Perfect Chocolate Cake
For birthday celebrations my mother made her chocolate cake with rich fudge frosting and a chocolate filling. I believe she found this recipe in McCalls Cooking School publications, a series of cooking magazines with detailed instructions. When I married she shared with me her prize recipe and I’ve made this moist flavorful cake for birthday’s ever since.
1 cup unsifted unsweetened cocoa
2 cups boiling water
2 3⁄4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 1⁄2 cups sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla
6 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces
1⁄2 cup half and half
3/4 cup butter
2 1⁄2 cups unsifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1⁄4 cup unsifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mixing with wire whisk until smooth. Cool completely. Sift flour with soda, salt, and baking powder. Grease well and lightly flour three 9 by 1 1/2 inch layer-cake pans. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, at high speed, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, scraping bowl occasionally until light-about 5 minutes.
At low speed, beat in flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the cocoa mixture (in thirds), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Do not over-beat.
Divide evenly into pans; smooth top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until surface springs back when gently pressed with fingertip.
Cool in pans 10 minutes.
Carefully loosen sides with a spatula; Remove from pans; cool on racks.
Frosting: In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate pieces, cream, butter; stir over medium heat until smooth.
Remove from heat. With a whisk, blend in 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar.
In a bowl set over ice(I use ice cubes) beat until it holds shape.
Heat the cream in a saucepan or in the microwave, until the mixture begins to steam.
Pour over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir — at first slowly, then more vigorously — until the chocolate is completely melted. If necessary, reheat very briefly to soften any remaining hard bits of chocolate. Add almond extract. Refrigerate ganache until thick.
To assemble the cake:
On plate place a layer, top side down; spread with half of the ganache. Place the second layer, top side down; spread with rest of ganache.
Place the third layer, top side up.
To frost: With a spatula, frost sides first, covering ganache; use rest of frosting on top, swirling decoratively.
I discovered Southern Living magazine on a family road trip through the south to visit my mother-in-law’s family in southern Georgia. During one of our many stops for gas, I wondered to a magazine rack, searching for a new read for the trip, and was drawn to the cover of Southern Living. After a quick skim through the pages, I purchased the magazine and when I returned home to Boston, I ordered a subscription. Thirty years later and I continue to feel enthralled by the pages of this magazine.
If you are a novice or even more experienced cook, the pages are packed with ideas for food, entertaining, decorating and traveling with an irresistible southern vibe. Hospitality is the core of the southern style of entertaining. And I learned on that long-ago trip, the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality. Pineapples can be found throughout my home decor and at Christmas, I decorate over my front door with Williamsburg Christmas fan containing a pineapple surrounded by red apples.
The recipes populating the pages of Southern Living are clear, concise and easy to duplicate. I made this cheesecake recipe with one change, I added pumpkin pie spice and my guests raved about the taste.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnishes: coarsely chopped Pecan Pie-Glazed Pecans, fresh sage leaves
Preheat oven to 325°. Stir together the first 4 ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Press mixture on bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Beat cream cheese and next 2 ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until blended and smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add pumpkin and lemon juice, beating until blended. Pour batter into prepared crust. (Pan will be very full.)
Bake at 325° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until almost set. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven, with the door closed, 15 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven, and gently run a knife around the outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of the pan. (Do not remove sides of the pan.) Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.
Remove the sides and bottom of the pan, and transfer cheesecake to a serving plate. Prepare Praline Topping; immediately pour slowly over the top of the cheesecake, spreading to within 1/4 inch of edge. Garnish, if desired.
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Boil, stirring occasionally, 1 minute; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Use immediately.
Two of my favorite ingredients in on delicious tea bread, pumpkin and cranberries! Tea bread or loaf bread is easy to make and can be frozen for up to two months. I love to bake and freeze then I can always have a delicious treat to serve with a cup of hot tea.
“Tea makes everything better. ” Bindi Irwin
Autumn holds a special place in my heart; I was born in Autumn and I feel a pull – a strong kinship to this time of the year. I love the sights and smell of the season – burnished crimson leaves, crisp red apples, cinnamon spice pumpkin lattes, hayrides, pumpkin patches, mums exploding with color, and the majestic vistas filled with nature’s glory in New England. Autumn is my favorite baking season with a bountiful array of ingredients to create flavorful treats.
Pumpkin tea bread is so easy to make and although I have so many different variations, I still find new recipes to create. I love blueberries so I thought why not combine blueberries, from the summer, with a pumpkin flavor from the fall. Add a crumb topping for extra texture for an amazing tea bread to accompany a rich Chai Tea.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitgerald.
Nonstick cooking spray
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ tsp. pumpkin spice
⅔ cup buttermilk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup butter softened
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup fresh blueberries
1 recipe Almond-Oat Streusel Topping
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl stir together the next five ingredients. In a small bowl combine buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.
In a large bowl beat butter and both sugars with a mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately, beating on low after each addition just until combined (batter will be stiff). Fold in blueberries.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Top with Almond-Oat Streusel Topping. Bake 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool loaf pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
Almond-Oat Streusel Topping
In a small bowl stir together 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. each rolled oats and sliced almonds, 4 tsp. all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. the ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Stir in 3 Tbsp. melted butter.
In New England, we celebrate Autumn with gusto like the strong winds creating falling leave whirlpools on front lawns then whisking the colorful leaves away to decompose in the woods. Fall is a glorious season inviting all to partake in the cornucopia of scents and tastes indicative of the season. I love to bake aromatic cakes, pies, and cookies filling my home with spicy fragrances; a perfect companion to falling temperatures complimenting the change from summer to fall. On a brisk fall day what could be more appropriate than a piece of spice cake with a cup of tea sitting by the fire watching the changing jewel-tone leaves float quietly to the ground.