Favorite Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Frosting + 5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Recipes

DSC_6408bDSC_6431b

While everyone else was grieving Tess, Ann made a chocolate cake, after all, it was her mother’s birthday.  Birthdays were celebrated in her family, Tess made sure of it, before cancer began a tug of war, taking much of Tess and leaving some.

[Crumbs left to feed those who loved her: an occasional kiss, a smile, a half-hearted laugh, maybe, on a good day, a story that made sense;  stories where time and place were accurate, not distorted by eighty-nine years of living. But, now, memories, people, places in time met as if in a bizarre dream, making sense only to Tess.  And when her children said no Mom that doesn’t sound right, no I don’t remember it that way and I think you mean…, Tess became agitated and angry as if her children were trying to rewrite her stories.  So they stopped correcting Tess, allowing her to hold onto the bits and pieces of her life as she saw them, painful, but a necessary mercy.]

Ann poured the chocolate batter into the prepared pans, moving the bowl slightly back and forth, watching the batter make ribbons and fold into itself.  Tess was still alive, god damn it.  A medical mystery! Some asshole somewhere would say, as if it were a good thing.  [Why is defying odds when the end is known and hope is absent a good thing? Breath entering and exiting Tess’ lungs, a strong heart still beating despite her mind saying I want to die.  Plastic rosary beads and a beat up bible offering nothing to her weary soul and failing mind…and yet she continues.]  Ann couldn’t understand why her mother never sought treatment, allowing cancer to eat her breast while her family watched, and cried, and grieved.  How selfish, Ann thought.

While the cakes rose in the oven, Ann cleaned the dishes.  The breeze coming through the kitchen window was warm and humid.  A drop of sweat slid down her breast dissolving into her t-shirt.  A night swim would feel so good.

Tess set two towels on the kitchen table letting Ann know it was time to put on her bathing suit.  Ann loved swimming at night with her mother, watching her float around the shallow end of the pool, making sure not to get her freshly permed hair wet.  Tess’ huge smile made Ann’s heart weak.  She loved her so it felt unbearable.  Ann knew someday the weight of their love for would crush her. Ann swam around her mother, porpoising through the dark water while Tess watched.  She turned onto her back and floated with her ears submerged, the sounds of the crickets and the bullfrogs muffled.  Ann stared at the black sky and the overcast moon.  And when Ann floated too far away from Tess, she could feel it without being told: “Don’t go so far away, old girl.” 

The memory of swimming with her mother made Ann feel sick.  If only she could do it all over again and be cared for by Tess, swallowed by her mother’s fierce love, and relinquish her newfound role as her mother’s caregiver.  But there is no starting over, one more time or do overs.

The dish soap left tiny bubble mountains on Ann’s hands.  She rinsed the soap off.  The oven timer blasted its horrible beep.  The cakes were ready, waiting for Ann to carry on.

DSC_6424b

Birthday Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Recipe barely adapted from Food and Wine’s Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients for cake:

 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

6 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions for cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Butter and flour two 8 by 1 ½ inch cake pans and line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger.  Set aside.

Grab a medium saucepan and combine the sugar with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.  Pour into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the chocolate and butter and let sit.  Stir once in a while until the butter and chocolate are melted and slightly cool.  Add the vanilla and stir.

Using a paddle attachment beat the eggs on medium speed into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.  Pour the batter evenly into each cake pan.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for about 25 minutes.  Next, invert the cakes onto the wire rack and cool completely.

While the cakes cool, make your frosting.

Ingredients for Chocolate Frosting:

1 + 1/3 cups heavy cream

1 + ½ cups sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Direction for frosting:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat.  After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Pour the liquid into a medium bowl.  Add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and salt.  Let sit until the chocolate and butter are melted.

Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice.  Using a handheld electric mixer beat the frosting on medium speed, scraping the sides and the bottom a few times, until the frosting is very thick and glossy, about 10 minutes.  (You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment.  Be sure to surround the mixer with ice packs or a bowl of ice.)  Use immediately.

Assembly Time!

Place one cake layer on a cake stand.  Using a metal spatula spread 1/3 of the frosting over the cake.  Place the second cake layer on top and frost the entire cake with the remaining frosting.  Add fresh flowers to decorate, if desired.   Store cake, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

The cake will last stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Enjoy!

5 Must Make Chocolate Cake Links

The classic chocolate cake roll was on heavy rotation in my house growing up and I loved it.  Check out Smitten Kitchen’s version of the classic recipe here.

A go-to flourless chocolate cake recipe is a must for any baker.  Head to the Tartlette blog for a flourless chocolate cake served with a butter caramel sauce.  Yes!

Overrun with zucchini?  Make Zoe Bakes chocolate zucchini bundt cake.

