Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’


Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Case of the Reverse Red Velvet

February 24, 2011

So recently I was really craving some red velvet in my life. The problem is I get bored of the same things over and over again. For example, my dad absolutely loves chocolate chip cookies. He also likes most of the random cookies I’ve pieced together like Tazo Passion Chips, Triple Chocolate Tangelo, and White Chocolate Pistachio, but always defaults to requesting chocolate chip. Sure they are wonderful and delicious and homey, don’t get me wrong, but what they lack to me is a challenge. I’ve realized I like challenges. A lot.

Which brings me back to my dilemma; I wanted something that filled the void of being red velvet, without being red velvet per se. Thus came the idea for a reversed red velvet cake. In my head this cake would be cream-cheesy in the center and red chocolaty goodness on the outside. I feel this cake does just that, but left me a little “whelmed.” It turned out quite tasty and I was so happy to make a red icing without having to use a whole lot of dye (Pure red can be a quite the task to make, as more often than not it comes out pink or really fake nuclear red). The downside though, is that it just became a vanilla cake with a creamy filling and red chocolate frosting. It wasn’t as exciting as I had imagined.

Not all my ideas work out 100% of the time. At this point I’d like to quote one of my favorite teachers of all time.

“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” ~Ms. Frizzle

In baking and cooking, it’s important not to just have ideas, but to run with them. Make them into a reality. Worst-case scenario is that you make a wonderful mistake of a recipe (see here) or you learn how to improve your recipes slash realize they are awful. <(^_^)>

I may have lost this challenge to myself, but as a result I have even more new ideas that I want to try out.


-If you don’t want to use cake mix in the frosting, you can substitute in a 2-3 Tbsp cocoa powder, an extra cup of powdered sugar, and red food coloring until you reach your desired level of crimson to chocolate ratio. Warning: You may need a LOT of red dye.

-This cream cheese pastry cream is fantastic! It reminds me a bit of the filling inside of those cheap and tasty Costco cakes, but hey — you can make it yourself! Woot woot!

-Trying out the cheesecake flavor of LorAnn oil I have discovered an essential flavor for my pantry. It tastes more like cake-batter than anything else. I foresee a lot of cake-batter flavored sweets and treats in the future.

-Next time I would cut each of the 8 inch cakes in half to have a total of 3 layers of pastry cream. That stuff is good. I could seriously eat it like pudding…well it kinda is just that.  <(>.>)>

Reverse Red Velvet Cake


  • 2 c soymilk
  • 2 tsp. vinegar (apple cider variety if you have)
  • 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. canola oil
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 drops of cheesecake flavor LorAnne oil (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.

Mix together the soy milk + vinegar and set aside to curdle for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile in a large bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the oil, sugar, and flavoring to the curdled soymilk and beat together. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until the lumpiness is gone.

Separate into the 2 cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Cream Cheese Pastry Cream

  • 2 c. soymilk (or milk)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 oz. cream cheese (¾ of a brick)
  • ½ tsp vanilla ( I used vanilla bean paste for some flecks)

In a medium saucepan warm the milk until scalding. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until light in color. In a small bowl, heat the cream cheese in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted and smooth. Now, slowly whisk the milk into the egg mixture until it all comes together. Return to saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue whisking for 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Whisk for 1 additional minute then remove from the heat. Fold in the cream cheese, cover with some plastic wrap, poke some holes and refrigerate for an hour or until chilled (The plastic wrap should touch the surface of the cream, so a skin doesn’t form while chilling).

Red Velvet Frosting

  • 1 c. butter or margarine (softened at room temp)
  • 1 ½ c sifted red velvet cake mix
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • ¾ c. soymilk or milk (more may be necessary)

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Sift in the cake mix along with ¼ c. of the milk. Slowly alternate additions of the powdered sugar and the milk. The resulting frosting should be a nice spreading consistency. If too thick add more milk, if too thin add more sugar.

To assemble: fill layer(s) with the pastry cream, frost and enjoy!

