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.
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.
To say I love to make pies is a true understatement. I am obsessed with pies, especially summertime pies using the most succulent fresh fruits and berries. A hot bubbly pie fresh from the oven, the juices overflowing, dripping down the sides of the pie plate, I can’t think of a better dessert to serve family and friends. Oh, did I mention a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top? Simple pleasures, so perfect!
I learned to bake from my mother, Helen, who is ninety-seven years old. She loves to bake and shared her passion with me. I remember, at first watching her make pie dough, combining the ingredients, then she would roll out the dough, and line a pie plate. My favorite part was the mixing of the fruits with sugar and spices and then pour into the dough-lined dish. Next, she would meticulously top with the remaining dough and crimp the edges together. My mother would make vents in the top of the pie, and finish with a brush egg yoke then the pie was ready for the oven.
Here are a few of my favorite pie recipes:
LUSCIOUS NECTARINE BLUEBERRY PIE
PEACH PIE IN PUFF PASTRY
PEACH SCHNAPPS PIE WITH STREUSEL TOPPING