Send Inspiration!!! (Perfect Chocolate, Chocolate Cake)

Lately I’ve gotten tired of the same old questions, “what’s new?” “Nothing”, “Whats up?” “Same ol’ same old.”, “Hows work?” “worky”. I need difference in my life, I need excitement. Luckily with the weather warming, cabin fever is finally wearing off and we can go for hikes and walks outside. Actually this past weekend I got to (re)plant potatoes with a local organic farm and got really, really sunburn – lobster status.

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Look! A wild Heron!

However even with this slight change in the weather I am still caught up in the mundane patterns of society. I don’t even know what to bake anymore, I’m running out of ideas, motivation is slipping from my slightly tan, and rather dry fingers. Bold statement warning: PLEASE SEND IDEAS! Ideas for baked goods, ideas for blog posts, give me a topic I can work with that. Give me a news article I can form something around that. I JUST NEED VARIATION IN MY LIFE. Okay boring rant aside I did get to make a pretty awesome cake recently. When you are 80 years old where do you see yourself? What do you hope to have accomplished in your life? To celebrate 80 years I made a 3 layered “zebra” cake for this wonderful lady (see photo below). This by far was the biggest cake I have ever made and the only time I made a tiered cake. I was actually stumped ealier in the week, I did not know what kind of support this cake would need. After a trip to A.C. Moore and $80 later I got the cake support I needed as well as a bunch of things I didn’t need. Image What I really want to tell you about in this cake is the chocolate. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate cake recipe. This is by far the richest, wettest, chocolatlyist cake I have ever had. This is not the first time I’ve used this recipe, Pair this with a peanut butter ganache you have a heart breaker. Pair this with a Bailys butter cream icing you have a dream. IMG_7964 Without further ado, Chocolate addicts please feast your eyes on the greatest chocolate cake recipe you may ever encounter   Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake Recipe This will make a double layer cake easy. This time I paired it with a Bailys buttercream icing, it was a beautiful mixture of flavors. P.S. This is the same buttercream icing I use on the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. Ingredients: Cake – 2 cups sugar 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup boiling water Frosting – 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature 5 cups powdered sugar 6 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream Directions: Cake

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 2 9 inch round baking pans
  2. In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  3. In a stand mixer mix eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet along with boiling water and mix, the batter will be thin, this is normal.
  5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool ten minutes before removing from pan, wait an additional 15 before frosting.

Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer whip the butter on medium speed for 5 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl down periodically.
  2. Add the powder sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing between each cup, until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the Baileys and whip until light and fluffy.
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How to Murder a 12 Year Old’s Dreams (The Best Brownies Ever)

What was the best birthday cake you ever had? On my 12th birthday I dreamed of my cake: rich in chocolate, light, melt in your mouth, the center piece of my birthday party. I never got it.

I have always been particular about my birthday cakes, and my mother has always delivered. Growing up you could say I had an elaborate imagination. I once had a fish themed birthday party and I wanted my cake to be a fish tank. You can bet your bottom dollar that my mom made a chocolate cake decorated as one. On my 18th birthday I told my mom to get creative, actually I told her that I just wanted cannoli’s.  She made a four layer chocolate cake with chocolate mousse icing, and cannoli filling between the layers. I still remember it today; the icing was so light, and so rich in chocolate with a hint of coffee flavor, and the cake, so moist, so light, paired perfectly with the sweet creamy cannoli filling with crunches of mini chocolate chips. It almost makes up for my twelfth birthday, almost.

Brownies

The best chocolate brownie ever!

Twelve was a weird age for me, while I was playing out in the dirt and on the basketball court; all of my friends were growing up and becoming more girly. They all started to care about their hair, boys, lip gloss and being popular. I just cared if I could make ten foul shots in a row, or make the game winning goal in field hockey (some things never change). I was torn between brushing my long matted hair, or cutting it all off to a short pixy cut. Things were definitely changing.

