Friday, November 30, 2012

Best of the Week #84

Oh hello short week! Yes that’s right, after 10 days at home I finally  made it back to DC, the land of cold and work and winter clothes (I make it sound so terrible, but DC you know I love you!). Luckily I’m easing back into things with a 2-day work week and a lot of friends time. I saw a few high school friends out in CA, but really when I go back it’s all about family time and relaxing time, so I keep my social commitments minimal and my family/dog/nephew time maximal.

Oh and speaking of Amy (my dog), she loves running at the beach and I think watching her running at the beach is hilarious. And now I can video her doing it. Only amusing to me? Maybe.

Ok so now on to Best of the Week! My most popular post was Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Yes you should make these STAT.

 Quote of the week:
  • "If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world."
    • J.R.R. Tolkien
Really cool data visualization: “Women as Academic Authors, 1665-2010.” Seriously, go to the site and play around with it. Change the time period at the top, then hover your mouse over the bubbles and they give you more details!
  • Explore nearly 1,800 fields and subfields, across four centuries, to see which areas have the most female authors and which have the fewest...

Oh but my 2-day work week has been pretty productive. Here's the latest from the Satellite Sentinel Project:  "Scorched Earth Near al Abassiya." The burned area in the image below is approximately 31 square miles, which is half the size of DC. (More images here.)

"Volcanoes are so cool. "The Most Incredible Photographs of Volcanic Eruptions."

This video of basketballs dribbling "The Carol of the Bells" is bizarrely fascinating and I LOVE it.

I just really liked reading this post. It's sweet and you should read it. "My Friend Ian and His Cheesecake Platter."
  • But one evening Ian bravely opened up his home to everyone, including one friend who is a chef and caterer, and me, a food writer and chef at the time. It had to have been intimidating, especially for someone who had only recently learned it was possible to cook oatmeal from oats instead of a packet. (His mind was blown.) He arranged some store-bought snacks, placed one bottle of white wine in the fridge, and one bottle of red wine, solitary, in his wine rack. It was incredibly endearing, and then we all noticed the cheesecake platter he had arranged...
That’s all I have for you today. This weekend SpeedyKate and I are picking out our Christmas tree and getting in the seasonal spirit. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cake of the Week: Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

When Jess and I get together, some sort of baking is almost inevitably going to occur (long-time readers may recall a certain Boston Dessert Week), and my most recent trip to Boston was no exception.

We contemplated our choices and pondered the possibilities – coconut or chocolate? Maybe something fruity? Or how about something spicy?  We settled on a  Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting because a) ‘tis the season; b) Jess has never had gingerbread before; which is compounded by c) nor has she cooked with molasses – one of my favorite ingredients!!!

We found our recipe on Gojee (oh the wide wide world of food/recipe aps) and it turned out quite well. The original recipe was for cupcakes, but we made it in cake form and it worked perfectly. Unlike many gingerbreads,  this isn’t dense at all – it truly is a gingerbread cake recipe. And the frosting, oh the frosting. Cinnamon Cream Cheese need I say more? Swoon.

I usually prefer to bake solo (as in, other people can watch, but only one cook at a time!), but Jess is one of the few (only?) people I can actually bake with. We work well together, trading off measuring and mixing and sticking our fingers in the batter and cleaning up as we go. She likes mixing the frosting (oh hello aforementioned fingers), while I prefer full control over the frosting process.

After baking and cooling and frosting, we let our glorious cake solidify in the fridge for a grand total of 30 minutes before we couldn’t wait anymore…cake time! Oh and a serving suggestion: scoop some pumpkin ice cream on top (not pictured...we ate it too fast). Trust me.

This cake would be GREAT to bring to a holiday party, maybe decorated with some red and green sprinkles or a sprig of holly?

Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Printable recipe.

Cake ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups molasses
  • 1 cup hot water

Frosting ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray and flour (very thoroughly! Our cakes stuck) three 8-inch round cake pans. 
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients except for the brown sugar and set aside.
  3. Cream the brown sugar and butter together in a mixer for 3-5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the molasses, mixing until well-incorporated.
  5. Alternately add one third of the dry ingredients, one third of the water, etc, mixing after each addition. The batter will be thin. 
  6. Evenly divide batter between pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge, tip the cakes out, and finish cooling on wire racks.  

