Have you ever stuck a fork into some food and said that you wished you had the recipe?

I did when I had this cake the second time.  It is THAT good!

Oh, and as a bonus for those who care, the cake itself … it’s actually Vegan!  Yeah, no milk, no eggs.

The icing is vegetarian since it requires butter and milk.  If you want to try making it Vegan, go ahead I won’t judge…

But this cake is excellent as is.  One of the best Chocolate Cakes I have had in memory.

It is a chocolate cake recipe from the Great Depression Era, when they had to be thrifty and scrimp on every corner they could.

But… whoever came up with this recipe came up with an amazing cake.

I find it every time I look for a chocolate cake recipe, and it haunted me until I took the time to make it.

You will find recipes like this one every time you search.  Some add things to it that are unnecessary and added fluff.   You can have it plain, without icing, and just a bit of confectioner’s sugar on top.  I opted for a rather simple buttercream icing and am really glad I did.

The trimmings I had of the cake to make it round the first time out tasted almost as rich as a brownie.  It stayed moist in the refrigerator longer than I expected, which is a big bonus.  My regular recipe is good, but this is better.

The process of making this is simple:

  • Add to a large mixing bowl (I recommend a stand mixer, but that is for speed) all your ingredients saving the vinegar for last.
  • Mix until smooth (See, that stand mixer would help)
  • Pour into floured and buttered 8 by 8 inch pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean when tested.

 

To make a more modern sized cake, I doubled the ingredients and got a two layer 9 inch cake.

Yes, Double the ingredients.  I did say Depression era and 8 by 8 one layer was the original size.

I also Doubled the icing for a 2 layer, 9 inch cake.

8 by 8 inch is a 20cm square.

9 inch round would be 23 cm.

Or so.

 

Ingredients:

 

For the cake (Each Layer):

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Cider or White vinegar

For the Icing (Each Layer):

  • 2 Tablespoons butter (room temp or melted)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Kahlua Chocolate Truffles

Usually the base recipe for chocolate truffles is simple.

2 parts chocolate, 1 part cream.  Melt, form balls, chill, and serve. 

You can do that in the microwave.  Just keep giving it 30 second pulses until it melts, stirring as you go on your way.

I’m fussy.  I use a double boiler or a Bain Marie.  Just boil water in a sauce pan and float a larger bowl on top while stirring.

Be careful though since chocolate melts at 86F.  If you get too hot, it may scorch so do this slowly.

With chocolate truffles it takes only about 5 minutes to cook.  Allow another 30 minutes until it firms up enough to form balls with a melon baller, then roll in nuts, cocoa, jimmies, or anything else your heart desires.

This is a different recipe.  It has Kahlua in it, so that changes what you have to mix in with the chocolate.

Basically the idea is the same, 2 parts chocolate, 1 part “fat”.  In this case the “fat” is butter and Kahlua instead of cream.  The Kahlua dilutes the butter down to the proper consistency and I ended up with a butter-like consistency truffle when I was done.

I also wanted a small “right sized” serving for dessert.  Tonight at the time of writing.  It made five, which was fine for what I needed.

Remember, since you’re not actually “cooking”, your chocolate quality directly effects how good your truffles will be.  If you use “commodity” junk chocolate, you get what you paid for.   Spring for the good stuff.  I used some chocolate chips, and it was excellent!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Ounces Good Quality Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kahlua

For Toppings:

  • Good quality Cocoa, 
  • Chocolate Jimmies, 
  • Chopped Nuts 
  • or anything else that you may prefer.

Preparation:

  • Melt the Chocolate and Butter together in a bowl until the mix is smooth.  This can be done using either the microwave on short bursts or in a Bain Marie water bath.
  • When the Chocolate and Butter are melted, add in the Kahlua and mix until smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes until firm.
  • Form balls with the chilled truffle mixture and dredge through the toppings.
  • Chill until solid and serve

Real Buttercream Chocolate Peppermint Cake or The Mistake Cake 2.0

Looking at the picture, I could have improved my technique somewhat.

There are random bits of Baker’s Chocolate in the icing that remained solid.  If I had added some cream to the Baker’s Chocolate and melted it, it would have blended more evenly into the icing. Since the cream goes into the icing anyway, I could have made a ganache by adding the cream to the chocolate, then melting them slowly together.  That resulting ganache would have mixed easier than the rather stiff Baker’s Chocolate.