I made a big decision for my birthday that year, I wanted a big chocolate cake with pink icing (are you finding a pattern here with the chocolate). Pink. This was a big decision for me, normally I did purple, green, white, chocolate, chocolate with candy on top, never pink. My mother was slightly thrilled, I was finally embracing my girl side, maybe next I would start brushing my hair and wearing dresses (spoiler alert that did not come until college, the dress part at least). My mother agreed with the biggest smile on her face to make this the best cake ever. You know when your mother says something and you know she is being truthful, she says it with passion and the biggest smile on her face.

Chocolate milk with chocolate brownies... Can you ever have too much chocolate?

Chocolate milk with chocolate brownies… Can you ever have too much chocolate?

My birthday was just like any other, I played outside all morning with my neighbor. Somewhere between racing dirt bikes and climbing the sappy evergreen trees I decided I had to come home to get ready for my party. As soon as I pulled the heavy sliding glass door open, I could tell something was not as it should be.  Have you ever watched a show on TV where the evil genius has this crazy smirk on his face, it was kind of like that. My mother quickly ushered me out of the kitchen, assuring me that everything was fine and that company would be coming soon, I should shower. She was my mom, what else should little naive me believe?

Let’s fast-forward through the party; it was great, family and friends everywhere, different pasta and potato salads sitting on paper plates with flies trying to land on them, all my uncles were drunk, you know typical children’s birthday party. Time for cake.

I sat down at the big dining room table, feeling somewhat lost in the magnitude of the chair at the head of the table.  There was no cake yet, this should have been my first warning sign. The singing began all upbeat and happy, I saw my mother bringing the cake tray from the kitchen to the dining room. Something was not right; I did not see a cake. There was no pink fluffy frosting, no cotton candy clouds of white, no rainbows bursting from the cake in magical glee, in fact there wasn’t even a cake. In front of me my mom dropped with a thud, a flat, heavy, uncooked version of a chocolate cake. No icing, no candles, no nothing.  When the birthday song was over, which now sounded to me like a gaggle of drowning frogs, I did not know what to do. There were no candles to blow out, no wish to make, and no cake! My mom blurted out, “surprise, brownies instead!” everyone started laughing. Was it me they were laughing at, my misfortune, my flat, icingless cake?

I brushed it off. I was 12, tough 12 year olds don’t cry. The cake was never cut, it was thrown out. We had cookies and ice cream instead. Apparently my mom was so busy with preparing everything else she forgot a few key ingredients in the cake.

I never forgave her. Okay that sounds horrible, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother. But after that I was always hesitant to put my trust in her baking, especially after a  few years later when she tried to make me cookies. But that’s another story.

 

Watch out, Courtney couldn't even wait till they were out of the oven!

Watch out, Courtney couldn’t even wait till they were out of the oven!

The Best Brownies Ever

While these brownies are super chocolaty and quite possibly the best brownies ever, I have to warn you – the batter is better. If you can muster up the courage to actually eat the brownies you will not be disappointed.

Ingredients:

¾ cup cocoa

½ teaspoon baking soda

2/3 cup melted butter, divided

1/2 Cup boiling water

2 Cups Sugar

2 eggs

1 1/3 Cup Flour

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 oz bag of semi sweet chocolate chip

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Combine cocoa and baking soda, mix in 1/3 cup of melted butter and boiling water, mix until combined.

Stir in sugar and remaining butter.

Add flour, vanilla, and salt,  and chocolate chips. Mix well.

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan, bake for 35-40 minutes.

 

Taking on the controversies: Chocolate or Vanilla

Vanilla with choclate frostingIt is the ultimate culinary showdown, the battle of all battles, the controversies of all controversies. Which would win: chocolate or vanilla?
Oddly enough, chocolate and vanilla were introduced to the modern world at the same time. Hernán Cortés in 1520 brought the chocolate and vanilla spices back from the Aztecs to Spain, almost spontaneously the controversy started. Well, not quite.
Before discovered by Cortés, Aztecs used coco beans as a form of currency, 100 beans could buy a good sized turkey. The Aztecs even believed that coco beans had divine properties, similar to many women’s feelings about chocolate once a month. When good ‘ol Cortés first tried chocolate he described it as “a bitter drink for pigs”, but after it was mixed with cane sugar it spread like wildfire across Spain.
While chocolate blossomed and spread over Spain, vanilla remained centralized in Central America. Why you may ask? Because that was the only place it could be successfully grown. When vanilla grows it produces a flower and only if that flower is pollinated by a certain type of bee will it produce beans. It wasn’t until 1841, when a French slave girl discovered that vanilla could be hand pollinated, therefore produced globally and used in abundance. Today we have vanilla everything: vanilla cupcake, vanilla ice cream, vanilla candles, vanilla body spray, vanilla soaps.
In a way, vanilla won. Vanilla has psychological effects that can calm you down and can prevent you from getting over anxious, it is the number one ice cream flavor in the world, and it is my mom’s favorite cupcake flavor.

