Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake + 5 Must Read 2020 Baking Books

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Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

 

Anne looked for Tess in the everyday.  At first, it was the strong breeze at Tess’ funeral on an otherwise calm day.  How beautiful the cherry blossoms rained on them.  The grievers, the grief-stricken, the heart-broken, the lost.  Cherry blossoms floating, flying through the air, landing on their jackets, settling in their hair.

Are you the tenacious breeze Tess?  You made yourself known again.  It was a beautiful display of your all-encompassing presence. Bursts of lightning and hail at Red Rocks while Grace and Anne watched the Avett Brothers sing holding out hope the storm would pass.  And then it did pass.  You pushed out the weather and revealed the stars.  We sang and danced.

Months later an enormous dragonfly landed on Anne’s mailbox, her tiny head facing the house as if ignoring the world. She refused to leave.  Anne poked at it. Nothing but a slight movement in the wing.

What’s wrong with it, Mama? 

I’m not sure.  How do you explain a living thing desiring to stay when it knows it would be best to leave?  You don’t.  Some things are unexplainable.

Fall came and so did the dead bird.  The bird lay on the stone steps outside of Anne’s house, wings to the ground, its underbelly exposed to the sky, bright white, her tail feathers ombre shades of pale blue.  A single leaf-covered her head as if she were part of a crime scene.  Anne stared at it for a few seconds before the kids came out of the house, backpacks in hand ready to go to school.

Mama, what happened?

Gross!

Can we have a funeral for it? 

Not now.  Get in the car. We are late.  

Later that day they did have a funeral for the bird.  Not really.  The kids lost interest and just wanted Anne to get rid of it.  Except for her older son.  He handed Anne the shovel after a failed attempt at digging a hole into the semi-frozen ground.  Anne forced the shovel through the frosted ground, raising the handle above her head and coming down as hard as she could breaking through the ground.  Over and over again.  Anne’s heart pumped hard.  She could feel it.  Tears welled but never spilled over.  Anne gently placed the bird in the ground and covered her with the earth.

I’m glad we planted her there, Mama.  He walked into the house and closed the door.  If only we could plant the things we love and loose and eventually they come back in the spring blooming once again.

The last visitor was a ladybug.  She landed on Anne’s hand at some point without Anne noticing.  It wasn’t until Anne lifted the toilet brush out of the now clean toilet that Anne spotted her.  How strange.  Anne walked down the creaky old stairs.  The ladybug was still sitting on her hand.  She opened the front door and blew as if blowing out birthday candles.  She flew away.

Did you make a wish?

I forgot.

Anne didn’t forget.  She wished for peace.  Not world peace.  That won’t happen.  But peace in her crippled heart.  Peace in the heart she felt beating, once again, after a long silence, when she buried the bird.

 

Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cake

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Simple Cakes by Odette Williams

Ingredients:

1 + ½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon espresso powder

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 + 1/3 cups of sugar

¾ cup of mild extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of whole milk

½ cup of buttermilk

¼ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon of orange zest

Ingredients for glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar,

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons of boiling water,

½ teaspoon of vanilla

Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Butter, flour, and line with parchment paper 1 8×3 inch cake pan.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until very pale, about 3-5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Next, add the oil, buttermilk, milk, orange juice, zest.  Beat on low speed until frothy, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until the cake springs back when touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.  While the cake is cooling, make the vanilla glaze.

 

Directions for the glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium-size bowl.  Add the softened butter.  Pour boiling water over butter.  Whisk until the butter melts and the sugar and water come together to make a glaze.  Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Assembly:

Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, spreading gently with an offset spatula if necessary.  Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles if desired.  The cake can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

5 Baking Books to Check Out in 2020

Midwest Made by Shauna Sever is on all the lists right now.  Her recipes come straight from the heart of America.  You can get your copy here.

Weeknight Baking by Michelle Lopez, the author of the blog Hummingbird High, is a must-read for any home baker with easy and delicious recipes, as well as, suggestions for riffs to make it your own.