Three squares of Baker’s Chocolate went into the icing.  You never add cocoa to an existing recipe that doesn’t call for it since it will throw off the mix.  Melt chocolate in a Bain Marie, in your microwave, double boiler, then fold it in to the recipe.  You will have a much better result, and it won’t be dried out.  Cocoa is a wonderful thing, but it is dry as dust and it will suck all the moisture out of your recipe.

I could have also used Chocolate Chips.  It would have made for a much sweeter icing, but that wasn’t necessary.  This icing will be my “Go-To” icing from this point forward.

It REALLY is THAT good!

The Starmints were melted to “glass” and could have been sanded on the edges for a sharper look.  They weren’t running into the icing, even after three days and the last pieces of cake were enjoyed.

But…

This turned out to be one of the tastiest cakes I have made in a very long time, and I do make them often.

First of all, it is what I will call the “Mistake Cake 2.0”.  When I was in Key West, FL for a visit, I went to a small shop a couple blocks off of Duval street.  The place was a wonderful shop, run by an amazing, warm, and friendly woman named Henrietta.  Her shop was called The Art Of Baking.  Henrietta had this “Mistake Cake” that was a deep, dark, and rich Chocolate cake.  I love a good chocolate cake, and this was an excellent one.

However.

Henrietta was apologizing because she had made a mistake and dropped a teaspoon of peppermint oil into the cake batter.  She didn’t know how it was, and I told her it sounded wonderful and I’d have it anyway. 

Watching me take my first forkful, Henrietta hovered like a mother watching her child take their first step.

The cake was amazing.  We enjoyed it together, and a conversation.  From that point forward I asked of her and her business, and … well you get the picture.

What happened was she moved “back to the mainland”.  From what I can tell she’s in Midway, Georgia, doing private baking.  If I ever go back up there, I will certainly try to find her.  All the information after around 2009 gets a bit sketchy.

Anyway…

The decorations are simple and can be done at the same time as any other baking.  On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, place the needed Starmints or hard candies face down.  Separate the candies well or they will run together and create a sheet of “glass” for you – unless that is what you want.  Preheat the oven to 350F and bake for 4 to 6 minutes.  At 4 minutes, check the candies – remove if done.  Trim edges with a knife.

The cake is simple, the actual recipe for the cake is my scratch chocolate cake batter, baked in 9 inch round pans for two layers.  Add one teaspoon of Real Peppermint Extract to the cake batter.

If scratch cake is a bit much, try a chocolate cake mix from a box.  But remember to add the teaspoon of Peppermint Extract.

Now for the good stuff.  The icing.  Unlike most icings that use shortening, this is a true buttercream.  There is no cooking, there are no weird preparations.  It has to be done with a mixer, and I recommend a stand mixer.  If you want to make this icing as a Yellow/White icing, leave out the chocolate.  If you want to make this without the peppermint extract, I recommend adding in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and that will give you a “proper” white buttercream icing.  Or even a banana or mango extract.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, at room temperature, softened
  • 3 to 4 cups of confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract – other extracts can be substituted such as vanilla if desired
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream or Milk
  • Optional – for chocolate icing, melt separately 3 squares Baker’s chocolate
  • Optional – pinch of salt

Process:

  • Cream your butter well in a stand mixer.  The more you cream the butter, the more fluffy it will be
  • To the creamed butter add in slowly 3 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar.  
  • If a sweeter icing is desired, add up to 4 cups, however I found it to be perfect with 3 cups.
  • Add to the icing base 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream or milk.  I recommend 3 Tablespoons heavy cream.
  • Add to the icing base any flavoring such as your chocolate, vanilla, and peppermint at this time.
  • Mix well to incorporate as much air as possible.
  • This will be very stiff in the refrigerator so only chill when needed.
  • At room temperature, this icing will be soft and creamy.

Ugly Truffles? Ship Them Anyway!

I have a simple truffle recipe.  Two ingredients.

1 pound chocolate (milk or dark)
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream.

Melt them together until smooth in a double boiler.
Chill until firm, then scoop with a melon-baller.
Coat as desired.

Trust me on this one, the “Melt them” step took 10 minutes from start to finish.

They are that easy.

The coating… it didn’t go quite so well.

I was showing off.  I guess it helps to be put in your place.  I guess I need to research this again.

I wanted to use White Chocolate to make a dip.  Thinking “how tough could it be?”  I just poured some into the Bain Marie the next day and began melting.