To make frosting:

  1. Place all ingredients in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until well-combined. Then, when your cake is completely cooled, frost it one layer at a time (well duh). Enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weekend Report: Biking and Eating in Sonoma County

Well here I am, weekend reporting from the great state of Northern California, because I’m still at home! And I had a completely lovely completely cliche Sonoma County weekend.

Petaluma, though not much of a thrilling locale, happens to have some of the best bike-riding in the area. It’s definitely hilly, but beautiful, and with minimal cars. So Friday afternoon, in my post-Thanksgiving need-to-work-off-all-that-desert inspiration, I borrowed my dad’s hybrid bike and my mama’s biking shorts and biked out to Dillon Beach. The last 10 miles, from Tomales to Dillon, are pretty brutal in the hills department, but totally worth it.

(My mama met me with her car at the beach, so this was a 25-mile one-way experience.)

Saturday morning I did it again, this time riding one of my favorite Petaluma loops. I distinctly remember doing this ride for the first time on Thanksgiving day when I was in 7th grade. My mama led the way, and I rode my mountain bike. It was sooooo hard and I thought I was going to die.

Luckily I’m in better shape than 7th-grade-Mollie, so this ride was pleasant. I was feeling leisurely, so I paused to take some pictures along the way. Here's the 30-mile route, in case you're interested.

Saturday afternoon the weather was skirt-and-t-shirt beautiful, so we all drove to Napa and Yountville for lunch and dessert and Christmas card pictures (for Sister1’s little fam).

Lunch was at Gott’s, a delicious semi-fancy “diner.” As in, you sit outside, and it’s burger/diner-ish, but with all “artesianal and fresh” ingredients. (I told you this was a NorCal cliche weekend.) Mama and I split Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos and a Blue Cheese Burger and Onion Rings. Ummm hello yum.

After meandering around Oxbow Public Market (another local, artisen, and omg-it-all-looks-SO-good experience), we drove over to Yountville to a) take pictures,

Is my nephew the cutest thing ever? Yes.
Is my hair a scary shade of blonde? Yes....but don't worry I fixed it.

and b) go to Bouchon Bakery.

As we waited in line, Sister1 and I discussed what to order.
Me: What should I get?
Sister1: Everything.
Me: No but what do you like? What are your favorites?
Sister1: No Mollie. Everything. You should just get everything.

I didn’t quite take her advice, but definitely walked away with a Chocolate Almond Croissant, two eclairs (one regular, and one espresso), two cheese danishes, and a cup of coffee. (Don’t worry, not all of this was consumed at once.) But half a croissant and coffee may or may not have made my afternoon!

We also walked around the Domaine Chandon winery, just to see how pretty it all was. Grapevines in the fall are so colorful and pretty!

Sunday was spent fixing the aforementioned hair disaster (omg I thought I was going to die), so nothing too too exciting going on there. I'm still in CA for a few more days, and have epic just kidding. I'll probably go on a long beach walk, see a movie with my mama, and spend the rest of the time with Liam, who now knows/loves me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Pictures

Can we just take a moment to reflect on how GREAT Thanksgiving is??? I spent a fantastic day with first my immediate family, then the whole extended fam came over for a dinner cooked mostly by my mama and sous-chef-assisted by me. (Need any vegetables chopped? I'm your girl!)

Sister2 is in Thailand so couldn't make it...but we skyped her on Wednesday (which was Thursday for her -- the Thanksgiving of the future!), and I used her name tag on the table to keep her there in spirit.

Want to know what's on that plate? Counterclockwise: A Poppy Seed Dinner Roll, garlic mashed potatoes, pear and walnut salad, turkey (dark meet!), orange cranberry sauce with bourbon vanilla, roasted veggies, green beans with carmelized onions, and mushroom bacon stuffing. I have no regrets!

