First Honey Ice Cream, then Chocolate Cake

by Caroline

After making the honey ice cream the other day, I had 6 egg whites left over. I could have made an egg white omelette, I suppose, but that’s not really my style.

This is more my style:

This recipe is similar — in look and execution — to Lisa’s chocolate roulade, though her cake is quite a bit richer. The recipe I followed is for a simple chocolate angel food sheet cake, straight from The Joy of Cooking:

Grease an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift together three times:
1/4 c cake flour
1/4 c cocoa
1/4 c plus 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 t salt

Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat on low speed for one minute:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 t water
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 t vanilla

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture increases in volume 4-5 times and resembles a bowl of soft, almost translucent foam composed of tiny bubbles (this takes 2-3 minutes). The foam will hold a very moist shape when the beaters are lifted. Beat in very gradually (on medium speed), one tablespoon at a time:

1/4 c plus 2 T granulated sugar

When all the sugar has been added, the foam will be creamy white and hold soft, moist, glossy peaks that bend over at the points; do not beat until stiff.

Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture evenly over the surface of the egg mixture and fold gently with a rubber spatula only until the flour is almost incorporated. Do not stir or mix. Repeat 7 or 8 more times, until the flour mixture is all incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 15 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Invert the cooled cake onto a sheet of wax paper and remove the baking pan and peel off the parchment paper. Now lift the wax paper and turn the cake right side up on to a sheet of aluminum foil. Peel off the wax paper (a thin top layer of cake may come off; that’s fine).

Now make the filling; I used lightly-sweetened whipped cream, beat stiffer than usual: 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, beaten until stiff. Spread over the cooled cake and then roll up the cake starting at one end: fold and press an inch or so of the cake firmly up over the filling at one end to get started. Even if the cake cracks at first, keep your first turns especially tight; the cracking will diminish as the roll gets bigger (also, you can cover cracks later with whipped cream, frosting or a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar; also, no one will care what the cake looks like). Once the cake is rolled, wrap tightly with foil and refrigerate to firm the cake before serving.

Serve with honey ice cream, extra whipped cream, and/or berries.

Chocolate Brownie Frosting

by Caroline

party supplies

I don’t do elaborate kid birthday parties. Knowing that most children are happy with a treat and the chance to play with their friends, I don’t see any reason to knock myself out. I am lucky that my sons both have spring birthdays, so we can keep everybody in the backyard, and for the last few years we’ve hosted parties for both boys that involve the kids building objects out of scrap wood and sending them flying down a fishing line strung from our back deck into the yard. The boys call the game “crazy contraptions,” and so far we have proven that kids from four to ten will play it for hours.

When it’s time for a break, we let the kids put their creative impulses toward cupcakes, and here’s where I suppose I do put in some effort, but I like to bake and homemade cupcakes are quick and cheap, so I make a lot. Typically I make crazy cake chocolate cupcakes and a vanilla cupcake and let the kids choose one or the other; this year Eli requested chocolate vanilla swirl, so I followed this incredibly simple (and delicious) recipe. Then I make a double batch of cream cheese frosting, divide it and color it, plus I make one batch of chocolate frosting. I set out the frostings in ziploc bags with one corner trimmed off (ie, instant homemade piping bags), set out some sprinkles, and let the kids go to town.

This recipe came from my friend Liz, and it is not only the best chocolate frosting I know, it happens to be super easy:

Beat until well-combined and a bit fluffy:
3 T room temperature butter
3 T cocoa powder
1 T light corn syrup or mild honey
1/2 t vanilla

Add 1 c confectioner’s sugar and mix well.

Stir in
1-2 T milk, just enough to make the frosting spreadable.

Makes about a cup — perfect for a dozen cupcakes, but you’ll want to double the recipe to frost an entire cake.

The Only Brownie Recipe You Will Ever Need

by Caroline

Last summer, to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, Tony and I arranged back to back sleepovers for our kids with two different families, and thus managed our first two-night getaway together since Ben was born. We’d each been away longer on our own (or with friends and family), both for work and for pleasure, but never just the two of us. So we drove to Calistoga with a pile of books and magazines and spent our time away sleeping, eating, and reading.

One of the books I read that weekend was Kate Moses’ richly-detailed, quietly moving memoir with recipes, Cakewalk. I read it very slowly, savoring her writing, not wanting it to end, and when it did end, I cried.