Looking to try something new this year or up your pastry skills?  Check out Pastry School by Le Cordon Bleu.  This baking book is a step by step baking guide for beginners, as well as, professionals.  Check it out!

Joanne Chang is by far one of my favorite bakers.  Her latest book Pastry Love is on my must-purchase list.

New to baking?  Buy a copy of Beginner’s Baking Bible by Heather Perine you will become an expert in no time…or at least more capable in the world of butter, flour, and sugar.

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

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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.

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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.

Chocolate Cake Pan Cake + 5 Lovely Cake Links for Mother’s Day

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I think of her most often when the lilac bushes bloom in May.  I inhale their sweet floral scent deeply and see her as she was: short, dark curly hair framing her square face, beautiful brown eyes shining below thick eyebrows; strong hips sitting wide, above long skinny legs.  Her easy smile.

I kneel on the damp ground, searching for a four-leaf clover while blades of grass, small stones and drying mud stamp petrified impressions on my bony knees.  Looking haphazardly for luck, searching, minute after minute, for a clover windfall.  She walks by, the white rubber soles of her navy Keds grass-stained, her khaki chino shorts a bit stained with the morning’s bacon grease spatters and long tan arms brushing past her hips as she moves towards the grape vines and lilac bushes.  She pops a grape into her mouth, smiles. She pulls a pair of shears out of her back pocket and cuts a few clusters of lilacs, gathering them in her tanned, slightly wrinkled hands.  I love her absolutely, as only a child is able to love.  She is the great love of my life.

“What are you looking for, Kel?”

“A lucky clover.”

“You won’t find any luck around here.”  She says with a quick laugh and a half hearted smile.  [Decades later I will understand the multiple meanings of that one powerful sentence.]

Thirty years later, hip to hip, we inch across the driveway to my father’s car.  I carefully hold her twiggy arms.  Veins, tendons, bones now evident underneath her bruised paper-thin skin.  The weight of her body leaning against mine is barely felt.

[Time passes.  Time is an unsparing critic.]  

I want a chocolate cake for my birthday,” she says out of the blue.  I kiss her on the cheek and breathe in her powdery scent, hoping some of her smell will latch onto my shirt.  

“Ok, I’ll make you a chocolate cake.” I say as I ease her into the passenger seat pulling the seat belt across her concave chest, buckling her in like I do with own my children.  She smiles, turns away from me and stares straight ahead through the bug splattered windshield.  I know she is moving away from me, letting go.  She knows I understand this.  And yet, come August, with some luck, I’ll make her a chocolate cake.

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Chocolate Cake Pan Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting

cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake Pan Cake

whipped ganache recipe barely adapted from allrecipes.com

serves 8-10

Cake Ingredients:

1 + 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 cup vanilla sugar

1/4 unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk ( I used 2%)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8 inch square pan and set aside.  (You may also use a 9 inch round pan.)

Place dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk together.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla extract, vinegar, oil and milk.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  Pour the  batter into your prepared pan.

Bake the cake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs.  Begin checking the cake around 22 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan sitting on a wire rack.

While the cake cools make the whipped chocolate ganache frosting.

Fluffy Whipped Ganache Ingredients:

9 ounces of semisweet  chocolate, chopped or use chips

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon dark rum

Directions:

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.  Heat the heavy cream in a sauce over medium heat until it just begins to boil.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the rum and whisk until completely smooth and shiny.  Cool the ganache until thick.  (I let it sit on our counter at room temperature for a couple of hours.)  Once cool whip the ganache using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment until very light and fluffy.  Spread evenly over cake.  Slice the cake and serve with a cold glass of milk.  Enjoy!  (Cake will last up to two days stored in air-tight container at room temperature.)

5 Lovely Cake Links for Mother’s Day

Treat your crazy mom to a crazy cake: strawberry pazzo cake with herbed creme fraiche. Pazzo means crazy in Italian which describes this cake well; balsamic vinegar drizzled over a sweet strawberry cake.  I’m intrigued!

