My son has become obsessed with the idea of watching the movie Jaws. He assures me that he is mature enough to handle blood, guts, and whatever else comes his way and seems to be proving that point with the acquisition of extra bruises and cuts received from ordinary boyhood events like tree swinging gone wrong or miscalculating the path of a flying Frisbee made of sharp plastic (we later learned by the gash left under his eye). He is seven.
His seven is not the seven I knew so many years ago. He makes every effort to remind me of how ooold I am. No cable. No cellular. No computer. Gasp. How did the world survive, his curl-ridden head wonders? As for movies, he knows nothing else but Surround Sound, 3-D, and special effects that are so believable you swear they are an extension of ourselves (think Avatar). So not my seven.
So, he doesn’t understand me when I hesitate with Jaws. We talk about it often lately, over a piece of his favorite chocolate cake. It’s a simple cake. No glitz and glamour. No layers. No frosting. It even cracks ruthlessly on top. But inside, it is an ethereal cloud of pure chocolate, so light and fluffy and rich that you know if there is a bakery in Heaven, this is the cake they would serve. It’s the real deal. Sort of like Jaws. Or dare I sound like a curmudgeon, my seven.
I try to explain that to him, that there is something so incredibly raw in the Jaws theme music that clings to those who saw it in its heyday (it does, you know it does, you are humming it now.) That music, and the idea of what came with it, changed how many of us viewed beaches forever. How long was it before my sister took another swim? And night swims? Forget it. That has remained off limits.
We nosh on our cake and I remind my son of the beautiful beaches in Venezuela, where I grew up, and how quickly they became tainted and forbidden in our imagination by the introduction of Jaws. He looks at me confused, eating bitefuls of cake as voraciously as the beast I am trying to protect him from.
It is a mother’s desperate attempt to shield her young son from pure fear. I know he’s seen it all, Ironman and Spiderman and Batman; not the safe versions of a generation ago, but the volatile and ominous renditions exploding off the movie screens today. Still, I am banking on their obvious superheroes to keep his fears at bay. Some dude in a tight suit swinging through New York City may seem improbable even to him, but a shark at the beach, similar to the beach he goes to every Sunday, is another story altogether.
We’re onto another piece of cake and I think I’ve got this one sold. I’ve stalled his curiosity about the movie for another day. We’ve decided to give it some more thought before we proceed. Maybe it’s the cake. I seem to serve it alongside every one of our talks. But as we head outside to play he gulps the last bite of cake and offers me his characteristic curled lip, matter-of-factly announcing:
“I don’t know what the big deal is, I already have seen most of it on YouTube.” And with that, I knew, there might be a Great White on the table for discussion, but I was fighting a whole other generation of seven. Cake anyone?
Best Chocolate Cake
This cake recipe belongs to Lindsey Shere, courtesy of Birthday Cakes by Kathryn Kleinman. We have made it our family’s official chocolate cake.
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons salted butter
7 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cake flour
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper or waxed paper. Butter the paper and dust the sides and bottom of the pan with flour, shaking out excess.
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks until just blended. Beat in sugar until mixed. Whisk yolk mixture into the warm chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour until blended.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft, rounded peaks form. Fold the egg whites quickly into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate them.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until sides are set but center is soft. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. The cake will develop cracks in the top as it bakes and more will appear as it cools, but this is normal. When the cake has cooled to room temperature, you may cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil if not serving it right away. It will keep for a day or two.
To serve, unmold the cake, peel off the paper and place cake on a plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.