Best Picture Baking Project: Cavalcade

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It was finally cool enough this past weekend to turn on the oven without wanting to die, so I took that opportunity to dive back in to my list of Best Pictures. Next on my list was Cavalcade, which won in 1932/33. It’s about an English family living through the first decades of the twentieth century. So I made a “Turn of the Century” Devil’s Food cake, which was the first tiered cake I’ve ever made, and I think it turned out pretty well. But first, the movie:

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. I hadn’t heard of it.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. I was explaining to my dad last night, that I chose to go through these movies alphabetically because I didn’t want to “get stuck in the ’30s,” because really old movies can be great, but they are often interesting messes. People were still trying to figure out what movies were and how they worked. This definitely falls into that category. You can tell it was a play, and the actors are stage actors trying to figure out what film acting is supposed to look like. In the case of the lead actress, Diana Wynward, you can see her learn how not to stare into middle distance throughout the film.

cavalcade-clive-brook-diana-wynyard-1933

2. This is basically the original Downton Abbey (or Upstairs, Downstairs, or Titanic, etc.). Which makes it both fun and a little predictable plot wise. It’s obviously not this movie’s fault that we know what happens to the boy who swears to his sweetheart that the war is almost over, but it does get in the way of enjoying this as a modern viewer.

3. There were a few remarkably modern touches though. Especially the treatment of Fanny, the servants’ child who makes a name for herself as a dancer/jazz singer. You think she’s going to be the tragically ruined lower class girl, but she’s actually a practical woman who can take care of herself. And she gets to sing the most Noel Coward song ever:

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

My personal Oscar would go to 42nd Street,  I see why the Academy would see Cavalcade as more ambitious at the time.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes! There are at least 5 women I can think of with names (though “Cook” shouldn’t really count I suppose.) And they often talk to each other. Many of their conversations concern men, but there’s a couple of moments between the central wife/mother character Jane and her best friend Margaret about going out an enjoying life without men around. Including trips to the zoo.

cavalcade_wwi

They also talk a lot about how much they love Queen Victoria.

Turn of the Century Minted Devil’s Food Layer Cake

Ingredients for Cake

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • a couple handfuls of semisweet chocolate chips

Ingredients for Icing 

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate broken up
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Butter 2 9 in cake pans and line them with parchment paper, also buttered and floured
  • Bring water to simmer in a sauce pan
  • Place cocoa in a small bowl
  • Gradually whisk in hot water
  • Whisk in buttermilk and peppermint
  • In another bowl mix flower and baking powder
  • Using an electric mixer [I got to use my mom’s KitchenAid which is a wonder machine] beat the butter until it is fluffy
  • Gradually add the brown sugar until it’s light
  • Add eggs, beating well after each one
  • Add dry ingredients and cocoa-buttermilk mixture in 2 batches each beating until just combined
  • Divide batter between two cake pans
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips over each pan
  • Bake until tester comes out with moist crumbs (about 20-30 min)
  • Cool cakes in pans on racks for 15 min
  • Run knife around outside of cakes to loosen
  • Turn out cakes onto racks
  • Let cakes cool completely while preparing the icing
  • Bring whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a large saucepan
  • Turn heat to low
  • Add chocolate
  • Stir until smooth and melted
  • Add peppermint extract and remove from heat
  • Let cool completely and then place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours
  • Remove icing from fridge
  • Place one cake layer on platter
  • Spread icing over bottom layer then place other tier on top
  • Spread remaining icing over top and around sides of cake
  • Garnish with mint leaves

 

 

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