~Erik <(^_^)>


A Cake for Chocoholics and Celiacs

January 29, 2011

Sitting down to write this post has got me thinking about food trends.  You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – stuff that your grandparents (and in some cases even your parents) have never heard of (and certainly didn’t find in their Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks growing up) but are all the rage in trendy restaurants and specialty grocery stores.  Stuff like chorizo, chipotle seasoning, pomegranates, and bacon in desserts.  Sure, they’ve always been around, but were never hot items like they are now (the way jell-o molds, fondue, and various meat and seafood mousses were in the 70’s).  Of course, all this boils down to is my observation that food trends change almost as often  as clothing, music, and hair trends.  Plus it serves as an elegant segue into the topic of this post, and one of the top trending foods of our day:  the flourless chocolate cake.

This recipe in particular is one that I hadn’t even heard of until a couple years ago, and even after I had, didn’t have any particular interest in trying.  I imagined it would be a very dense (which it is), cheesecakey-tasting (which it’s not) concoction that would stick to the roof of your mouth and leave you feeling less-than-satisfied.  Think again.

Chopped butter and chocolate, ready for melting!

It’s a deliciously rich, dense, melt-in-your-mouth experience that satisfies even the most ferocious of chocolate cravings.  Plus, it’s topped with crème fraîche – a close relative of sour cream and my ultimate dairy vice – how could I resist?  I couldn’t.  So, I finally broke down and made it after it turned up in the November issue of Real Simple (and I was bored one Friday night) Original Recipe Here.  I made it 100% per the recipe the first time, but on subsequent trials altered the recipe slightly (see below).  It’s relatively simple to prep, doesn’t require too many ingredients, and only needs one piece of specialist equipment – a springform pan (generally not too pricey or difficult to come by).

Oh, and I haven’t even told you the best part about this cake!  Though, for those of you among us who know someone with Celiac Disease or have it yourself, you already know…it’s gluten-free!  This is certainly a good go-to dessert to have in your repertoire for entertaining occasions when, say, your gluten-intolerant aunt and your mom’s gluten-intolerant friend are coming to the same Tupperware party you’ve been asked to prepare food for (to give a random example, off the top of my head).

Melting the chocolate and butter.

The Recipe:


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark), plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

“Crème Fraîche”

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with ¼ cup of the heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding.

The eggs and sugar anxiously await the chocolate.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream with the sour cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Serve cake with crème fraîche.  Accept graciously the compliments of your guests, you deserve them!

The Finished Product: Yes, it's in its nature to look a little deflated and pathetic. No worries!



A Very Merry Bûche de Noël to All!

December 26, 2010

Now that I’ve survived the Christmas rush and a nasty bout of pneumonia, I am back and ready for action!  Nothing says Christmas baking to me like a beautiful Bûche de Noël, but first a little backstory…

In third grade, we were all assigned a project to interview our oldest living relative about their holiday traditions.  I chose to interview my mom’s mother (my Mémère), who was not the oldest, but perhaps the most interesting and (knowing me) most convenient.  Mémère was French, and what I remember from her interview about holiday traditions was this funny sounding thing called Bûche de Noël.  I didn’t know what it was, but I really couldn’t figure out why anyone would be excited about eating a log.  I imagined it being tough and woody.  Not good eats.  Ohhh, how naïve I was…

Now older and wiser, I understand that this coveted holiday treat is made of cake and deliciousness rather than bark and pine needles.  Part of the beauty of which is that it can be made in almost any flavor combination, as long as you’ve got the three basic components:  a spongy, rolled cake; a filling; and a frosting.  The possibilities are almost endless and can be tailored for your audience, but one thing’s certain:  everyone loves this elegant and easy holiday treat.


The hardest part of this recipe is to get the sponge cake to turn out right.  Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time.  My first batch completely stuck to the waxed paper and had to be scrapped.

When I made it, I went for triple chocolate (chocolate cake with chocolate filling and frosting), but I think in retrospect that’s awfully over-chocolatey-whelmy.  A white sponge cake would make the cake look more woody and cut down on the chocolate.  Also, a more custardy, pastry cream filling would be delicious.