My half-birthday presents! Wisk, Bowl scraper and heat resistant mat. Thanks Mom!

My half-birthday presents! Wisk, Bowl scraper and heat resistant mat. Thanks Mom!

Today I decided to test out a few things. My half birthday was April 18, and my mom sent me some cool baking supplies that she found. I got a rubber coated whisk, a bowl scraper and a heat resistant mat, all in pink, my favorite color. Also on my half birthday, my homemade vanilla extract was done sitting!!! After two months of waiting what a better way to try out some vanilla cupcakes than use homemade vanilla!!!
Making homemade vanilla extract is pretty simple, and can be cost effective. Vanilla extract is two beans per every 4 ounces of vodka, that’s it, nothing fancy just beans and vodka. Vanilla beans in quantities greater than 2 can be found online at Amazon. Twenty-four beans can set you back as little as sixteen dollars, and 4 ounce jars can also be found online for as little as nine dollars for a 12 count. Cheap vodka can be used for this, the cheaper the better! McCormick vanilla extract can cost up to ten dollars for a 3 ounces bottle. When made at home each bottle comes to costing around four dollars per 4 ounce bottle.
To make your vanilla extract take two vanilla beans and split them long ways, and then cut them in half. Next submerge the four pieces of vanilla beans into vodka in a four ounce glass container. Place your vodka and bean mixture in a dark cool place for about 2 months. Once a week shake the containers for a few seconds and then put them back. That’s it, in two months you did it! You created your very own homemade vanilla.

Homemade Vanilla

Homemade Vanilla

Anyways back to the cupcakes. These cupcakes are basic beginner style cupcakes, nothing fancy, anyone can do it. I decided to pair them with a chocolate frosting so the whole chocolate vs. vanilla controversy could come to life in my cupcake.
This chocolate frosting was probably the best tasting chocolate frosting ever, but one problem, its heavy. It was extremely hard to pipe this frosting out. I would use this frosting again, but I would use it for a cupcake filling, not a frosting. If anyone has a fabulous light chocolate frosting and they are willing to share, please, I am accepting donations.

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This vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting is the reason that there is a controversy over which flavor is better. The cupcake itself is air. The vanilla flavoring comes through very well, it is sweet but not candy land gone suicidal sweet, with undertones of the cake my mom made for my eight birthday party. The frosting on the other hand, it might as well be chocolate fudge. This is a chocolate lovers dream! With just cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar and butter, the chocolate comes to life. It is sweet, rich and smooth. I was going to drizzle the cupcake with white chocolate but an incident with a plastic bag and the microwave said that milk chocolate would have to suffice.
For a beginners vanilla cupcake, or a cupcake to show off your homemade vanilla skills I highly recommend using this fool proof vanilla cupcake recipe.

Cooling Cupcakes

Cooling Cupcakes

-Cheers!

Recipie:
Fool proof Vanilla Cupcakes: Makes 12
Ingredients:
1/2 Cup softened butter
1 Cup sugar
2 Eggs
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup cold milk
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 *F
2. Cream together butter and sugar.
3. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
4. Mix in vanilla.
5. In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.
6. Mix wet ingredients to dry.
7. Add butter and milk, Mix until combined.
8. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden.
Chocolate Frosting: NOTE comes out heavy, see warning in paragraphs above
Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:
1. Sift sugar and cocoa together in larger bowl
2. In another bowl mix together 4 tablespoons heavy cream, vanilla and butter, beating till smooth.
3. Add sugar and cocoa mixture 1 cup at a time until all combined.

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