Dauntless Chocolate Cake: The Food of DIVERGENT

There isn't a lot of mention about the food in Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT, the dystopian YA that spent 11 weeks on the NYT Bestsellers list and wound up on everyone's Best of 2011 Lists. The lack of mention of food is largely owing to Beatrice's upbringing in Abnegation where discussing food might be considered ungrateful or self-indulgent behavior in her faction.

Fortunately, we're not in Abnegation. We're all about indulging in good food here in my house.

Life in Abnegation is pretty dull and highly structured. The first family meal we see is prepared by Beatrice and her brother. It's a typical meal for Abnegation: frozen chicken and peas. (Hmm. That's a typical meal for my house, too. Maybe I am from Abnegation.)

We always pass food to the right, and no one eats until everyone is served. -- Chapter 4

Beatrice doesn't stay in Abnegation. At the Choosing Ceremony, she decides to live with the Dauntless, where life is quite different from what she's used to.

In the centre of the table is a platter of food I don't recognize: circular pieces of meat wedged between round bread slices. I pinch one between my fingers, unsure what to make of it.

Four nudges me with his elbow.

"It's beef," he says. "Put this on it." He passes me a small bowl of red sauce.

"You've never had a hamburger before?" asks Christina, her eyes wide. -- Chapter 7

Someone explains the food in Abnegation was dull. Beatrice must keep her reasons for choosing Dauntless carefully hidden, and when she is asked, she wisely remarks "It was the food." (Chapters 7 & 16) An answer that is easily accepted.

Cake is also mentioned as an indulgent, Dauntless food, but it seems to always come with a serving of regret, sadness or pain.

This, from Beatrice's mother at the end of her one and only visit with Beatrice after the Choosing Ceremony:

At the end of the hallway she turns and says, "Have a piece of cake for me, all right? The chocolate. It's delicious." She smiles a strange, twisted smile, and adds, "I love you, you know." -- Chapter15

After one of the other Dauntless initiates is brutally attacked, Beatrice and her friend Will question what it means to be Dauntless, having believed it meant being brave, only to find different definitions of bravery exist in their new faction.

Maybe we can become brave and honorable again.

"Let's go to the cafeteria," Will says, "and eat cake."

"Okay." I smile. --Chapter 16

Later, when scathing articles are written about her father, Beatrice leans on her friends:

When the first one was released, Christina charmed one of the cooks in the Dauntless kitchens, and he let us try some cake batter. --Chapter 21

After Beatrice is attacked by fellow initiates, she mentions her attackers would throw a party if she stopped breathing. Four, the boy she likes, replies:

"Well," he says, "I would only go if there was cake."

I laugh, and then wince, covering his hand to steady my rib cage. --Chapter 23

Always when cake is mentioned, there is pain.

So for Beatrice, I think we must eat cake. If you're feeling truly Dauntless, start your meal with a round patty of beef between two slices of bread and a little red sauce on the side.

DAUNTLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is a rich chocolate cake, definitely indulgent. Not for the faint of heart. (This will almost certainly blow your New Year's Diet Resolutions.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup condensed milk (Yes. Really. Oh, all right. If you don't have it, you can substitute with water.)
3 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla
Combine ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat at low speed until ingredients are combined, scraping down bowl. Beat at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl often, until batter is smooth. Pour into greased and floured 13x9" baking pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes.
Feeling Dauntless?
Once a toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out clean, sprinkle cake with 2 cups miniature marshmallows. Continue baking for 2 minutes or until marshmallows are melted.
Still feeling Dauntless?
In a saucepan combine:
1/4 cup butter
3 oz cream cheese
1 oz square of unsweetened dark chocolate
2 tablespoons condensed milk (or regular milk)
Cook over medium heat, stirring until melted (8 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat.
Stir in 3 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth.
Poor over melted marshmallows.
Sprinkle with coarsely chopped salted peanuts (or nuts of your choice. Almonds might be yummy, too. The truly Dauntless would use pralines.)
Enjoy!