Tag Archives: chocolate

Beatty’s chocolate cake

Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.
~ Michael Levine

It’s been one of those weeks where things go a little crazy and your body brings something akin to OOS to the party. And all there is to do is say NO to eating toast one night, and instead roast a free range chook with lemon, herbs and potatoes till golden, crisp and juicy.

And bake a cake, even if your hands cry and tingle while you whisk on… and on… and even if you tip the cake out of the tin before it’s completely cooled and ruin its otherwise flawless bottom.

Luckily, frosting provides excellent coverage for facial imperfections of the cakey sort.

Happily, the cake has been reasonably well-received by visitors and flatmates :-) If you make it, expect a moist, easy-to-eat cake and frosting which provides an immediate sense of luxury… and don’t expect the cake to last long if you have people in your house!

    Butter for greasing the pans
    1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
    2 cups sugar
    ¾ cups good cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken
    ½ cup vegetable oil
    2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
    Chocolate frosting:
    6 ounces good semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
    ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
    Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
    Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
    Chocolate frosting:
    Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
    Modifications: I used a mixture of demerara sugar and caster sugar – and just over a cup of sugar all up (and it was sweet enough for me). Skipped the parchment paper. Substituted vanilla essence with kahlua. Made it without an electric mixer – possible, but I’d go with an electric whisk if I had one!

I’m also taking the chance to enter this for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted by the lovely Sue of Couscous & Consciousness.


If ever a routine is to claim my morning

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.
~ Faith Whittlesey

Some people have morning routines. I am not one of those people, except that I am loathe to begin any day without brushing my teeth/washing my face. But I don’t do morning runs, or yoga; I don’t stumble to the coffee pot or walk out the door at precisely 7.45 every morning.

If ever (however unlikely this “ever” is) I am to adopt a morning routine, I hope it’ll have something to do with sunrise and cooking. Honestly, cooking is one of the very few things I have ever felt wonderful waking up for at 6am. Not even catching an early bus to go to the airport makes me feel that way (and that is saying something, because I really like going to the airport to catch a plane).

This morning at 6.15, I skipped down the stairs two at a time, and headed into the kitchen. My corner of the world was still quiet and half hidden by shadows.

I baked, half feeling like I was in a trance, half feeling like dancing. Three eggs, propelled by my handheld mixer, whirled swiftly and became like custard. With a sharp knife, three peeled Bosc pears became quarters, then strips, then smooth white dice. I relaxed into the sweet, nutty scent of browned butter.

I dressed for work while my oven worked. Just after 7.40, the cake proclaimed that it was ready to pop out of the oven. I walked out the door while my kitchen waved goodbye, with the scent of chocolate, cake and the promise of a good day lingering at the doorway.

Recipe here.

P.S. I am very excited that my dear friend Tabitha arrives today!! (She has been hiding in Canada).

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but you can now find me on Facebook, if that is your sort of thing!

Wake up and smell the cookies

I love reality. I love the world. I love the smell of it. I love it.
~ Andrea Corr

Bake these soon, won’t you? Preferably in the black of night. With the brightest lights in your kitchen switched on – and no competing smells in your kitchen (i.e. well after dinner time). Eat some* till two in the morning. With company, so the blinding temptation to eat them all doesn’t engulf you and make you very ill indeed.

* Slip the remaining “some” into a container, and leave them in a safe place. Away from prying eyes, teeth and fingers.

Your oven will sing with maternal pride as the little balls of dough stretch and change and become ready for consumption. The cookies will lead you into a happy drunken stupor, as your eyelids take on the world-slicing powers of a kaleidoscope and show you tiny identical wedges of cookiecookiecookie.

Your nose may tell you it never wants to smell anything else ever again.

When at last sleep clutches at your eyelids and happy brain, you will find that you sink into a deep spell of sleep and the richest of dreams…

* And in the way the best dreams go (when you wake and wish it weren’t just a dream), you’ll find a hidden stash of cookies in the morning that smell just like the ones in your dreams. You can still dream your Sunday away.

Thanks Kath for the recipe! :-)

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!

Hello, 2012

It is bad to suppress laughter. It goes back down to your hips.
~ Author unknown

Christmas has done it again. Rushed in and tiptoed out, leaving January in place of the Christmas tree. I know it’s already the 2nd, but I still feel surprised whenever I see the date on anything. Do you feel like you’ve arrived at 2012? I feel like I can see it in the distance, but I’m still on a boat bound for it.