It doesn’t take any specialist equipment to decorate the cake.  I used a fork and a butter knife to make decorative ridges in the frosting to make it look like bark.  I also sprinkled with powdered sugar to make it look like freshly fallen snow on the Christmas log.

I found some chocolate mushroom cookies at World Market that I used to make the log look like it had been colonized by fungi on the forest floor, though if you can’t find the storebought ones, there are plenty of recipes and instructions out there for making meringue or marzipan mushrooms.  Anything works though, get creative!

Garnish with holly leaves or berries!

Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1/2 c. sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease jellyroll pan; line with greased waxed paper. Separate eggs and beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; set aside. Beat egg yolks until lemon colored. Add sugar and cocoa gradually to yolks; beat until thick. Blend in flour and salt. Fold egg yolk mixture into beaten egg whites, taking care not to deflate egg whites too much.

Pour batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake 15 minutes or until done. Loosen cake edges immediately; turn out onto clean dish towel sprinkled with powdered sugar.

While still hot, roll up cake in dish towel. Cool rolled with seamside down. Unroll cake; spread with about 1/3 cup desired filling and reroll.  Frost with desired frosting and decorate.  Refrigerate overnight before serving. Let cake set at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Place the semisweet chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Bring cream to a boil in heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 10 minutes; use rubber spatula to stir until smooth.  Let chocolate mixture cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Place mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until ganache holds its shape and is slightly lightened in color.  I filled and frosted my cake with this ganache, but feel free to use a different filling.  Enjoy!

– Josie


Oh, Mon Dieu! Madeleines!

December 10, 2010

Erik and I spent practically all summer trying to find a Madeleine pan.  For weeks, we looked for them in every store we went into.  Why we didn’t just buy one Amazon for around $10 with free shipping is beyond me, but that’s beside the point.  By the time we both finally procured pans (I found mine at the Shenandoah Heritage Market on S. Main, and Erik’s is from Williams-Sonoma), I was more than ready to begin experimenting with these treats.  I had several limes left over from an impulse bulk-buy when they were on sale at the grocery store, so I wanted to find a way to incorporate lime into the recipe.  I decided on Chocolate Lime for the first go round, using a basic recipe I found online.

I’m not sure why, but I’d imagined Madeleines would be difficult to get right.  If you’ve ever made them you know that’s simply not true.  Halfway between a cake and a cookie, they are whipped up quickly with a surprisingly thin batter (I was worried it wouldn’t be thick enough to bake up, but it was no problem).  The hardest part is figuring out how much batter to put in each well, because most of the batters I’ve tried tend to really puff up and if you overfill you lose the signature shell-like shape.  You’ve really just got to experiment with it, as it varies from recipe to recipe.

When they came out of the oven, warm and delicious, I decided to drive them over to share with my friend, Kelly, who promptly devoured several.  And I can hardly say that I blame her—I may or may not have done the same thing on my way to her house.


Most recipes make only one pan of Madeleines (generally 12), so if you need/want more, double or triple the recipe!

These can be done in virtually any different flavor combination by tweaking a basic recipe.  I would, however, steer clear of putting whole fruits (like blueberries or raspberries) in the batter, because they make it really sticky and it becomes difficult to get them out of the pan—in any case, make sure it’s sprayed liberally with a non-stick cooking spray.

Whatever recipe you decide to use should be a Madeleine recipe.  Regular cake batter won’t work for this, as we learned the hard way (a puffy, sticky, cakey mess!).

Like almost all baked treats, they are most delicious served warm; but can be made ahead, stored in an airtight container until needed, then reheated just before serving.

They are very pretty dusted with powdered sugar, although I imagine would be quite delicious when drizzled with a simple glaze.

Chocolate Lime Madeleines

  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (3 squares), chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Zest of one lime
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Cooking spray, for pan

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray pan with cooking spray.

2. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler, stirring to incorporate.  Add lime zest.

3. Whisk together sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

4. Beat in the flour and salt.

5. Fold in the chocolate mixture.

6. Spoon or pipe batter into wells of pan. Bake 12-14 minutes. Remove from the tray (may need to pry out with the tip of a knife).  Cool on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar, and enjoy!


~ Josie