mocha brownie cake with whisper creek ganache: a tuesdays with dorie post

for this weeks challenge, the tuesdays with dorie bakers baked up marcel desaulniers mocha brownie cake recipe from the book, baking with julia.   with a texture more like a devil’s food cake, this rich little cake wasn’t much of a brownie for this chocolate fan.  did that make it a poor choice for a chocolate fix?  no, especially not with the thick coat of ganache on top of each little two-bite cake.  but truth be told, i would much rather have a traditional, dense and dark chocolate brownie.

the recipe calls this a mocha brownie cake.  that was a bit confusing since the cake itself had not a drop of coffee in it.  to punch up the mocha flavor, i tried to add a bit of coffee extract to it but did not add enough-my fear of over doing it cancelled out my good intentions.  the result was just a really strong chocolate flavored cake with the texture of a devil dog; remember those?  for the ganache frosting, i decided to switch the coffee, a mere 1/4 cup, for an equal portion of whisper creek tennessee sipping cream.  it seemed like the perfect choice for a dessert to be served at a pot luck dinner.  trust me, it was.  i came home with an empty plate.  good thing i stashed a few at home for my husband and me to indulge in!

as a rule, we do not post the recipes we bake from.  it isn’t fair to the author for us to give away the recipes without permission.  my suggestion, buy a copy of the book or borrow it from a library or a friend.  honestly, it isn’t hard to find; i found it on several websites with a quick google search.

the mini cupcake pan baked up 24 cakes plus a few large hearts to make a shamrock.  the ganache recipe was more than i needed to frost the tops of all of the cakes.  i had plenty left for the ones i stashed-we couldn’t skimp on the frosting for those!

yeah, it’s hokey.  so what, this green eyed irish girl (hey, i’m also italian-what a combo!) had to get a little festive for the pot luck!  not sure that anyone noticed it though…

and this is how the husband and i indulged; laid out on a silver platter with a bit of sipping cream to wash it down…perfect. chocolate. indulgence!!!

be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie page to see how the other bakers fared.  perhaps, bake up a batch yourself.  if you do, the whisper creek substitution is worth trying.  and no, they did not pay me to say that-i do not do endorsements and do not accept payments or advertising.  but if someone wants to give me a bottle to bake with, i won’t turn it down!  the truth is that i happen to have an open bottle in the fridge and grabbed it rather than brewing up a pot of coffee just for a 1/4 cup, and i am glad i did!  bake on friends!

chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting: the authentic original

alix came home for her birthday.  her 24th birthday.   am i really that old, already?  when i asked what kind of cake she wanted, her quick response was “chocolate.”  that was all i needed to hear, i knew what cake i was making, it has become a signature of sorts.  it started way back when, in our bakery, it was the cake i made for every birthday, employees and family members alike.  chocolate cake, black chocolate cake to be exact with peanut butter frosting and a drizzle of ganache over the top.

when i wrote my first book, the now out of print “Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes,” including this cake was a given.  how could i not?  little did i know how popular this cake would become.  when the book came out, deb perlman of the blog smitten kitchen posted this recipe on her website.  in the years since, that blog post has had millions of hits, literally.  unfortunately, people often think she is the person responsible for the recipe.  many times since, i have found the cake on with links leading back to smitten kitchen.  sadly, the sales for that book never saw the level of success that her blog post did and the publisher chose to let it go out of print.

beautiful isn’t it?  tasty too, although i only had one slice.  alix took the leftovers back to atlanta with her.  that was probably the best thing-i could have eaten the whole cake myself!

in the hope of gaining some of the credit for the cake recipes, i am actually posting them here!  if you want to help out cookbook writers, please do not post their recipes without permission-even if you do give them credit, you still shouldn’t post them without permission (something i have done in the past and make every effort not to do now).  whenever possible, link to the authors own site and the recipe if it is posted.  most importantly, buy the book!  if you cannot buy it, borrow it from a library or a friend.

sour cream-chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate-peanut butter glaze

makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake serving 12 to 16

the cake
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil-neutral in flavor (canola, soybean)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
peanut butter frosting, recipe follows
chocolate-peanut butter glaze, recipe follows
garnish-chopped peanut brittle or chopped peanuts

preheat the oven to 350.  grease the sides and bottoms of 3 (8″) pans.  line the bottom of each pan with parchment and grease the paper as well

sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.  whisk to combine them.  add the oil and sour cream and whisk it to blend.  gradually beat in the water.  blend in the vinegar and vanilla.  whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.  scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed.  divide the batter among the pans.

bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.  let the cakes cool in the pans for about 20 minutes.  invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper and cool completely.

to frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large plate.  spread 2/3 cup of the peanut butter frosting on evenly over the layer.  repeat with the next layer.  place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

to decorate with the chocolate-peanut butter glaze, put the cake on a large baking sheet to catch the drips.  simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips.  refrigerate, uncovered,  at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set.  be sure to serve it as close as possible to room temp, remove it from the fridge before serving and allow it to sit out for about an hour.  decorate with the peanut brittle right before serving.

the frosting-makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp
5 cups confectioners sugar, sift after measuring if lumpy
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  gradually add the confectioners sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often.  continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

the glaze-makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup.  heat, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.  use while still warm.

a few notes:
i have found that a really good natural cocoa will work just fine here as well.  dutch process cocoa makes a blacker cake.  use what you have or can find.

cream cheese-i never use the name brand, the one named after the city, it makes a frosting that is almost too soft and runny.  stick to the store brand-it will make a frosting with a consistency that is easier to work with.

peanut butter- i always use a homogenized peanut butter to prevent the oil from separating.  i have never tried one of the natural, stir it in types of peanut butter.  if you use it, i cannot say how it will work for the frosting, the glaze should be okay.

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ice box cake with homemade wafers and caramel cream

some time ago, while walking through midtown manhattan with a friend, we passed by magnolia bakery.  in the front window of the shop, a cake decorator was assembling icebox cakes, something they are famous for.  she made it look so easy.  i wanted to make one at home to take to a pot luck dinner.  honestly, i was too lazy to go to the store(s) to look for the chocolate wafers; i made my own.

the recipe i used is from my second book and is the cookie used to make chocolate short stacks, a series of cookies and chocolate whipped cream that is stacked and layered with raspberries.  the cookies are easy to make, i made mine in the food processor.

when i roll out cookies, i use wooden dowels to keep the dough thickness consistent.

they bake up crispy but that changes when they sit with the cream.

to make the cream part, i used some homemade caramel sauce and whipped cream.  the tough part is not to over whip it but to leave it a little glossy so that it spreads smoothly.  also important, use a 40% cream that is not ultra pasteurized since that will have the best texture.

all dressed up and ready to go.  another hint, work quickly, whipped cream does not like to sit out on a hot summer day-it gets a rough texture, just look at the top of the cake.  not a problem for the group i served it to, all i got back was a dirty plate…

caramel icebox cake
serves about 12-16
chocolate wafers
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
coarse sugar
preheat the oven to 350 F. line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
place the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. sprinkle the butter cubes over the mixture and pulse to cut it in. add the vanilla and process just until a smooth dough forms.  add a teaspoon or two of water if the dough does not seem moist-it should be soft and pliable but not crumbly.
remove the dough from the machine and form into 2 thick disks. on a lightly-floured surface, roll out each disk about 3/8 inch thick. using a 2 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out at least 60 circles. rework the scraps once or twice and roll out a couple extra. place the wafers about 1 inch apart on the prepared pans. prick them a few times with a fork and sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar.
bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the pans after 6 minutes, until crisp. let set on the sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before using.

caramel cream
4 cups heavy whipping cream, preferably 40% fat and NOT ultrapasteurized
1/2 cup good quality caramel sauce or dulce de leche

mix the ingredients in a bowl and whisk lightly to melt the caramel.  on medium speed, whip until almost stiff peaks form, it should be a little glossy.  assemble the cake and allow it to sit for at least 4 hours before serving.

to assemble the cake
make a ring of 6 cookies on a serving plate, place one in the center.  dollop about 1/2 cup of the cream on top of the ring and carefully spread it out to the edge of the cake but do not let it go over the side.  in the spaces between the cookies, position another ring of cookies around the layer of cream and also place one in the center.  again, top the layer with a 1/2 cup dollop of cream and spread it to the edge.  repeat this with the remaining cookies, alternating the placement of the cookies so that each layer is placed in the spaces between the cookies of the previous layer, you should have 9 cookie layers.  use the remaining cream to make a generous layer on top.  decorate with a couple crumbled cookies or some chocolate shavings.  refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

chocolate mashed potato cake

when you have the responsibility of bringing a cake to a meeting each week, you can run out of ideas.  after all, no matter how great something is, most people like variety.  luckily for me, i have a large file of recipes and a fearless sense of adventure when it comes to baking cakes.

so if you take that sense of adventure and add chocolate to it, chances are you get a good cake.  when i wrote my second book, i included many cake recipes that were considered classics.  cakes such as angel food, hummingbird, blackberry jam, tomato soup and many more.  one of my favorites is a chocolate mashed potato cake.  potatoes are a wonderful addition to cakes and breads.  they add moisture and structure and very little potato flavor.