Here's how it looked from my side of the Thanksgiving table:

Grammy Jean is the Gravy-Master.
Dad contemplates the 24-lb turkey.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Purple Cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts.
Mushroom Bacon Stuffing.
Green Beans with Carmelized Onions.
Pumpkin Pie, well duh.

And finally, my dessert plate: Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake, and Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting. Like I said, no regrets! (Excellent work per usual Sister1!)

Oh and post-dinner entertainment featured Liam dancing on the table in his crabby jammies.  

I hope you and your families had a wonderful Thanksgiving too. And you know what the best part is? The morning after Thanksgiving is never sad because a) leftovers; and b) now it's Christmas season!!!!! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poppy Seed Dinner Rolls

It is Thanksgiving eve day (let’s just pretend that’s a thing) and prep is fully underway at my house. Our 24-lb turkey is in his brine bath in a cooler in the garage. Cranberry sauce with orange zest and bourbon vanilla is tupperwared in the fridge. Sister1 is making a pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate cupcakes, while I (or Mama) will do a pie this afternoon. And possibly most importantly, the rolls are done!!!

Everyone has their favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Sister1 is all about canned cranberry sauce, Sister2 loves the mashed potatoes and gravy. If pressed to pick a favorite, I might have to say stuffing. But we all agree that these Poppy Seed Dinner Rolls go above and beyond all other food fights and make Thanksgiving dinner.

They’re flaky (but not in a croissant sort of way) and buttery and yeasty and just SO GOOD. The recipe is a bit labor-intensive but totally absolutely 100% worth it. Be sure to begin preparing the dough a day before serving because it needs to be refrigerated overnight.

My Mama has been making these rolls since the recipe popped out at her in a Bon Appetit magazine way back in 1995, which means that these rolls have been a part of about 70% of my life. Hallelujah and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Poppy Seed Dinner Rolls


  • 1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 2 envelopes dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • 5 1/3 cups (about) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water (glaze)
  • Poppy seeds


  1. Place warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar over and stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is slightly foamy, about 8 minutes.
  2. Whisk milk, 1 egg, salt and remaining 1/3 cup sugar into yeast mixture. Add melted butter and whisk until smooth. Add 1 cup flour and mix until smooth. Combine 4 cups flour and 1 cup chilled butter in processor. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add to yeast mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead in bowl until smooth dough forms, adding more flour if dough is sticky, about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough overnight. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
  4. Butter twenty-four 1/3-cup nonstick muffin cups. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead briefly until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Place 1 dough portion on work surface; cover and chill remaining dough. Roll out 1 dough portion on floured surface to 13x11-inch rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick). Cut rectangle lengthwise into 6 strips, each scant 2 inches wide. Stack strips atop one another, forming 6 layers and pressing slightly to adhere. Cut strips crosswise into 6 equal stacks, each about 2 inches long. Place 1 dough stack, 1 cut side down, into each muffin cup (dough will fan out slightly and fill muffin cups as dough rises). Repeat with remaining chilled dough pieces. [If you’re confused about the process, you can watch a video here.]
  5. Cover rolls with kitchen towel. Let rise in warm draft-free area until rolls are puffed and doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  6. Position 1 rack in center and 1 rack in top third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Brush rolls gently with egg glaze. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake until rolls are golden brown, switching top and bottom baking sheets halfway through baking, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to rack and cool rolls 5 minutes. Remove rolls from pans and cool on racks. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Wrap in aluminum foil and freeze. If desired, rewarm thawed wrapped rolls in 350°F oven about 10 minutes.)

Just so you know, it is 6:30 am and taking literally all of my willpower not to raid the rolls and eat one for breakfast...ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cake of the Week: Apple Upside Down Cake

This past weekend, before I flew home, I attended an Urban Feast -- the second pre-Thanksgiving dinner of my November. Is there such thing as too many Thanksgiving dinners? I think not. 

