Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Classic. If you ask most people what their favorite cake is, they will answer, “Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.” It’s the cake of our fondest nostalgic imaginings, bringing to mind the best birthdays of childhood.
Not my birthdays, though. I was a child of the 70’s with [...]
his is the easiest, most foolproof chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made … And because every cake deserves to be tarted up with frosting, I made this intensely flavored roasted pistachio buttercream frosting. The color is real, not artificial, from eight ounces of pistachio nuts. The frosting is very soft and fluffy at room temperature, but firms up nicely in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly, depending on how firm you like your frosting. [...]
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you may have gathered that when it comes to Christmas food, I’m a traditionalist. We’ve had the same meal for Christmas dinner every year of my life (even the year I spent Christmas in Florence, Italy), and the same meal for Christmas morning breakfast every year but one (hard to find turkey gravy in Italy). My Christmas baking tends towards either classic Americana, like ;Sugar Cookies or Bourbon Balls, or classic English Christmas, in the form of Christmas Cake or Mince Pies. And I feel very strongly about the necessity of waking up on Sunday morning and baking Christmas cookies, still in your pajamas. But sometimes I encounter a newfangled holiday treat that’s so tempting (or addictive) that it becomes a new holiday tradition. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you may have realized that I have a deep and abiding love for Trader Joe’s, and never more than at holiday time, when the crack, er, Candy Cane JoJo’s are available. If you’ve never had a Candy Cane Jo Jo, it’s basically an oreo with crushed up candy canes in the filling. Sounds basic, right? But the sum is so much more than it’s parts. The bits of candy cane stay crunchy in an entirely different way than the cookies stay crunchy. And the whole thing just begs to be dipped in a glass of milk and eaten. In vast quantities. [...]
Ken and I have been together more than eleven years, and married for almost seven. Although on occasion he still makes my breath quicken and my heart go pitterpat, I think the real boon of a long love is that warm glow of contentment that comes from security. I know what to expect, whether its pizza and TiVo every Friday night, coffee in bed every morning (milk and a teaspoon of sugar, unless either one of us is sick, in which case we have tea), or the fact that neither one of us wants to empty the dishwasher. There is a comfort in routine that does not disappoint or catch you off your guard. And yet familiar does not mean boring. There’s a reason I chose this man to marry — I find him perennially interesting (except for maybe the in depth discussions of cars or macroeconomics — sorry, honey) and completely unique and I always want more. I love him because I know him, but I always feel like there’s more to know.
And that is why, on this Valentine’s Day, I’ll make him these warm chocolate rosemary puddings. Sure, chocolate on Valentine’s Day is something to be expected, but there are a reason cliche’s become cliches. And this cliche is utterly worthwhile. It looks simple and straightforward — almost like a brownie – but pierce the outer layer and you get depths of warm, flowing chocolate richness. The rosemary (which is optional, by the way) adds another layer to the flavor. As wonderful as chocolate can be, it’s so familiar that on its own it can seem one dimensional. These puddings have an extra little frisson, a haunting flavor and fragrance that you can’t quite put your finger one. This is a dessert you want to get to know better. It has hidden depths. [...]
It’s time for the Daring Bakers again, and while this month’s challenge presented its own obstacles, It had the advantage over last month’s challenge for me by 1) Taking only a reasonable amount of time, 2) Not leaving my entire house covered in royal icing and 3) resulting in something that I would actually like to eat. Wait, maybe that last one isn’t such a good thing. My thighs aren’t thanking me for these suckers. (Fortunately, my husband’s colleagues are — thank goodness for willing recipients of sugary treats).
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.
If you’ve never heard of Nanaimo bars, they’re as fun to eat as they are to say (they’re pronounced nuh NIE mo). A local specialty invented in Nanaimo, British Columbia (Lauren chose them in honor of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver), they are relatively easy to assemble (if you don’t make your own graham crackers). The bottom is a rich crumb crust flavored with cocoa, coconut and nuts, topped with a sweet icing layer and finally a chocolate ganache. To spice things up, and because I had some hazelnuts I wanted to use, I elected to make chocolate hazelnut nanaimo bars, using toasted hazelnuts in the bottom layer and making a nutella flavored icing for the middle layer. They were incredibly rich, incredibly sweet, and a little addictive. [...]
I don’t know what it says about the general depravity of my childhood that when I think back to my favorite Christmas cookie growing up, it has to be bourbon balls. My grandmother used to make them every Christmas, and I’d look forward to them with eager anticipation. One year she decided to stop making them, (holiday cookies aren’t really my grandmother’s thing) and I attempted them myself (with my mom’s supervision — my childhood wasn’t THAT depraved) but sadly the proportions of the recipe were off, and they failed miserably, so I went bourbon ball-less. Until about 7 years ago, when I discovered this recipe. I’ve made bourbon balls every December since. [...]