Cakewalk was in ways not the happiest choice for my anniversary reading. None of the many marriages she describes in the book are easy, whether she’s writing about her own parents or those of her teenage boyfriend, whose father mutters under his breath to Kate, in his wife’s presence, “Twenty-five years of that woman is enough to choke a horse.” It is in that chapter that Moses offers her brownie recipe, which, with its two versions, is perhaps a good example of how to thrive in a long relationship: stay flexible and always offer options.

One version of the recipe (the one that I prefer) was reprinted in the New York Times and I offer it here; you’ll have to buy the book to get the frosting-covered creamy brownie recipe.

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 1/2 cups walnut halves (optional)

9 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 3/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking pan. If using walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and cover pan until chocolate is melted, about 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla just until thick, creamy and beginning to lighten in color.

3. Whisk the butter and chocolate until smooth, then mix into the sugar-egg mixture just until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the flour, using as few strokes as possible, until it disappears. Fold in the walnuts, if using. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 22 minutes to avoid over-baking. When the tip of a knife inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not liquid, remove brownies from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and leave in the pan for several hours or overnight before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Birthday Cake

by Caroline

Five years ago today, in honor of her milestone birthday, I organized a virtual birthday celebration for my sister by having her many friends post birthday cake pictures on their blogs.

This year, with fewer of us blogging and more of us on Facebook, her friend Becca and I organized a somewhat different celebration of the day. But here I am, still blogging, and still with cake-baking energy, so in her honor I want to post the recipe for the first cake we ever baked together. It’s known by many names — Crazy Cake, Cockeyed Cake, 6-Minute Cake — but no matter what you call it, it’s always delicious. I usually make it now with revisions Libby first suggested to me — adding espresso powder and chocolate chips; using raspberry vinegar for the white vinegar — but whether you use those variations or not, the result is always surprisingly chocolate-y and rich. It happens also to be vegan, which is often convenient these days.

So for Libby on her birthday:

1 1/2 c white flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp espresso powder (optional but good)
1/2 tsp salt

1 c water or coffee
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp vinegar (any old vinegar will do, but red wine or raspberry is particularly nice)

1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips (optional, but what’s not better with some chocolate chips?)

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine the dry ingredients in an ungreased 8″ square or 9″ round baking pan. In a 2-cup measure, combine the water, oil and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork until smooth (make sure to get into the corners so that you don’t get dry floury bites in the finished cake!). Now add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter from the baking soda and vinegar reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

Alternatively, line a cupcake pan with liners, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then carry on with the directions as above.

Bake a single cake for 25 minutes, bake cupcakes for 15, cool briefly on a rack, and enjoy.

Black & Orange Oreos for the Team

by Caroline

The other day we were brainstorming about foods we could make to celebrate our team — the San Francisco Giants — moving into the playoffs. Conveniently, their uniforms are a seasonal black and orange so we were thinking pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips (or chocolate frosting), and for dinner, black bean and sweet potato enchiladas. Lisa, always working the cocktail angle, suggested orange soda with black licorice straws, and of course we’ve already seen her gorgeous Giant Marys.

Then my friend Liz reminded me about the oreo cookie recipe I sent her long ago (and then promptly lost), and suggested making an orange filling. Perfect! Now, there are many recipes online for homemade oreos (including one that calls for devil’s food cake mix; hmmm), and most use an egg — which I’m sure makes a nice chocolate cookie; but, if you’re after the crumbly shortbread texture of the oreos of your youth, use this recipe (which Liz typed up and saved on her computer, thank goodness.) I’m sorry I can’t recall it’s source, so please, if you recognize it, let me know so I can offer proper credit!

“Oreo” Cookies

In a mixing bowl, beat till fluffy
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar

In a separate bowl, sift together
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa*
1/2 tsp salt

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter to make a stiff dough. Remove from the bowl, knead a couple times on a lightly floured board to make sure it’s fully combined, then shape into a disk and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time and keeping the remainder cold, roll out to about 1/4” thickness. Cut into circles or whatever shape you desire, place on a cookie sheet, and bake 15 minutes or till firm. Cool on a rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

When cool, make sandwiches with the following filling:

1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter beaten till fluffy with
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and
1/2 tsp. vanilla

*Note: I use half regular cocoa and half black cocoa (available from King Arthur Flour) for a real “oreo” color.