And at least around DC, Urban Feasts/Pre-Thanksgivings/Friendsgivings/Thanksfriendsings are such a big thing! Young people who don’t really know what they’re doing get together, figure out how to cook a turkey and all the sides, and then proceeded to eat it all. It’s pretty wonderful -- what other holiday are you allowed to have in full twice (or as many times as you want)?

This is the first year I haven’t hosted a Pre-Thanksgiving of my own, which is a-OK with me since I’d rather just bring a dessert and go to someone else’s house/apartment. 

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I have to try it all. Saturday’s Urban Feast was a bit Southern, so my dinner plate included mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and corn pudding, in addition to the usuals. I take a similar approach to dessert -- apple upside down cake, pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll, and pecan pie. All sooooo good.

I was a bit rushed on Saturday, so luckily this Apple Upside-Down Cake takes a grand total of one hour to mix, cook, and cool. SO EASY. If you’re looking for a last-minute Thanksgiving dessert, or are worried that the usual pumpkin pie won’t be enough, make this! Plus, it looks so pretty!

You may recall I made a similar concoction, but with cranberries, for Thanksgiving last year. The nice thing about upside -down cake is you can do it with any fruit. Actually, pears would be seasonal and delish. Or maybe a mix of pears and cranberries?

Countdown: Three days until Thanksgiving!

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 30 minutes

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 small apples (I used Gala apples), sliced like for pie
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttter milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter (it will be a really thick layer of butter -- there are pictures of the process in this post). In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup of the granulated sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the apple slices in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well-combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined, the batter will be thick.
  4. Spoon the batter over the apples in the pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. 
  5. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake; invert onto a serving plate. Store any leftovers at room temperature.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, preferably alongside an assortment of delicious Thanksgiving desserts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Report: From California

Oh that’s right, I’m home again!

I hopped on a plane at crack o’dawn o’clock yesterday morning, made the loooong journey from DC to CA (by way of Phoenix -- blerg), and now I’m back in Petaluma!

Some notes on cross-country air travel:
  1. Coffee and snacks.
  2. Not too much coffee if you have a window seat.
  3. To/from the absolutely miserable-looking people next to me: pulling an all-nighter and then getting on a plane hurts everyone, especially you.
  4. Yoga pants. Seriously.
  5. Don’t try to run. Take the day off. 
  6. Crossword puzzles.
  7. When heading west, look forward to the longest day ever (I got up at 5:30 am DC time, which is the equivalent of 2:30 am CA time, which means that I felt like I’d had a whole day and was ready for bed at about about 4 pm.)
I don’t have much to tell you on the home-events front. I landed yesterday at noon and headed straight to my grandma’s house. She fed me grapes and cookies and tea while we chatted about her various book groups and my life plans.  

Then we drove through the City and across the bridge (for those of you who don't know this -- people do actually use it!) to Petaluma. In true Northern California fashion, we had dungeness crab for dinner (holler crab season!) and spent some time with my very concerned nephew. 

He has started recognizing people...which means he doesn’t recognize me...which means a) he cried the whole time; b) I need to spend a lot of time with him this week so he knows me; and possibly c) maybe I just smell bad or look scary? Though I look JUST like him and his the looking-scary angle is rather unlikely. 

Oh and countdown: 3 days until Thanksgiving

Friday, November 16, 2012

Best of the Week #83

It is Friday, Thanksgiving is just 6 days away, and I fly home this Sunday! Are you ready for turkey day? In case your menu is still up in the air, here are my favorite fall recipes. And the first time I cooked a turkey (major panic, but crises averted). And the second time (mild panic, again averted).

Speaking of fall recipes, my most popular post this week was Mini Pumpkin Pies with Gingerbread Graham Cracker Crust.

I love this "Corgi Flop" video (obviously). OMG I’m about to go home again – get psyched for all the forthcoming Amy pictures! (Amy is my corgi. She is awesome.)

A few fun facts (source):
  • “Sprezzatura” means “studied nonchalance” in Italian; the art of trying without seeming like you’re really trying.
  • Green is the rarest eye color.
  • In Revolutionary times, we were one vote away from having German being the official language of the United States.
This exists. "Arm Tunnels." No words, only emotions./wtf. "Tunnels on the pillow's underside allow the person cuddling in the back to extend their arm without cutting off blood flow, which prevents arm pain and numbness."