I’m having to tell my hand to get with the times and write “2012” in my journal entries.

January! Already!

Are you still eating Christmas treats? I am, but there is no ham, no chicken, no Christmas cake. The one I am loving the most now is this spicy jar – Grandma’s potent hand-pounded shrimp and chilli paste, flown over by plane. It’s one distinct flavour that transports me instantly to a time in my life that involved mahjong, fried shallots, playgrounds and congee. Good memories. I am glad that I only need a teaspoon or two of it for each dish, so I expect it to last me through January at least…

I also wanted to tell you about this recipe I found the other day. I know many people are now in “diet mode”, having feasted excessively over Christmas. I, however, was in cake mode right after Christmas, though I did not want something too rich. I wanted good-cake-in-a-jiffy, and I knew that might be too much to ask for, even as I searched Google…

But I found it.

I found great-cake-in-a-jiffy in this cocoa and applesauce cake. It fell out of the tin in one piece, and it was moist, beckoning, gently sweet… I liked it instantly. This cake is strong enough for you to hold a slice of it in one hand and eat it like a sandwich (without spilling crumbs!), moist enough to ooze easily past your tongue and down your throat, light enough to have two slices in one go, and definitely delicious enough to make again. Thank you, The Pastry Affair.

And now I will leave you, readers, because I need to go and buy a chicken for dinner tonight. Friends are coming over, and I want dinner*** to be palatable, pleasurable if possible. ;-)

Have a beautiful day! Bake a cake to share soon, won’t you.

    1 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 cup sugar
    3 tbsp cocoa powder
    2 tsp espresso powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp vinegar
    1/4 cup applesauce
    1 cup water
    Preheat oven to 350°F (I preheated it to 180°C). Grease a 9-inch cake pan.
    In the greased pan*, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Make 3 depressions into the flour. Place the vinegar into one depression, the vanilla extract in another, and the applesauce in the last. Pour the water over the entire mixture. Using a spatula, mix together the batter until smooth.
    Bake for 30 to 35 minutes**, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and cool completely on a cooling rack.
    [I dusted my cake with icing sugar, and served it with unsweetened yoghurt.]

    * I made the batter in a bowl before pouring it into the cake tin.

    ** Baking time may vary, depending on your oven – my cake was done in 25 minutes.

    *** [Edit] I was concentrating more on dishing up than taking pictures, but here are three photos of tonight’s dinner (thanks Jeremy for the first one!)


Banana and chocolate chip upside down cake

How did it get so late so soon?
~ Dr. Seuss

I’m dedicating tonight’s cake to my friend Kath.

She’s the girl who reminds me to keep my head on, who has a stylist’s fingers and a clever mind, who is creative and organised, who plans ahead but is open to spontaneity too. She’s strong (anyone who is close to me has to be especially so ;-)…) – on all fronts. I really respect her for the way she ‘walks her talk’ and speaks her mind, and I like it that hours whiz by delightfully whenever we hang out. This last phenomenon only happens with a precious handful of people for me, so I think of them as human gold nuggets!

Kath… is an excellent human.

And this… is a fun recipe to follow. If you run out of bananas halfway, like I did, just make an outer ring of banana slices (at step #2 in the recipe). Best to be prepared and have more bananas on hand, though, so you get to coat your cake with a pretty blanket of banana slices. If you’re lucky enough to have WAY too many bananas, why not make a few of these cakes and freeze some?

It’s the perfect cake to have around and eat with your favourite people; preferably with good yoghurt, a glass of red wine and, if you’re in the mood for music – perhaps some Brooke Waggoner?

Tonight Kath was trying to get me out of the kitchen and on to eating some cake, as usual she was the brain and I was the flyaway woman taking photos of her arty hands and the glossy cake and muttering “yes yes, I’m COMING!”…

She could be a hand model, don’t you think? I think so.

See, this ringlet of banana slices wasn’t too bad given my banana shortage today, but this cake would look pretty cool if it were ablaze with bananas, don’t you think? Please buy lots of bananas (i.e. more than five) before you make it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of this cake, it won’t hurt to put in a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon in it and substitute kahlua for the vanilla essence. Just sayin’.

