Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life by Chocolate Cake

I have always wondered how far one could push the chocolate envelope when it comes to cake.  I will wonder no more as I think this cake is the most intense chocolate cake I have ever eaten, made, or experienced.  If you are a true die hard chocoholic then this cake is for you.

I originally found this recipe from the Betty Crocker website and made very few improvements, I'll share the things I tweaked to make this cake "my cake." Right after I made this cake I began to think of other things I could do to make a "white chocolate" version of this cake using strawberries.  Doesn't that sound great?  I think it does.

This cake is incredibly dense, the batter was super thick, but tender and moist after baking.  The pudding and sour cream help to make this so moist even beyond the first day.  I chose to use mini chips in the cake batter instead of the big chips and really liked the resulting texture it gave the cake.  Of course adding vanilla to any cake is a must for me, it just makes me feel better knowing that it is in there.  There is a lot going on in this cake however.

The glaze is really a whole other post!  It was like pouring fudge on the cake.  I wasn't too thin, or too thick.  I found that it rolled nicely down the side of the cake, and unlike other glazes, stayed on the cake and didn't just keep on rolling to the counter.  After it cools is becomes this fudgey, gooey, chocolate coating.

Hot Coffee or Milk is a must, it's the only two things that could possibly compliment this cake to make it better.  I think this cake would freeze great, however I would advise that you glaze the cake when you plan to serve it.  Only because I'm not sure how it would turn out.

box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® butter recipe chocolate cake mix
cup chocolate milk with 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
cup butter, melted
container (8 oz) sour cream
package (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
bag (12 oz) mini chocolate chips (2 cups)
Rich Chocolate Glaze
cup semisweet chocolate chips
tablespoons butter
tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2
teaspoons water

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and lightly flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan, or spray with baking spray with flour.
  2. In large bowl: mix cake mix, chocolate milk, butter, eggs, sour cream and dry pudding. Mix with hand held mixer until well blended, batter will be very thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon into pan.  Make sure to spread the cake, evenly distributing it--it's THICK.
  3. Bake 56 to 64 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack or heatproof serving plate; remove pan. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
  4. In 1-quart saucepan, heat glaze ingredients over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Drizzle over cake. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars

Yes, it's on an upside-down bowl.
I've never been one to just, "come up" with a new recipe out of thin air, I have to have inspiration and then reinvent or tweak it to my liking.  When I first caught wind of the idea of taking a sugar cookie and turning it into a bar I was all about that.  Turns out dozens of other cooks have has the very same idea, go figure.  I read about ten different recipes and finally decided on the recipe that I was going to tweak to make my own. Even if having a sugar cookie bars is not your idea of delicious, you will for sure want to try this buttercream frosting.  I haven't had a better buttercream--ever!

My son, Titus, helped me make these bars, up to the point of frosting, for our church community group meeting.  It's great fun to have your kids help you cook, and they get to learn all about fractions and following instructions...so much to learn from being in the kitchen and cooking.  He's quite the cook, I'm very proud of him.  The bars come together quick and bake even faster.  One lesson I've learned is not to wait for these bars to get dark on top.  These bars cooked in 10 minutes.  I didn't really get a stop watch and keep time, but I would say that from mixing to frosting it was maybe 45 minutes to an hour.

These bars are very versatile in that you could add your favorite extract, or citrus zest and create a whole new bar.  The frosting could be tinted to any shade you wanted.  I chose to go with the  plain white and used the really cool crystal sugar, which of course could be any color available.

The cookie is tender and moist with a very "sugar cookie" taste, only thicker.  How bad can that be?  The buttercream frosting is just to die for.  Creamy and sweet with that ever so slight salt that cuts through the sweetness of the frosting.  There were some parts of the bar where the frosting was as thick as the bar itself! Don't get me wrong, I love frosting as much as the next guy, but I should try to do a better job of spreading the love next time.

1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Spray a jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray (the size will vary) Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the extracts, mixing to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.  It's easier to add all the dry ingredients to another bowl and stir them together, but if you don't feel like getting another bowl dirty then just add the salt, baking powder, and flour.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. I got a paper towel wet and kept my fingers moist, not wet, to keep the dough from sticking to my fingers. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the milk.  Tint as desired with food coloring.  Spread over the cookie in the pan, sprinkle with the sugar and  cut into bars and serve.

Ice cold milk or hot coffee is a very necessary accessory. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Margaret's Tea Cakes

I had never heard of a tea cake until I was married.  My wife raved and raved about her Grandmother's tea cakes and how delicious they were.  When she was in High School she was very active in Track and Field and basketball.  It drives her crazy when i brag about how well she did in athletics and talk about all the awards she won.  Her Grandmother would make a huge batch of tea cakes for her to take on the out of town meets.  Her coach always asked if Margaret's tea cakes were, "coming with us."