Cerealism” art project reminds me of 100 Day in first grade when we had to make something out of 100 of something.

President Obama cries in this and I may or may not have teared up a bit watching it: "I'm Really Proud of All of You."

This warms my heart. LOVE me some metrics. In another life I would totally be a data cruncher. "Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win."
  • For the general public, there was no way to know that the idea for the Parker contest had come from a data-mining discovery about some supporters: affection for contests, small dinners and celebrity. But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means. “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign,” he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation, with an official “chief scientist” for the Chicago headquarters named Rayid Ghani, who in a previous life crunched huge data sets to, among other things, maximize the efficiency of supermarket sales promotions.
One of the many instances of the internet benefiting from people having waaaay too much time: "But can you see the 'ugly naked guy'?: Artists sketch floorplan of Friends apartments and other famous TV shows." 15 floor plans from Friends, Fraiser, Sex and the City, Batman, etc.

From SpeedyKate – if muppets made vegetables, this is what they’d look like. (It's a chayote squash.)

Yet another example of girls kicking a$$: "Domination on the Football Field (By a 9-Year-Old Girl)."
  • Underneath that enormous helmet, she’s got a mess of tousled sweaty hair, and a ton of talent. And not just for a girl. According to her father Brent Gordon, out of the 172 kids in the district who tried out, Gordon tested the fastest in every speed and agility drill. (That sh!t cray.)

"Celebrating Progress: Iconic Photos That Paved the Way for Tuesday’s Civil Rights Victories."
Women's rights march on Fifth Avenue in New York City, 1970.
  Bob Adelman/Magnum Photos.
Black movement for integration. Teaching the illiterate to write so they can vote in Virginia, 1960.
  Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.

Have a great pre-Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Literary Bite: The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall

I’ve probably mentioned my “library” before. Basically, SpeedyKate and I have a lovely wall o’books between our living room and kitchen. It was the first thing we built when we move in and it is by far my favorite thing about our apartment. When I need something to read and have nothing in my mental queue, I just meander through our "stacks" (a total of 3 bookshelves) and pick something at random. Sometimes I consult my co-librarian (Kate, obviously) for recommendations too. This is how I came to read Half a Yellow Sun, The Language of Flowers, The Tiger’s Wife, and The Art of Fielding – all total apartment library wins!

Our library, days/weeks before we had beds or tables or a couch.

This is also how I found my most recent read: The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall. It’s the story of a tattoo artist from the north coast of England who moves to Coney Island, NY in the 1920s. I expected it to be a bit fluffy, but the narrative was actually really rich and intense.

Let me explain what I mean: Hall describes the inner workings of Coney Island and the people who lived/worked there in its heyday between (WWI and WWII) incredibly thoroughly. The writing style is very descriptive, uses great figurative language, and flows well. The plot points are big – abortion, murder, deception, romance – but at the same time weirdly understated. There are sometimes pages of description leading up to a brief one-paragraph actual action. When this works it builds suspense…but when it doesn’t I just get bored. It’s a fine line.
  • “He was notorious. But in his rooms he could embroider the human body with beauty and he was glorious. His reputation for it brought men and women in from as far afield as Belfast and Nottingham, Stirling and Glasgow, by appointment in the winter and in the summer months they queued up outside his door. The brighter part of the man kept them coming back so that he could dress them in new, perfect, custom-fitting clothing. Give them their lasting souvenirs. Give them their natural markings. Give them a picture of and for themselves.”
Cy Parks (the “electric Michelangelo ), is an expert tattoo artist is interesting person. He is haunted by the demons of his mother and his teacher, and eventually falls into a weird love with one of the other Coney Islanders.
  • "He had a sense that he liked her, very much, and not so far away from that prospect was the notion that he could love her, perhaps… He could love her. Couldn’t he? There was the potential. There was the rub… It felt like another strangely exotic moment in his life, the pairing of Grace and love, not dissimilar to the day he had agreed to be Riley’s lad… That feeling of being befallen, of something preordained and unavoidable and uncontrollable at work, like the diaphanous flutter of Fate’s lungs, the sluicing of its digestive system, its marrowy brewing of new blood."
Some of the most interesting passages were Cy’s musings on the art of tattooing and the tattoos people choose.
  • "It’s an unselfish trade is ours. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s personal socialism, lad. Everyone’s included, everyone gets to look in to a person and share them… a tattoo says more of a fellow looking at it that it can do of the man who’s got it on his back."
  • “People went through life like well handled jugs, collecting chips and scrapes and stains from wear and tear, from holding and pouring life.”
At the beginning I wasn’t so sure about this book, but then it really grew on me. The subject is new (to me) and interesting and it’s well-written. Definitely worth the read!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cake of the Week: Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