I’m also submitting this entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Bron Marshall whose photos place my laptop in danger of being coated with my drool. Want to join in the Sweet NZ fun? Click here!

Walking on a cake dream

Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.
~ Audrey Hepburn

The cake aliens have arrived with one mission: to turn me into Planet Cake. Will I retaliate, escape my fate, and live to tell the tale? We shall see…

Right now, I have three kinds of cake in my kitchen – (1) fountain mini no-bake cheesecakes in the fridge, (2) Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry summer cake, and (3) Ottolenghi’s chocolate fudge cake (currently at stage two in the oven).

This is the fountain cheesecake, so named due to its consistency. I made it without a recipe, just for fun, from due-to-expire cream cheese, sour cream and cream in the fridge. I added honey and an egg to the cheese mix, poured it on an impromptu base of biscuits and melted butter, and topped it all with Hakanoa ginger syrup and a slice of green kiwifruit. Not bad taste-wise, according to my sweet flatmate, but the texture needs some work!

We’re having a bake off at work tomorrow, and from serving as Guest Judge at previous bake offs, I know I’ll be up against formidable competition. So I turned to a blog that has often inspired me – Smitten Kitchen.

I haven’t tried this cake, but I can tell you that it is a minimum-fuss, sweet-smelling cake involving pretty fruit… also, when it is a Smitten Kitchen recipe – you don’t have much to worry about :-)

I did use less sugar than what the recipe stated though. One cup looked like a bit much!

And now, chocolate fudge cake. This is a birthday gift for E, a person whom I am so grateful exists. E is truly herself, bold, bearer of truth and love… I respect her as much as I love her.

Among my favourite memories is the one where we dressed up as cows and went to a party when we were in uni… you know, even if you find a person who is willing to do this with you (and I promise you I haven’t met many such courageous folk) – not everyone makes the experience gigglingly fun.

Now she is wife to a great man and mother to a baby who actually, miraculously, awakens my mostly dormant maternal instincts… I use the word “miraculously” because most babies do not manage to do this.

This cake is a twice baked, dark chocolate cake (I used both 50% and 72% cocoa content Whittaker’s chocolate) which is decadent in every way – rich, deep, extravagant and sweet, the way E has been to me.

And of course the recipe is from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook (page 196). I made two modifications to the recipe: (1) having no light muscovado sugar, I mixed dark muscovado and caster sugar, and (2) I had to set up an impromptu bain-marie to melt the butter/choc which I should have cut into “small pieces” as listed in the recipe.

I don’t have a picture of the final cake as it’s still baking in the oven… but it will be dusted with cocoa tomorrow, and I will try to take a picture then. Just for you.

P.S. Beware of the cake aliens. They don’t like being told to go away.

In other (non-cake) news:

    NZ bloggers who are attending the inaugural NZ Food Bloggers’ Conference this weekend – I hope you have a SUPER time and wish I could join you! I’ll look forward to reading all about it.
    Auckland readers – eat well and do good this Saturday – see Garden to Table. A portion of the $ will go towards supporting programmes in NZ primary schools to teach children to grow, harvest, prepare and share food through gardening and cooking.
    “It’s more expensive but your budget is tight, you believe in supporting sustainable products but what does that ‘Go Green’ sticker actually mean?” – from ‘Greenwashing’: consumers beware. Interesting read, and one that begs more thought… does sustainability matter to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts/point of view.

Dancing in cookiedom

Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.
~ Angela Monet

If my alarm clocks had any measure of autonomy, they’d probably go on strike. I am like the Mad Hatter’s dormouse – not much gets me up when I am sleeping (actually, tea parties probably would if I were him, but anyway…). I have slept blissfully through No. 8 typhoons as a kid while our neighbours furiously applied tape to their windows and light objects escaping their owners danced, unbridled, in the mad wind outside. When I was little, only one thing never failed to wake me immediately – Grandma’s tickles, when she stayed over. They were horrendous. I have never been tickled so badly since.

Now, I wake up when I have to go to work, of course – but only one thing gets me out of bed, smiling, at any hour. That is not the unavoidable urge to go to the bathroom (though I’ve been told that it is horribly unhealthy to hold your pee, so I am working on it)…

What gets me wide awake and smiling even at 2am is this mysterious rush of excitement that whooshes through me every so often, overtaking all dreams and nightmares. Then I awake as if under a spell, and my feet take me to the kitchen while my brain tries in vain to remind me that I need sleep to function the next day.

