Tag Archives: Baking

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!

I have found this recipe online several times, often with the title “The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!”  And while it is a very good, very chocolatey chocolate cake, I don’t know if I could say it’s the best ever.  That is a very big claim.  But yesterday, after much pleading from Lulu and feeling like we all needed the mood boost a chocolate cake brings, I decided to bust out my new silicon cupcake pan.  I was hoping for cute little mini-bundt cake looking cupcakes.

IMG_0356

Bonus points because it’s green!

Instead, I got this:

IMG_0354

Now, it’s kind of hard to tell from this lousy photograph, but that is a clumpy pile of chocolate cakes that have none of the decorative grooves and whatnot I expected.  Which brings me to my problem with this cake: both times I have made it, it has refused to come out (the first time I used a metal cake pan).  No matter how good a cake tastes (and this one does taste very good), I cannot consider it “the best ever” it it sticks to the pan and breaks.  I’m a bit perplexed as to how to fix this…increase the baking temperature?  Cook it longer?  Maybe oil the pan instead of butter-and-flouring it?  If any of you baker pros out there have any tips, please leave them in the comments!

No matter how this cake looks, it does taste very good, and the recipe is a nice basic one to have on hand.  You could easily tweak it a little bit (like I did for Christmas, adding ground cardamom and orange zest) to add a flavor boost.  And, um, if it does happen to fall apart on you, just follow Lulu’s example:

IMG_0359Grab the biggest clump you can find and shove it in your mouth!

(Maybe) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. espresso powder (I used 1 tsp. instant coffee added to the boiling water)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.  (You can do this recipe by had with a whisk or with a hand mixer.)  Add the remaining ingredients except the boiling water and mix thoroughly.  Add the water (with the instant coffee if you’re using that) and mix as fast as possible for one minute.  Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes in a 9″ pan that has been greased and floured.

No-Bake Cookies

My relationship with food has become very complicated during this pregnancy.  There are so many “guidelines” about what and when and how much pregnant women are supposed (or not supposed) to eat.  And don’t forget the cocktail of vitamins.

For instance:

  • I am supposed to get about 567% of the average person’s daily amount of iron and calcium.  But for optimal absorption, iron and calcium should not be consumed (whether in food or vitamin form) within two hours of each other.  So, if my breakfast cereal is fortified with iron but I eat it with calcium-rich milk, is it even worth counting the amounts of minerals in that meal?  And my three-times-a-day iron supplements, plus the regular prenatal vitamin…when do I take those?
  • Also, the midwife wants me eating 90 grams of protein each day.  Seriously?  Maybe I should consider this my free ticket to eat steak every day, but as much as I try to cram in dairy products and eggs and tofu and beans and reasonable (affordable) amounts of meat, I doubt I am anywhere close to 90 grams of protein.
  • Can we also discuss the fact that most protein-rich foods are also very high in calories?  Pregnant women only need 300 additional calories every day.
  • Don’t forget too the commandment to eat at least six servings of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Given these imperatives, it must be seen as a divine miracle that humanity has survived as long as we have without a mass proliferation of useless limbs, third eyes and missing organs.  And while I really do want a healthy baby and have worked very hard to follow these eating guidelines as much as possible, there comes the occasional moment when I just have to say, “Screw it.”  And then I make these no-bake cookies.  But only a half batch, because there’s no need to go overboard in indulgence 🙂

That's all I left for Hungry Husband.

No-Bake Cookies (makes about 3 dozen)

  • 1 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 90 seconds, stirring.  (These 90 seconds are really the key…if you cook this for too little time, the cookies will not set, and if you overcook it they will be dry and crumbly.)
Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the peanut butter, oats, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed.
Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper (or, if you are like me and don’t have waxed paper, a regular plate/platter will do just fine) and let cool.

There should be 3 P’s in “happy”

Pineapple, melted butter and brown sugar...yum!