I am definitely one to exaggerate most things, but the following is 100% truth: this is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. And since chocolate cakes are inherently better than all other cakes, X leads to Y leads to Z – this might be the best any kind of cake I’ve ever made. 

It is fitting that this momentous occurrence happened in conjunction with SpeedyKate’s birthday, as she is one of my most appreciative cake-consuming friends. She asked for chocolate, and I know she loves red wine, sooo Red Wine Chocolate Cake it is! And then, of course, things had to get fancy. What goes well with chocolate and red wine? Raspberries well duh. So I made a raspberry cream cheese frosting, and then covered it all with a layer of chocolate ganache. Because I can. 

Despite the cup of Cabernet  the cake actually doesn’t taste like wine at all. This would be a bummer, except that it is so moist and chocolatey and good that I can’t say anything disappointing about this cake. And it stayed good for a while – we may or may not have eaten slices of cake after our workout last night (so that's 6 days after it was made), and it still tasted awesome and didn't dry out at all!

This is actually a cake that almost wasn’t. My original plan was to bake the cake Tuesday night during/after the election (for SpeedyKate’s birthday on Thursday), but then I got sidetracked by watching the election at work and didn’t go to bed until 1:30 am. On to Wednesday night: my Ragnar team met up for a workout followed by dinner. I walked in the door around 11 pm, and as SpeedyKate was going to bed on her birthday eve, I was pulling out bowls and ingredients because sleep be damned my friends will have birthday cakes! I baked the cakes that night, then the next morning I got up early to make the frosting. After work and before the party I finished it off with the ganache and it was all so worth it!

The original cake recipe is from Love & Olive Oil. The frosting and ganache are from the inside of my head. 

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Cake ingredients:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark or dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup red wine (I went with a Cabernet Sauvignon that promised notes of chocolate and raspberries…but let’s be real, I don’t know wine so do what you feel.)
  • 1/2 cup light olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting ingredients:
  • 8 oz (1 block) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • ¼ cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
Ganache ingredients:
  • 3.5 oz dark chocolate chopped (I used dark chocolate chips: ½ cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round baking pans. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. Add eggs, buttermilk, wine, oil, and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until all dry ingredients are incorporated. 
  4. Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes begin to pull away from the edges of the pan. 
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  6. Cool cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto the racks and finish cooling completely before frosting. 

  1. Puree raspberries in a blender for 3-5 minutes until they are smooth (try to blend away the seeds).
  2. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, beat together butter, cream cheese, raspberry puree, and vanilla.
  3. Beat in powdered sugar, then add buttermilk as necessary (1 tablespoon at a time) to reach a spreadable consistency. 

  1. Cut cakes in half to make 4 layers. Spread frosting evenly between the layers, and cover the cake completely. (It will work best if you do a “crumb layer” – i.e. spread a thin layer of frosting around the outside to catch all the crumbs, then do a second frosting layer to make it look good.)
  2. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour.

  1. In a double boiler or a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and heavy cream, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Pour ganache over the cold cake, spreading with a spatula as you go.
Serving tip: Cut with a sharp knife that you’ve dipped in hot water between each slice.

Then enjoy this AMAZING cake with your AMAZING friends on your birthday!!!