chocolate mashed potato cake
1 (12 cup) bundt or tube pan serving at least 16
1 large baking potato
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
glaze recipe, follows
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a large bundt or tube pan and set it aside.  peel the potato and cut it into large cubes.  place in a sauce pot and cover with water.  place over medium high heat, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender.  drain the water off and using a masher or a mixer, mash the potatoes until no lumps (or very small ones) remain.  measure out 3/4 cup for the recipe.  take the remaining potatoes, season them as you desire and eat them before they get cold.  
in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar, cake flour and baking soda and with the mixer on low, allow the mixture to combine, about 1 minute.  add the potatoes, butter, melted chocolate and vanilla and mix on low speed to combine.  raise the speed to medium and allow it to beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  while this beats, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk.  slowly add the mixture to the batter.  scrape the bowl well and combine it completely.  scrape the batter into a pan and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then remove it from the pan to finish cooling on a rack.  prepare the glaze recipe and glaze the cake after it is completely cooled. 
chocolate ganache glaze

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup half and half

place the ingredients in a small saute pan over low heat.  as it heats, stir to melt the chocolate.  do not let it boil or simmer.  keep stirring until half the chocolate is melted.  remove from the heat and stir to melt the remaining lumps.  use a piping bag or a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.

madeleines; twd/bwj

if you ask me, marcel proust was nuts.  he went on about madeleines, or at least that is how the story goes.  after baking them with this recipe, i can only ask why?  what is so wonderful about madeleines?
this week, the tuesdays with dorie bakers made the madeleine recipe from the baking with julia book.  to see the recipe, buy the book or visit the blogpage of our hosts for the challenge, katie and amy of counter dog.
so what is my problem, why am i hating on proust and his beloved madeleines?  they are not very exciting.  kind of dry actually and a little flavorless too.  then again, that is what most genoise cakes are, dry and flavorless.  made that way to soak up the flavor from the fillings and booze that they sandwich together in multilayer cakes served by the slice.  these little buggers didn’t just ask to be dunked in tea, they begged!
to make it interesting, i made two batches.  the first batch i flavored with freshly grated lemon zest and the second, with some cocoa powder and some cinnamon.  neither batch was worth indulging in if you ask me.  i brought them to a meeting and shared them.  the tasters enjoyed them and several dunked them-confirming my theory on the dryness.  would i make them again-not likely with this recipe.  while all madeleine recipes call for whipping eggs and sugar until the ribbon is formed, most have more than just flour a touch of butter and a little vanilla for flavor.  my own recipe includes coconut and is much moister and more flavorful than these.
the instructions from the recipe call for greasing and flouring the plaques.  not a good idea.  if anybody ever asks your opinion, tell them to just grease the pans or simply brush them with melted butter.  the flour and grease form a coating that stays on the madeleines and gives them a white washed effect.  it isn’t noticeable on the lemon ones but it sure is on the chocolate ones.  believe it or not, the cleaner pan of the two in the photo, just used grease-no flour at all.

when sitting side by side, you can easily tell which had flour in the pans.  

lemon zest added a hint of lemon flavor that improved the taste of the otherwise eggy little treats.  still wasn’t enough to tempt me into eating more than one.  to see how the rest of the bakers did, visit the tuesdays with dorie page.

gingerbread beer bundt cake; a winner!

it’s a winner alright.  like everyone else, i love a good contest.  especially when i know i have the winning recipe.  isn’t it funny how that winning recipe never wins anything?  maybe not so funny, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.  and try i did when ran a best recipe with beer contest this month.  i knew i had the winning entry-who else would bake a cake with beer?  apparently, several entrants had the same idea.  but in the end, mine was the winner.  honestly, mind=blown.  one of the perks of the win, my cake got a glamour shot and a slide show which you can view on

one of my favorite ingredients goes into this cake; sorghum.  for those in the know, they understand why.  it is all the flavor of molasses without any of the bitter or the black color.  the syrup pressed from fresh sorghum canes is cooked slowly to reduce, clarify and concentrate the sugar as well as the flavor.   it is also a less refined product and is frequently made in amish and mennonite communities which can make it hard to find.  unless you live in the south, it is still pretty common here and we don’t have to look very hard to find it.  try looking in amish or mennonite stores, farmer’s markets or if you are lucky, the whole foods supermarket near you may carry it-they do in nashville.  
the syrup starts out as a bright green juice but by the time it is cooked, it is a rich amber shade.  it is never so dark that light cannot shine through it.  so my apologies to the folks at looks a lot like molasses in your photos!  looks like i am going to have to send you some southern love in the form of sorghum.