Tea Cakes are a different kind of cookie in that they aren't really sweet.  They are a dense and soft cookie slightly sweet and very subtle in flavor.  I think they would be really good with some lemon zest and a lemon glaze.  But, these weren't for me, they were for my wife who likes them just the way they were.  I did tweak the recipe adding a little more baking soda, vanilla, and almond extract.  I liked they way they turned out.

A word of caution though, if you don't like to roll of fiddle with cookies, walk away.  The first dozen I made I just dropped out of my scoop.  They didn't look very pretty at all, very rough. The amount of flour in the batter made them hold their shape and not spread as I thought they would.  I rolled them in my hands and patted them out (that's what made them look so smooth).  You could roll the dough out and cut them, but I didn't think that step was necessary.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons of milk
5 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 min.).  Add eggs, milk, and extracts mixing to incorporate.  Slowly add flour until completely combined.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, rolling into a ball and slightly flattening out.  Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven 10-12 minutes.  They will not brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Note:  I think they would be delicious with some lemon zest added to the dough, then glazed with a lemon glaze.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snickerdoodle Oatmeal

I served this with a little buttered toast.

I've always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  My sister and I grew up getting ourselves ready for school each day alone.  Both of our parents worked and left the house before we were even awake usually.  Both my sister and I chose to sleep rather than eat breakfast, so we skipped the most important meal of the day.  During the summer months we would eat cereal each morning, occasionally pancakes or frozen waffles.  My Mom would always get on us for not eating breakfast, but there was no way we were going to wake up early to eat, sleep was precious.

When we had Titus I was determined to make breakfast for him each day and have him growing up eating breakfast.  He evolved to preferring Pop Tarts, Toaster Strudel, or cereal over time but occasionally would want to have something hot...well hotter than a toaster hot.  I have this HUGE hang up for wanting my children to eat homemade food and not reheated factory prepared food.  I can't really explain it, but it is a big deal to me.  I want them to ask for home made cookies over packaged, home made brownies over Little Debbie, and so on down the list.  Maybe it because I watched too much TV, who knows I certainly don't try to figure out my crazy quirks because there isn't enough time in the day.

Having just wrapped up a long Christmas break, extended by a visit from sweet long time friends, I stayed home to help Kendra get the kids ready for their day.  Titus brought home the classroom beta to babysit over the holiday, and he needed to go back to school.  I usually go to work early, before anyone is awake since I wake up at 5am everyday without an alarm clock.  The brisk morning made me think of oatmeal and so I just decided that I would make oatmeal for the kids and not ask what they wanted.   We have microwave packets of oatmeal that they usually eat, but I wanted to make something cooked on the stove.  

All of my kids loved this oatmeal!  This is a rare treat and very unusual for them to all agree that they love anything, let alone oatmeal.  Their reaction and praise for, "the best oatmeal on earth" made decide I'd better make it a recipe and get this written down.  Since I had to think of a name for this "recipe" I tried to associate the flavors and decided Snickerdoodle cookies is the closest flavor association I could make, thus the name.  The bonus is that saying, "snickerdoodle" is fun.  The picture above is Levi's serving, which needs to be room temperature or cooler because he doesn't like hot stuff.

Snickerdoodle Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups Instant Oatmeal
1 cup Milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Cinnamon Sugar (plus some for garnish)

In a medium saucepan add milk and water, bring to a boil over medium heat.  When the milk and water come to a boil, add salt, vanilla, and oats, stirring well.  Cook over medium heat 2 minutes.  Remove from heat adding remaining ingredients.  Stir well to combine.  Taste and adjust to suit personal taste.  Garnish with cinnamon sugar (about a tablespoon for each serving).

4 generous servings

  • When you boil milk on the stove, be watchful.  You really don't want to walk off from a pot of milk in the stove.  When it comes to the boiling point, it doesn't boil like water, it swells and foams up.  If you aren't careful it will over flow and that's no fun to clean up!
  • I think the vanilla adds a layer of flavor the compliments the cinnamon and sugar, it really helped finish off the dish, for me at least.
  • I keep cinnamon sugar mixed up and in my pantry in a flour shaker.  The one I have is from pampered chef, but you can find them readily at most stores that sell kitchen duke.  My ratio is almost equal parts cinnamon to sugar.
  • If you dont' think this tastes like a snickerdoodle that's ok, just change the name.
  • Start to finish this was done and ready to eat in 20 minutes, maybe less.