Back when the leaves were still changing in 2007, I went to Washington D.C. to visit a bit of French turf on American soil and eat turkey with a friend. I was in need of a visa.
After l’ambassade m’a accordé mon visa, I spent the beautifully blue afternoon wandering around Georgetown.
Curiosity led me through the Georgetown campus, and I happened upon a famous stairwell.
At the time, I didn’t know the context of the stairs within the film, but I recognized The Exorcist as something I had been meaning to see at some point.
The moment came a couple of years later on Easter day. I had long since shed my Easter Sunday church traditions, but as it was still a holiday, the day called for some semblance of a celebration. The celebration my friends and I decided upon was one that possibly tested the spiritual world. The plan: dinner, one of my signature desserts and a movie, the movie selection being The Exorcist.
The concept for the dessert was clear in my mind: a batter battle of good versus evil, Angel’s Food Cake versus Devil’s Food Cake.
I had been awake since 4am on Easter, since I had worked at the bakery that morning. The uneasiness of the film wasn’t enough to combat my fatigue, and I found my head nodding as Regan MacNeil’s head was spinning. As the credits rolled, my conclusion was, “yeah, sort of scary but not that bad. I’m not too creeped out to walk home in the dark.” I had the wherewithal to borrow the film, knowing how powerful my sleepiness can be in causing me to unknowingly miss huge chunks of a movie and maintain the illusion I have seen enough to get the gist.
My first attempt at a wide-awake viewing failed. It was nighttime, and I was watching it alone. How had I missed how powerfully creepy and yet rooted in reality the film had been! My imagination ran wild! I waited for the false comfort of daylight and watched the full film the following afternoon.
I hadn’t thought my batter battle was anything more than a quirky word play until I watched a special on the supposed consequences of films that played with evil. The Exorcist was among the examples. A web search revealed (admittedly, this is a lot internet speculation) these examples…
The Assistant Director of the film, Terrance Donnelly, has also made claims pertaining to strange events surrounding The Exorcist film. Donnelly reports that in his 32 years of film making, he never once experienced a set catching on fire; actress Ellen Burstyn concurs with Donnelly, explaining that the set caught on fire when no one was at the location at the time (“The Curse of the Exorcist”). The first set of the MacNeil home actually burned down in an unexplained accident and had to be rebuilt. The film’s director then requested that Reverend Thomas Bermingham conduct an exorcism to relieve the anxiety of the cast and crew: the exorcism was refused; instead the Reverend performed a blessing for the cast and crew.
Ellen Burstyn, who played the role of Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mother, was injured on the set during filming. In the scene where she is checking on her daughter and later thrown away from the bed, she received a permanent injury to her spine: the harness that was used to shoot the scene pulled her away quickly and when she landed, Burstyn landed on her coccyx (“Exorcist Trivia”). The scream seen immediately following the moment when Regan’s mother is tossed away from the bed is a very real scream, produced by the agonizing pain the actress experienced (“Exorcist Trivia”).
Well evil didn’t find us through the slices of cake, so disaster narrowly averted I suppose. Should you want to tempt the fates yourself…
The Batter Battle Recipe
Devil’s Food Cake
5 tablespoons organic unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup organic pure cane sugar
¼ cup honey
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
¼ cup strong coffee
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
For the ganache frosting
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
Whisk together the cocoa powder, cake flour and salt in a bowl.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
Mix together the coffee and milk.
Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk.
Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
Angel’s Food Cake
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
¼ cup organic pure cane sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 Tablespoons organic strawberry preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift the cake flour and salt together; set aside.
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Once foamy, add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until the egg whites start to form soft peaks.
When they have formed soft peaks, fold in the vanilla extract, lemon extract and almond extract.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg white mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, until well blended.
Pour the devil’s food cake batter into a greased pan
Swirl the strawberry preserves and the angel food cake batter.
Pour and swirl the angel’s food batter into the devil’s food batter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350˚
PS: The baked cake revealed a clear victor; the chocolate had conquered the cake. Significance?