakes to cooling rack, and cool completely.
Prepare the ganache:
Melt the chocolate either over a double boiler or in the microwave at 30-second intervals until smooth. Set aside while you make the caramel. *
*[A note about making caramel: A lot of cooks are spooked by the prospect of this, but be brave and patient. And never leave the sugar unattended while you are boiling it. Whenever I’m playing with molten sugar, I keep a small bowl of ice water right next to the stove. That way if some lava does happen to get on me, I can immediately plunge that part into the icy bath. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to yet, but it does make me feel better to know it’s there. Also, caramel is, well, caramel colored. Really nice rich amber is what you are going for. Patience and a little courage get you there. And if you let it go too far and burn it? It’s just sugar, so try again. You’ll get the hang of it.]
Combine sugar and 1-tablespoon water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals that form. When the sugar is completely dissolved, increase heat and boil until syrup is a deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally (don’t stir it). Take off heat and carefully add cream (mixture will bubble violently). Put back over very low heat and stir with a whisk until caramel is smooth. Add caramel and 1/4-teaspoon sea salt into melted chocolate. Mix until smooth. Let ganache sit 10-15 minutes on the counter until it firms up just a bit.
To assemble the woo cakes you need:
- the cakes
- truffle ganache
- some flakey sea salt
Take one of the cooled cakes and put a little more than a teaspoon of the truffle filling on the flat side (you are building a sandwich with the flat sides together). Top with another cake, flat side down and press together gently so the filling spreads to fill the inside. Place on a tray to set. Repeat with all of the other cakes. Take about ½ tsp of the remaining filling and put a dollop on top of each cake. Carefully sprinkle a few flakes of the sea salt on top.
Chill the finished cakes in the fridge until the ganache has firmed up. You can store them in an airtight container in the fridge, but let them sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature before serving. Calories: if they say yes, you’ll work it off later. If not, you don’t really want to know anyway…