Speaking of strawberries, check out my recipe for a cold oven strawberry pound cake mom is sure to love.  Or head to My Name Is Yeh for Molly’s cardamom vanilla cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting.  I’m drooling.

Looking for a simple yet delicious cake recipe?  Head to Food 52 for their olive oil cake recipe.

Don’t feel like baking? Check out Baker’s Royale lemon ice box cake.  Yum!

Chocolate-Rye Crumb Cake + 5 Chocolate Desserts to Get You Through Winter!

 

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I flagged this recipe from Bon Appétit a couple of months ago, placed the magazine on top of a collection of sloppily organized cookbooks and walked away.

I’ll make it next week…

Weeks passed, more snow fell, kids got sick, training runs got longer and more depleting, I avoided my cookbooks and magazines.  I made easy comfort food and desserts.  My cooking self hibernated, hunkered down, got through…winter.  It wasn’t until last week I felt motivated to make something new.  Maybe the sudden sound of songbirds in the early morning, or the longer days woke me up.  I can’t say.  Maybe spilling the red bowl of Kosher salt that sits next to stove near the cookbooks was the catalyst for cooking something new.  The spill did force me to clear the entire counter, wipe it down and then sort of organize my cookbooks and magazines.  So forget the songbirds or the longer days.  My clumsy self set off a series of events that forced my withdrawn self to wake up.  Or least make this long forgotten recipe: chocolate-rye crumb cake.

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I have never baked with rye flour.  As I folded the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, the dough became quite sticky and dense.  I thought about throwing it out, but I carried on, spread the batter into my prepared pan and sprinkled the top with the cacao nib crumble.  55 minutes later the cake was ready.  I let it cool and went about my day.  (This is not normal behavior, I know.  Fresh chocolate cake sitting on the counter begs for a knife and fork, and a plate is optional.)  I guess I assumed the cake would taste like cardboard, despite containing plenty of butter and sugar.

I should never assume anything again.  One bite and I was hooked.  Moist and tender with a mellow rye flavor, this chocolate crumb cake is one I will make for years to come.  The chocolate flavor is robust and overpowers the rye flour, but that doesn’t bother me.  The crumble, similar to chocolate cookie crunches, but not nearly as processed, is the highlight of the cake.  The cacao nibs add a pure chocolate element to the cocoa powder.  Then all of that antioxidant wholesomeness pairs perfectly with butter and sugar.  Can it get any better?  I doubt it.  Enjoy!

Chocolate-Rye Crumb Cake

serves 8

barely adapted from Bon Appétit January 2015

Ingredients:

For the crumble:

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4 rye flour

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

For Cake:

Non-stick spray

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 cup rye flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

heaping 1/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

Directions:

Make your crumble.  Whisk together sugar, flours, cacao nibs, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined.  Using your fingers work the cold butter into the dry ingredients until large clumps form.  The crumble should resemble wet sand and there should be no dry spots.  Keep chilled until ready to use.  (Crumble can be made 2 days in advance.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Spray a 8×2 inch round cake pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat butter, sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy or about 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowls and add your eggs  and vanilla.  Mix for another 2 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk.  Mix well.  Add other half of dry ingredients followed by the yogurt.  The batter will seem stiff and sticky. That’s ok!

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread crumble over.  Bake for 55-60 minutes.  The middle should spring back when touched lightly.  Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack before removing.  Serve at room temperature alone or with whipped cream or ice cream.  (Cake can be made a couple of days ahead. Store well wrapped at room temperature.)

5 Chocolate Desserts To Get You Through Winter

St. Patty’s Day is next week so why not celebrate with stout cupcakes with chocolate covered pretzels or triple chocolate Guinness cookies.  Beer and chocolate almost always taste good together!

I have a tub of mascarpone sitting in my fridge and now I have a plan: chocolate mascarpone cake with berries.

Raspberry season is coming.  If you see some raspberries at the grocery store, buy them and make double chocolate raspberry brownies. Go ahead, treat yourself!

My brownie pie will help soothe your winter blues, I promise.