Need a vegan option?  Check out Food 52’s vegan chocolate cake.

My new favorite cake blog is Cake by Courtney.  Her cakes are absolutely beautiful and look delicious.  Check out her chocolate dulce de leche cake recipe when you need a special treat.

Pineapple Coconut Granola Biscotti + 5 Biscotti Links!

DSC_6183DSC_6222

Ann drove away from her childhood home knowing two things: her mother would be dead soon and her marriage was over.  The sudden clarity of her situation sucked all of the air right out of her dirty, crumb covered car.  She thought of pulling over, taking a minute, breathing but there was no time for something so self-serving.  School would be out soon.  The kids expected her, as they did every weekday after school.  She didn’t want to disappoint them.  [Disappointment would come soon enough.} So Ann drove with the window down taking in big gulps of the damp, early spring air, her fingertips turning white as she gripped the steering wheel as if gripping the wheel hard enough would somehow change the direction of her life.

Ann reached a stop sign just as the sun split the clouds.  She glanced at her dry, pale hands, spun her mother’s sixty-nine-year-old engagement ring which sat nestled underneath her own wedding band.  Every spin reminding her that Tess had been married for sixty-two years, fifty years longer than Anne’s volatile marriage to David.  She resented her mother’s successful marriage.  Tess had always been a difficult and demanding woman, putting her needs far above Ann and her father.  And yet, William adored Tess.  [William’s one indiscretion early in their marriage, followed by a mysterious tire slashing and a six-month stint at a local apartment complex changed the trajectory of his married life.  His daughter, too young to remember, would see a devoted husband. A doormat if she was being more honest.  William saw survival.]

Ann never understood her mother, nor, did she care to look closer at Tess.  And just to piss Tess off, Ann chose to be accommodating, easy-going.  She twisted herself like a noodle fitting into the crevices of others, never understanding the more she let go, the more she lost.  By the time she met David, Anne was like a patched quilt, mismatched bits and pieces, thoughts, likes, and dislikes of all she had encountered sewn together forming an unknown woman.

And now?  Anne liked what David liked.  His thoughts were her thoughts.  Ann’s every imaginable need or desire mirrored David’s.  She felt content in his image.  Until that morning she thought for the first time, Tess will be dead soon. [Relief flushed her cheeks.]  Until some hour later that morning she watched her kids nibble on the biscotti she had made the day before, their heads bowed down, barely looking at her as she gave her husband, their father, a perfunctory kiss goodbye.

[What do they see when they look at me? They saw a lost woman. 

Ann would never know this harsh truth.  A blessing and a curse.] 

Ann’s belly tightened.  She felt beads of sweat under her sagging breasts and acid in her throat.  She stared at her children and wondered if her own mother ever felt so invisible.  Did it matter if she had?  Would it have changed anything for Tess?

 “Mama?”

“Time to get dressed.”

The day would start the same, the day would end the same, and in between, Anne would make a decision.  There was no good decision or bad decision, just a choice which led to a path and all that followed.

DSC_6204

Pineapple Coconut Granola Biscotti

Makes about 36 cookies

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out

1 + 1/2 cups rolled oats plus 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup raw sugar or granulated (I used raw sugar.)

1/4 light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup dried sweetened pineapple, chopped into small pieces

zest of 1 orange

1 egg white

Directions:

Using a small bowl, mix together the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Grab a large bowl.  Add the melted butter and sugars.  Whisk well.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and whisk until well combined.   Stir in all of the dry ingredients.  The batter will be stiff.

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Put a bit of flour on your hands and on a clean countertop.  Roll half of the dough into a log about 12-14 inches long.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet.  Pat and roll log until it becomes more oval-shaped.  Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.  Beat egg white until foamy.  Using a pastry brush, cover the dough logs with the whipped egg white.  Bake until beginning to crack and turn golden brown, 20-30 minutes.  (Check at 20 minutes!  I baked the dough for closer to 30 minutes.)

Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.  Using a serrated knife gently cut the biscotti on the bias into 1/2 inch slices.  Spread out cut biscotti on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for another 20 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes after removing from the oven, then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Store biscotti in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.  Enjoy!

5 Biscotti Links To Check Out!

Celebrate a friend’s birthday this year with funfetti biscotti.  Molly Yeh from My Name is Yeh has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Looking to bake something sweet and bright to lighten up a gray spring day? Check out King Arthur Flour’s lemon almond biscotti or Vegetarian Ventures citrus biscotti with hibiscus glaze. 

Craving chocolate? Me too.  Once Upon A Chef has a recipe for a double chocolate biscotti that is making my mouth water!

If you prefer savory over sweet, check out Molly Yeh’s parmesan rosemary biscotti.  I bet it pairs well with a nice glass of white wine and a sunny, seventy-degree day.