Cherry Chocolate Cake

cherry cake zb 14

This is a very tossed-together Black Forest Cake, or, as I like to say, when I am too lazy to bring out the piping bag and tips, it’s RUSTIC. All of the components of the classic German torte without the fuss. Layers of dark chocolate cake, fresh whipped cream and sweet cherries spiked with Kirschwasser (“cherry water,” or clear sour cherry brandy). These flavors are among the most celebrated combinations in the history of pastry making and yet this cake is often cloyingly sweet, overly fussy and conjures images from my 1070s childhood. Honestly, the version I remember was probably made with Cool Whip, Maraschino cherries and a cake from a box. Don’t get me wrong, that was just fine with me when I was 13. But, now my taste buds always cringe a bit at the thought of those Day-Glo-red cherries, a frozen whipped topping, that tastes like anything but cream, and the cake from a box just can’t compete with my Devil’s food recipe. The swoon worthy homemade version is super fast and easy to put together. (more…)

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Coconut Caramel Cake – Not Quite German!

This is a “German Chocolate Cake,” but instead of the layers of chocolate cake I used a coconut sponge. For the longest time I thought the original version was invented in Germany, hence the name. But, it was actually discovered in Dallas, Texas around 1957. A woman shared the recipe with a local newspaper and it became an instant success. The mystery doesn’t end there, because the cake wasn’t named for her either. Her recipe called for “German’s Baking Chocolate” from the Baker’s Chocolate Company. The name of the cake gave credit to Sam German, who created the chocolate. Eventually the possessive apostrophe was dropped from the name, and all the confusion began.

The sticky, gooey, caramel-coconut topping is rich and filled with pecans. Traditionally the cake was served topped with maraschino cherries, but I use chopped dried cherries in the coconut filling instead. The bittersweet chocolate ganache between the layers gives this cake a distinct “Almond Joy” candy flavor. If you are a traditionalist you should try this with my dark devil’s food cake, it is not the same as the milk chocolate “German’s Chocolate Cake” recipe, it’s BETTER! (more…)

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Chocolate Blackout Cake + How to Frost a Cake Video

Over the holiday break I traveled with my family to Brooklyn to visit my mother. A little respite from the winter wonderland of Minneapolis. I packed all my on-the-town shoes, in varying degrees of heels for walking through museums, dining out and seeing shows. My husband checked and rechecked the NY forecast and weather.com promised the most we’d see was 1/2-inch of snow, which would melt before it ever hit the pavement. By the end of our first full day in NY there was a complete whiteout and some of the subways were cancelled due to the blizzard. This NEVER happens. Our second day was spent shopping for winter boots, something all Minnesotans have plenty of and do not need to spend our vacations shopping for. But, the snow was now up to the boys’ knees and my suede heels were no longer as chic. The next morning we were quite happily trapped in Brooklyn by the snow. We put on our new boots and forged our way to the only open restaurant for breakfast and then watched movies all day, it was relaxing and felt quite luxurious after working so hard these past months.

(My mom’s Brooklyn garden during our visit)

Chocolate Blackout Cake recipe and a how-to video on frosting your cake. (more…)

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Just a little Trifle!

The trifle acts as the perfect vehicle for cleaning out your refrigerator/freezer of all those tasty little treats you just had to hang on to. I am guilty of an overstuffed freezer. It must be my pastry chef days of NO waste, ever. It is something I am both proud of and annoyed by, because it means I have dozens, or more, of incredibly well wrapped packages of buttercream, truffles, cake, cookie dough, puff pastry and just about everything else you could ever want. BUT, there really isn’t enough of any one thing to make a full dessert, except trifle. Add some of the frozen berries from last summer, a touch of sherry and rich pastry cream to those too-good-to-throw-out cake scraps and you have a gorgeous dessert and less stuff in your freezer. Not sure why this essential dessert is named trifle, when it is clearly nothing shy of brilliant.

This all came about because I am trying to eat down my refrigerator before we leave for our trip. Next week I take off for Istanbul, Greece and Italy and the contents of my refrigerator will be much less charming when I return in a month. Some things will be left for the house-sitter, but the random packages in the freezer are something I’d rather they read about on my blog than see in real life.

While making this trifle, with a mind of not wasting anything at all, I discovered that I could use the left over egg whites to lighten up my pastry cream, instead of the customary whip cream, which doesn’t really “lighten up” anything. Since the pastry cream uses mostly egg yolks I had the whites just sitting around. Whipped up and folded in, they make the most exquisite textured custard I’ve ever had. This pastry cream recipe is destined for eclairs when I return!

and the winners of the King Arthur Flour Brownie giveaway are… (more…)

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Chocolate Torte for Passover!

I baked this cake for my dear friend Jen’s 40th Birthday. Just a private little torte for one, or 5 if she decided to share with her family. She’d had a lavish soiree at D’Amico Kitchen and phenomenal cupcakes from my favorite Minneapolis bakery, The Salty Tart. On the quiet Tuesday of Jen’s actual birthday she needed a cake. Her favorite sweet combination is chocolate and peanut butter. I decided to combine my devil’s food with a peanut butter buttercream icing. Because Passover is on my mind I tried my devil’s food recipe with matzo meal and it is a revelation, I may even prefer it and that is saying something! Matzo meal is something I usually only have on hand this time of year, but I may start to keep it in my pantry just for this recipe.

To get the evenly spaced stripes on the cake I used a cake decorating comb, which allows you to fancify your torte quickly and easily.

Other Favorite Passover Desserts:

Chocolate Caramel Matzo

Haystack Macaroons

Fruit Jellies

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Coconut Cream Cake with Toasted Meringue Frosting

This fall in the midst of my book tour was a François gathering. My husband’s family were all coming together in Vermont to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of his parents. This is no easy feat for this group, they are spread far and wide. Relatives came from Paris, New York, Toronto, Trinidad and of course, Minneapolis. Because of an engagement on the book tour I had to miss the anniversary party, but got there in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with everyone. In the airport on my way to Vermont I stopped at the magazine rack and picked up an issue of Fine Cooking that had a spread on Party Cakes. I’d left this very magazine on my kitchen table at home, where I’d been meaning to flip it open. In the mad rush that had led up to this moment I failed to plan what I’d be making for dessert, which was my contribution to the meal. I wanted to make cakes for Anna and Ewart, whose party I’d missed and they had to be something a little bit over-the-top and creative. My mother-in-law is a potter and adds a sense of beauty and creativity to everything she does. Her art and home represent a life that has been rich in travel, culture, a sense of wonder and mostly joy. These are all things that I admire tremendously and hope to create in my own life. So these cakes had to be something a little out of the ordinary. (Did I happen to mention that Graham’s sisters and brothers are tremendous cooks and his cousin is the executive chef at Balthazar/Pastis and Minetta Tavern in NYC?) No pressure, but my cakes had to kick ass!

The cake in Fine Cooking with the meringue topping all done up like curls reminded me of my son Charlie and seemed to have just the whimsy and statement that I was looking for. I made my own coconut pastry cream and meringue, but loved the flavor combination and attitude of what Rebecca Rather created on those pages. I’ve made this cake several times since and as you will see at the end of the post I often use my Devil’s Food recipe in place of the white cake. In both forms it disappears quickly and with much ooohing and aaahing. (more…)

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