But what kind of cake recipe are Peacock viewers really agreeing to? Is it actually delicious? Would grandma approve? It's time for an investigation.
Full disclosure: This is the first time I have ever baked a cake from scratch, and only one of my two grandmas has ever baked me a cake. (It's not too late, Nana.)
It starts out simply enough. An ingredients list. I think I have everything — but then I open my box of baker's chocolate. The recipe calls for "2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate." I have half of this package left — only one square. It's very clearly a square. Right?
Fortunately my lovely next-door neighbor Brooke lets me borrow another box of baking chocolate from her. Although it's ripped open, she insists it's brand new — her daughter had thought it was a candy bar and come dangerously close to taking a bite. I unwrap it. It's a rectangle, exactly twice the amount of my existing "square" — so two "squares," right? But it's subdivided into 16 smaller rectangles, each labeled ¼ ounce. Wait, this bar could also be eight squares? What if a "square" is not a half of a bar, but an eighth? The plot thickens.
Good thing I asked Google that question; it turns out the term "square" is an obsolete shorthand for one ounce of Baker's chocolate. I didn't need two "squares" — I needed two ounces. Which is exactly how much I had to begin with. Sorry, Brooke!
Now I'm no Columbo, but even I can tell from the outdated terminology, clearly this recipe was transcribed from a real grandma's recipe card. Probably one of the Peacock lawyers' own grandmas. Speaking of Columbo, I wonder if my own grandma liked Columbo, the TV detective show that ran on-and-off from 1971 to 2003, which as of today is streaming free on Peacock. Perhaps if she was still with us we could have watched it together today on Peacock. I could serve her some of this cake and she could tell me what a good job I did.
OK. I've confirmed I have all the ingredients. I grease and flour my springform pan with the help of YouTube. Then I "cream" the butter with the help of YouTube. Hey, why doesn't Peacock have any videos with cake tips? Despite Peacock's thousands of hours of content, a search for "cake" comes up blank!
Soon, the recipe instructs me to "pour boiling water over cut up chocolate." Cut up chocolate? Before this point, did the recipe ever mention cutting up the chocolate? Of course not. So I cut up the chocolate into various shapes — not squares.
I drown the chocolate fragments in boiling water, wait until they melt, then strain the chocolatey water from the watery chocolate.
After some "adding," "mixing," and "folding," I'm left with a chunky mess. This is not ready to be a cake.
Where did I go wrong? I retrace the last few steps — aha, Grandma's stream-of-consciousness instructions had come out of order, with a later step hidden inside an earlier one: "Drain excess water into a cup to be added later alternately with flour." By the time "later" arrived, I had forgotten I was supposed to add flour and chocolatey water "alternately."
Too late to fix that now. So I stir the batter until it goes from gross-chunky to tolerably-chunky. The batter does seem thin, but Grandma anticipates my thoughts: "Batter will seem thin, but do not add flour." I do not add flour.
Finally, bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Perhaps enough time for a 37-minute episode of Days of our Lives — a coincidence? That was my Grandma's favorite soap. Only the past 100 episodes are streaming on Peacock, which is a little miserly if you ask me. What happened to the other 13,792 episodes? For many years, she'd watch it every day while sewing, but eventually stopped when it got too raunchy for her taste. After that, her TV diet was mostly limited to local news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy! — none of which are streaming on Peacock.
At 32 minutes, my cake passes the toothpick test. Done!
The kids converge. "What about the frosting?" they complain. I explain that if Peacock's lawyer's grandma had intended this cake to be frosted, she would have included frosting instructions. Her confidence gives me confidence.
Peacock's lawyer's grandma's recipe doesn't mention how long to let it cool before serving; we last about 15 minutes because we want to eat cake. I slip the sides of the springform pan off, but struggle to separate the bottom of the cake. I flip it over and sloppily scrape it free. Only now do I realize I assembled the springform pan upside down, a rookie mistake that apparently turns a "nonstick" pan into a "stick" pan. But that's not anybody's grandma's fault.
I flip the cake back over to conceal the unappetizing, ramshackle bottom — much like Peacock hid their cake recipe. My knife doesn't slice so much as pulverize. I realize I probably should have let it cool longer. My grandma was more patient than me.
Yet despite the poor presentation, the inside is quite appetizing — moist, spongey, aromatic, and glistening with a subtle reddish tinge.
My kids give rave reviews. "Chocolatier than most chocolate cake." "Spongey and yummy." "Cakey." "Crumbly but not dry."
"But," I ask, "is it like the chocolate cake your grandmas make?"
"Our grandmas don't make cakes. They get them from Costco."
My first bite is pure joy. Simple. Chocolate. Cake. I forget all about the fact that I am baking a legal document from the world's second-largest media conglomerate. This is a gift, from an anonymous but real grandma directly to my family.
I make it a point to eat as slowly as possible. Whenever my grandma would serve dessert, she would challenge everyone to a reverse-race to see who could eat it the slowest. The slower you eat, the longer it lasts, she would always say. As a child of the Depression, she had adapted potent savoring skills. She always won those races.
Unexpectedly, the cake recipe in Peacock's terms of service is legitimately delicious. Beware, however, that the instructions may be occasionally difficult to follow. If you're a novice like me, make sure to Google any technique you're not sure about, remember that "square" means "ounce," and, above all, melt your chocolate completely. If you leave any chunks unmixed, you're in for an occasional bitter surprise.
With care and a little luck, you'll truly end up with the platonic ideal of chocolate cake: chocolatey, moist, and decadent, with a perfect balance of density and sponginess.