If you like to bake, as I do, and you like to eat, as I also do, you often get asked “What is your favorite dessert?” I rarely have an answer. Sometimes I feel like the cool creaminess of ice cream, and I’m more in a bread pudding mode. Sometimes the simple nostalgia of a chocolate chip cookie will do it for me, and other times I want something more elaborate, like a macaron. Asking a baker to name her favorite dessert is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. I’m not sure it can be done.
However, I’ve always had a soft spot for gingerbread — there’s something so wholesome and old-fashioned about it. The very notion of gingerbread evokes images of Little Women or Mary Poppins, and baking it fills the kitchen with mouthwatering aromas. Although I think gingerbread is excellent year round, there’s something about the holiday season that makes it especially appropriate. On the other hand, gingerbread is not what one would generally think of when contemplating a sinful, sticky, sweet and satisfying dessert. For that, you really need chocolate. But to combine the alluring dark sweetness of chocolate cake with the warmth and spice of gingerbread is to find dessert nirvana.
If this looks good to you, but you want to try it before making it yourself and you’re in the Los Angeles area, please consider stopping by the Eat My Blog Charity Bake Sale tomorrow, Saturday December 5, from 10-4, outside Zeke’s Barbecue on Santa Monica and La Brea in West Hollywood. I and several other Los Angeles area food bloggers are baking a whole litany of scrumptious goodies to sell — bacon maple fudge, caramel fleur de sel macarons, pumpkin swirl brownies — and this chocolate gingerbread will be my featured contribution. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, so you’re feeding more than one hungry person with your purchase. [...]
My darling daughter very recently turned two. The Nuni is growing up — getting more independent, more vocal, more affectionate, more skilled. She chatters and tumbles and climbs her way through life. The Nuni was quite pleased to have a birthday, especially one that involved bubbles and balloons and cake, and has been known to sing a rousing chorus of “HAPU CAKEY NUNI!” six or seven times a day. I, on the other hand, now have to live with a two year old, which means that my life is now full of more drama than the Real Housewives of New York. Either a tutu is too short or a spoon is too shiny or I am not promptly answering some silent or intelligible command and then you better WATCH OUT. On the other hand, there are kisses and pretend play (“I cooking Mommy!” being my favorite, natch) and a constant source of entertainment. So it all balances out, I suppose. But I digress. Birthdays are the name of the game, and if you are me, that means birthday cake, and homemade birthday cake at that. I asked the Nuni several times before her birthday party what kind of cake she would like — Strawberry cake? (She loves strawberries) Orange cake? (My personal favorite) Gateau d’Opera? Being two, she would only answer me with the cryptic “Green Cake”. Now I could have taken this in any one of a number of directions — all organic, local and sustainable ingredients? Chock full of spinach and zucchini? But I decided to treat this as simply a color request. I thought I’d stay simple, not only for my general sanity this year but also because I hope to establish a precedent of a rather basic cake that would become the standard, de rigeur birthday cake. (I shudder to think what I put my own mother through. My standard request throughout my childhood was something I called “purgatory cake” – angels food on top, devil’s food on the bottom, with a chocolate mousse filling and seven minute frosting. Can you imagine the number of bowls?)
I decided on chocolate cake, because, well, it’s chocolate cake, and no further explanation should be necessary. I scoured my cookbook library, websites and back issues of cooking magazines to find the perfect chocolate cake recipe, and I think this may just be it. It’s moist but structured enough to stand up to layering and frosting, chocolatey without being bitter or too intense, and relatively simple to mix (although it does take two bowls). It would take to a good chocolate frosting, but to accede to my daughter’s request for a “geen” cake, I went with a white frosting and green food coloring — cream cheese frosting because I like it better than buttercream, and white chocolate for richness and pizzazz. Finally, I dug out my old cake decorating chops and decorated it with chocolate plastic, in no small part because I can’t pipe frosting to save my life. Click here for the rest of the story and the recipes. [...]
I am woefully behind in posting my Daring Baker’s challenge this month, and I am woefully behind in doing it as well. But this weekend I finally screwed my courage to the sticking point and set to work. The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. If you haven’t picked up on it, these are both recipes for popular commercial cookies – Mallomars and Milanos. While I do love a good Mallomar, and they are nearly impossible to find in California, I have always had a soft spot for the Pepperidge Farm Milanos, and decided to try my hand at those (with the bonus that they were much simpler, and did not involve making marshmallows, which is not difficult exactly, but is very, very messy. At least in my kitchen.) [...]
Based in Los Angeles, the Domestic Front is the home of Kate, a working mom who is low on time but high on life. I hope this site helps you find ways to make your life richer, easier, more beautiful and more delicious. You can read more about me and the site here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!