This rush of excitement bows to no one, least of all my brain.

Last night, a wave of exhaustion hit me and I went to bed at 6pm. Thanks to daylight savings, my windows were still sunlit at this stage. I slept like a baby till 2am, when trays of crinkle cookies began to parade through my consciousness. I had never before attempted to bake crinkle cookies, nor have they been on my radar recently – so I clutched at my dreams and duvet cover, and tried hard to make the cookies go away…

In the end, I couldn’t get rid of them, so I sat up, placed my laptop on a spare pillow and started looking at recipes. Just as I found a nice-sounding one, my flatmate and her friend returned from a function, so I leaped up to say hello – and decided that since I wouldn’t wake them (they were quite awake), I’d go ahead and bake.

Especially because there were two parts to this recipe.

See, I have once met someone who told me she loves her room and sheets and clothes smelling of baking. I, for one, do not enjoy having hair, clothes and sheets that smell of baking! So I was well pleased that this cookie dough would require refrigeration prior to being baked. This meant I could potter around in the kitchen for a short time to get the crinkle cookies out of my head, then head back to bed still smelling nice.

I really enjoyed it. There’s something about cooking in the still of the night, way past bedtime – lights on, air laden with the dreams everyone on my street is dreaming. Cooking with the moon for company makes my blood rush, my feet dance, especially when I am alone. I don’t know why, but it feels magical and serene; like everything is possible. I like that very much.

This recipe was beautifully simple – melt butter and chocolate; beat eggs and sugar; measure the flour and dry ingredients – whip it all together, pop the bowl into the fridge and let it get ready for the oven while you sleep. Good things happen if you’ll wait without interfering.

I finally fell asleep again at around 5am, then woke up at 8 – and the cookie making began. I’m not one to enjoy routine, so I don’t tend to make cookies too much because I usually find the repetitive rolling and baking in batches pretty tedious. These came together fairly easily though, and I ended up with way more cookies than I bargained for. The recipe said three dozen – I ended up with around 50 little cookies (thank goodness for nice neighbours who relieved me of a few! :-))

These were like brownie-cake pebbles. They were a little chewy, quite moist, but light enough and not unbearably sweet – you may want to skip the cinnamon if you’re not a cinnamon fan (I am). Next time, I’ll try adding coffee to the mix too.

    Chocolate and cinnamon crinkle cookies
    Adapted from Joy of Baking
    ~ 56g butter
    225g dark chocolate, roughly broken (I used Whittaker’s 72% cocoa dark Ghana)
    1/2 cup caster sugar
    2 large eggs
    dribble of Kahlua or vanilla extract (I used Kahlua)
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    caster sugar, for coating
    icing or powdered sugar, sifted, for coating (I forgot to sift the sugar today – please sift yours)
    Set a saucepan of simmering water over a low flame and place a heat-proof metal bowl over it, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl, then remove from the heat and set aside.
    In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick, pale and fluffy. Yellow ribbons should fall gently from your beaters when you raise them. Beat in the Kahlua, then pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add these to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until firm (overnight if possible).
    Preheat oven to 170°C. Line two baking trays with aluminium foil or baking paper. Do not grease the foil or baking paper, or your cookies will have yellow patches (I found out the hard way).
    Place some caster sugar in a shallow dish, and some icing or powdered sugar in a separate dish. Run cold water over your hands and dry them, so your hands are cold and the dough doesn’t melt in your hands. Working quickly, shape the chilled dough into roughly 2cm balls – I just used a heaped teaspoon of dough per cookie. Roughly coat each ball of dough with caster sugar, then roll it in the icing or powdered sugar until it is completely coated and no chocolate shows through. Tap the sugar-coated ball lightly so that the excess sugar falls off. Place the balls of dough on the baking tray, leaving about 5cm apart between them.
    Bake cookies for around 10 minutes or just until the edges are slightly firm but the centres are still soft. Do not overbake, or they will lose their lovely moist chewiness. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
    Eat fresh or place in an airtight container – they should keep well for a few days. Yields at least 40 cookies.

P.S. On the dancing note… how cool is this.