Florida’s climate got in the way, I guess.  The chocolate seized up and turned into a strange waxy grit.  I searched for a solution and they suggested a little oil to push the water out of the mix.  That loosened up the white goo into something smooth, but at a high temperature.

While chocolate melts at 86F, White Chocolate directly out of the steam bath is considerably hotter.  Truffles are barely solid at what passes for room temperature here, even on the coldest week of the year.

Rolling the truffles into a little ball, then chilling them had helped a little bit, but they almost immediately started to melt as I tried to dip them in the white goo.

Thinking “You’re seeing things” I tried a second and a third.

I stopped at 7.  The rest got dusted in a premium cocoa and sent up North to my sister in Cherry Hill, NJ and my friend near Atlanta.  Those were perfect.

Actually, the White Chocolate Ugly Truffle Bombs were tasty.  Misshapen bombs of sweetness with a thick uneven shell of white chocolate tasted great.  They just looked ugly.

Ugly Ugly Misshapen chocolate.  Poor little things.  Let me put you out of your misery….

*CRUNCH*  Mmmmm you taste good. 

That is part of the holiday box thing I do.  If I make a mistake, find something amusing to send along, add something memorable, I just toss it in the box and send it along.

Memorable to whom?  Me.
Amusing?  I have a creative sense of humor.  Tasty but amusing.

In this case, just Ugly.  I may as well Own Up to it, right?

The solution is that there needs to be some fat added back to the coating to have them melt at a lower temperature.  Your garden variety chocolate bar, melting at 86F, does so because there is an accepted percentage of fat added to the bar to help it melt at that point.  The government here and in most countries say that in order for something to be called “Chocolate” there are proportions of everything.  Otherwise it is merely “chocolatey” or “chocolate flavored”.  

Lame imitation of the real food of the gods, you are banished to make Easter Bunnies, Gelt, and those weird coatings on discount branded snacky cakes that never quite taste right.

Add more fat, like the cream in a truffle, they melt at a cooler temperature.  Remove fat and you get something that eventually could become cocoa.

During World War II through Gulf War I, Hershey made up some chocolate bars that melted at a higher temperature by changing the recipe to add egg whites as well as some other tricks.  Living in Pennsylvania at the time, I found some of those “Desert Bars” at the Reading, PA Outlets and got a box or two.  Interesting bars, they had a “harder” texture, but they were definitely what you and I would call chocolate.  It tasted like your garden variety Hershey’s Bar.  These were better than what granddad had in WW II in their K and D Rations, but those earlier military chocolate bars were “better than eating a potato”.

I guess you had to be there for that one.

So the next time I attempt White Chocolate dipped truffles, I’ll add in some cream to lower that melt point so the mix doesn’t have to be quite so hot.

After all, the FDA doesn’t even recognize “White Chocolate” as chocolate since there isn’t any cocoa to be found in the stuff.  It’s just “sweet”.  A “confectionery”.  Great for coating things if you get your recipes right.

Unlike my ugly truffles.

Snail and Cactus

We see these everywhere, but this was the first time I saw one on the cactus.

Usually I see these either as two ways.

First late at night after a rainstorm.  I’ll take our last walk of the night.  It will be usually, Rack, Kevin, and myself, and sometimes Bill and Ellie.  It never fails.

Crunch.

The last thing that snail saw was the bottom of my size 11 shoe and that was because I didn’t see it.  They don’t actually glow in the dark and since I don’t practice Jainism, I don’t walk down the street with a broom to sweep my path.

Although the non-violence tenet of that religion is quite appealing.

The other way is when the shells have been evacuated.   The snails will climb a vertical structure and simply remain there.  At that point the shell is there, stuck to a wall, window, or the rear passenger side tire of my Jeep, and quite empty.

I’m not kidding about the Jeep, these things end up everywhere.

This particular little chocolate candy shaped creature was spotted when I went outside to look at an approaching thunderhead.  Since they don’t move very quickly, I went back inside the house, answered a phone call, and came back out with the camera.  It merely continued to crawl over the surface of my cactus.

I have plenty of them and have sent friends and family cuttings from the plant.  Cactus is a great plant for the lazy and that’s why I have it, just stick it in a pot and ignore it.

Now why the chocolate companies choose to make a piece that looks like this creature is one thing, but they may have hit upon something.  Chocolate does help snails remember better, so if you need to justify your cravings, perhaps this may help.

Even if they aren’t stuffed with Roasted Hazelnut Cream like the snail shaped Guylian Chocolates are.