with my large collection of bundt pans, the hard part was choosing one.  

 spice cake with mustard, dos perros pale ale, chocolate glaze; nothing else needed exept a fork…
 the marbleized interior of the cake

for the complete recipe, visit  

chocolate beet bundt cake

every year starting in january, a new master gardener class begins.  each week there is at least one class on a topic related to gardening.  as a certified member, i am required to earn continuing education hours to maintain my certification;  i attend  as many of these classes as i can.  more importantly, it is helpful to attend the classes in an effort to welcome the new members and hopefully, retain them once the classes are finished.  i take that part seriously; i bribe them weekly with cake!  this weeks offering was a rich and moist chocolate bundt that also contained a secret ingredient:  beets.  

while digging through the cupboards, i came across a can of beets that had been pushed to the very back.  i ran the beets through the blender with the juice from the can to get an awesome red puree.  for those of you who prefer to use fresh or your own canned beets, you will need 1 3/4 cups of puree with the consistency of buttermilk so be sure to add the liquid you boiled/canned them in as needed.

when folded into the batter, it doesn’t show-it disappears like magic.  not only that, no one and i mean NO one was able to guess what was in the cake.  then again, it was so chocolatey and moist, i doubt anyone was thinking it reminded them of beets.  so why bother?  the moisture for one and the added fiber too and then because i love hiding the vegetables in the cake…
all ready for the oven!
chocolate-beet bundt cake
1 (12 cup) bundt serving 16
1 (15 oz) can beets
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder, natural preferred
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
powdered sugar for dusting the top of the cake
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt or tube pan with a 12 cup capacity.  drain the beets and reserve the juice.  place the beets in a blender with some of the juice and blend briefly.  add the remaining juice and blend until smooth, pour into a bowl and set aside.  melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl on the lowest power or defrost setting using 30 second intervals.  stir until smooth and set aside.
in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the dark brown sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy.  pour in the melted chocolate and mix well.  be sure to scrape the bowl at least once to completely combine the ingredients.  add the eggs, 1 at a time and scrape the bowl as you go.  to sift the dry ingredients, place the flour, cocoa, baking soda and spices in a large mesh strainer.  sift them over the chocolate mixture.  fold a few times, add the beets and fold until the batter is uniform in color.  
scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.  sift powdered sugar over the top of the cooled cake. 
bake one and send me a photo!  may the power of the beet be with you…

gingerbread beer cake with bittersweet chocolate glaze

gingerbread.  beer.  chocolate… what more does anyone need?  mix it all up and bake it in a bundt and trust me, you will not need anything else.  i recently entered this recipe in a contest so wish me luck!  you can view the recipe here and use the photos below from the step by step to see what things should look like.

 when i know that i need to sift dry ingredients, i place a mesh strainer over a bowl and place all the ingredients to be sifted in it.  then i sift it into the batter a portion at a time.  the bowl makes it easier to contain and the stuff that falls through the strainer can be dumped in without the hassle of lifting paper…

 the two batters in the pan before swirling them

 swirling the batters carefully, so that you do not remove the grease/flour layer from the pan, is best done with a small spoon.  gently insert the spoon and stir and lift small quantities of batter to marbleize it.

 the cake after turning it out of the pan.  the hardest part-not cutting into it while it is warm!
 drizzle the glaze over the cake in a free form manner for the best look.

and that meeting i took the cake to-this was all that was left; two skinny slices of heaven…so this is in this weeks contest for your best chocolate and spice.  and as always, if you bake one, send me a photo and i will post it here!  bake on my friends, bake on…

schooled again

things i learned today:

chocolate will burn in the microwave-i mean burned black and smoking and it doesn’t take that long to accomplish this
burned semisweet chocolate smells kinda like burned popcorn
if you screw up the first test of a recipe, chances are every one of the 7 versions you bake after it won’t be right either
and there you have it folks, a day in the life of a pastry chef…the problem with the cake recipe turned out to be the amount of sugar in the recipe. the first version called for 1-1/2 cups and i am pretty sure i only added 1-1/4 cups. when i tasted the first one, my initial thought was this cake isn’t sweet. and so it starts; each version after had an increased amount of sugar based on the amount i should have added and not the amount i actually added. now i find myself with a small mountain of cake layers and a need to run at least one more test. this time i will get the sugar adjusted properly.
oh, one more thing i learned today; i’m a little slow but i catch on eventually…