1. Pineapple Upside-down Cake: when I was a child, my mom would occasionally make this cake, full of sugary buttery goodness and topped with that delight of all delights, maraschino cherries.  Somehow in the “sophistication” of my twenties, I forgot all about it, and it was only recently brought back to memory by a recent Food in Jars post on an adaptation made with jam.  I almost went with a boxed yellow cake mix, but thankfully Betty Crocker saved the day, and I whipped up a homemade Pineapple Upside-down Cake (sans maraschino cherries, which I now find frightening in their over-chemicalized state) in a few simple steps.  Here’s a link to Betty’s recipe, because Betty does it best!

Oh so golden and sweet.

2.  Peanut butter.  I will not go into a full treatise on the glories of real peanut butter right now; suffice it to say that I am a peanut butter snob.  I have high expectations and will generally refuse to eat any that includes ingredients other than peanuts.  However, I have recently found myself desperately in need of an easy way to get a lot of extra calories, and unexpectedly finding three jars of (highly processed, not even as good as JIF) crunchy peanut butter in my local shop, I decided that, at the least, it is a better option than eating an entire Pineapple Upside-down Cake every two days.  The good news is that since it’s been at least 11 months since I last tasted peanut butter, even this plasticky, gooey mess seems wonderful and delicious.

3. Pregnancy!  Yes, I am now almost 12 weeks pregnant with our first child–hence the need for extra calories.  Between our normal diet, which is very high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes but low in meat and fats, and the normal first trimester of pregnancy eating discomforts, I have actually lost a few pounds the past two months.  I didn’t start this pregnancy with much extra weight to spare, so I am trying to be very conscious about adding in healthy, high-calorie foods whenever I can.  (And Pineapple Upside-down Cake only when really needed!)  Little Baby (henceforth to be known as LB) is due June 22, and so far is normal and healthy and, as the doctor proclaimed during my ultrasound yesterday, “very active.”  Hungry Husband and I are very excited, although he did ask me if this is going to turn into a blog where I talk about nothing except pregnancy and the baby.  Um…I don’t know, but if it does, well, it’s my blog and I suppose I can write about whatever I want!

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS

It starts off well..

I know it is fall.  The thermometer may (rightly) insist the high temperatures are still in the 90s, but something has definitely shifted.  Three indisputable proofs:

  1. My kitchen has suddenly been overrun by an invincible army of ants.  I kill them, there’s already more coming.  I clean my counters and sink 17 times a day, so they make their way into the cupboards.  And the silverware drawer.  And my (closed) food processor, too–how do they do that?!?  Outdoor critters moving inside is a sure sign of approaching coldness.
  2. For three days, the sky was overcast, the wind blew and we had dust storms requiring multiple house cleanings.  Yes, it was still hot, but it even rained once.  There is a saying that, literally translated from Arabic, is, “September’s tail is wet.”  Meaning: it rains at the end of September.  After the first fall rain is when the olive harvest traditionally starts, although for the past several years much of the region has been suffering a drought causing the harvest to come later.
  3. I have an incurable desire to bake.  I am so done with salads and fruit and tangy yoghurt dressings.  I want things with wheat and butter.  Preferably wheat, butter and chocolate, but I do manage to restrain myself.  Occasionally.  Still, my body is going into winter fat storage mode.  This time of year I am less of a hummingbird and more like a bear preparing for a long hibernation.

Seems like everything is under control...

So the aforementioned Roasted Pumpkin Soup was accompanied by my traditional Baking Powder Biscuits, which is one of those things everyone should know how to make.  I attempted to jazz them up with some corn and caramelized onion, which turned out to be a good idea but was poorly executed.  The sad result?  Some serious burnage that rendered the entire batch inedible, although Hungry Husband gamely tried to rescue them with a spoonful of cinnamon syrup.  It’s not a combination I would have though of, but he’s brave that way, and even more of a stickler than I am about the evils of wasting food.  He said it was “better” with the syrup; however, in the end even he passed on seconds and they went into the trash.

Lesson learned: set the timer!

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS

  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 2 c. flour
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Sift the dry ingredients together.  Cut in the shortening, and then add the milk slowly, stirring.  It is a sticky batter but knead it lightly, to the best of your abilities.  Drop the batter in spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes in a preheated 475F oven.