Sunday, September 30, 2012

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

 Making cake from scratch is something I have only ever done one other time. Cake mixes are just so convenient! And once, my mom told me that cake from a mix is the same taste as cake from scratch. So I stuck with the basics.

However, Joey always says "it's just from a box, we can't serve it to people" so this time, in honor of Gavin's birthday I decided to bake from scratch.  I browsed the interwebs for weeks, then my browser restarted and I lost all my saved recipes.  So, I decided to make Smitten Kitchen's chocolate cake with caramel filling and vanilla frosting.

This cake is the moistest thing I have ever made. It calls for buttermilk, eggs, coffee and oil - how's that for lots of liquid to make a moist cake?
This makes a lot of cake. It really only makes two 10-inch rounds but who has 10-inch cake pans? I sure don't. I have two 9-inch cake pans, so I made those and also made a little pan of cake for two. This was a great idea because then Joey and I had the opportunity to taste the cake since when you make a cake round you can't taste it!

This cake is SUPER moist. It fills up your mixer so when she says large bowl really take her advice on that one!  As  you can see, while the cakes came out in rounds, the stack wasn't so successful...the cake demolished itself on the top layer and it took some pretty creative frosting to get it back together in one piece.  I also wasn't able to do that crumb cover frosting layer.  It turns out I'm not that good at frosting. But I think it turned out pretty well all things considering.


For the Cake:

Head over to Smitten Kitchen to read the ingredients and instructions for the cake part. This makes the moistest cake ever.

For the caramel filling:

I made a half recipe of the frosting/filling for the Domestic Fits blog for the cake I made last time - I didn't actually read the instructions as well as I thought but it was still fine, except that it solidified FAST. This filling turns into a crunch almost toffee like filling. It wasn't what I was looking for but everyone really liked the added crunch. I wish it had been creamy and caramely--like in a milky way bar.

For the frosting:

I made the frosting sans sprinkles from Sweetopia's blog. This frosting spread super easily and it also piped alright from a ziploc bag.

This cake was pretty sweet, I thought the crunchy layer was a bit weird but it was well received by the diners.  The actual cake itself was amazing!  i really loved the moistness of it and honestly, I think I could eat it plain. Normally I don't see the point of plain cake, but this time I think I'd be into it!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Several years ago, one of my coworkers brought in Chocolate Dulce de Leche bars for her birthday. I had one and have remembered the rich and delicious flavor ever since.  This past weekend, I had reason to make dessert and decided to make the bars I'd been thinking about for years.  After mixing up the dough I realized  that there was not enough to share with upwards of 30 people so I quickly made moves to double the recipe. I didn't really double it per-se, because I didn't exactly have the topping ingredients for doubling--just the crust. I made enough fro a 9x13 pan + a smaller pan--I used a 9x9 cake pan but the amount of crust I had left was not enough, so maybe a smaller pan would work better.

I forgot to take pictures, but they were well liked at the party and all eaten over the rest of the weekend.  I think they may have benefited from a light sprinkling of finishing salt on the top. But I didn't think of that until I was at the party.

These bars actually traveled quite well and lasted out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. They may be even more delicious chilled but I didn't feel the need to cram them in the hostess' fridge.

This is the measurements I used, adapted from Epicurious:


For shortbread crust:
  • 2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour

For chocolate dulce de leche:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 14 oz dulce de leche (this is the size of the can)
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 8 ounces 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, I used chocolate chips

Make shortbread crust: 
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a shallow 9- to 9 1/2-inch square baking pan (1 to 1 1/2 inches deep). Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment.
Blend together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a fork. Sift in flour and blend with fork until a soft dough forms.
Spread dough evenly in baking pan using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, then prick all over with fork.
Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.
Make chocolate dulce de leche
Bring cream and dulce de leche to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until dulce de leche has dissolved.
Whisk together yolks in a bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pan is visible in tracks of spoon and mixture registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.
Make bars:
Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until cold and set, about 2 hours.
Run a small knife around edges to loosen, then transfer to a cutting board using parchment. Cut with a hot clean knife (dip in hot water and wipe clean between cuts) into 24 bars. Chill until ready to serve. (these were hard to cut)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Dinner Party - Strawberry Caprese

Pre-dinner party, I had the ladies over only for movie watching and book chatting. I decided to offer snacks during this time which, in retrospect may have slightly overshadowed the early dinner.  However, this particular appetizer was so delicious I am glad I made it. It has all the same flavors you love about tomato caprese with a twist!

I made this in the morning and let it sit about 30 minutes before serving. Make this for your next party!

I followed this recipe exactly and served it over baguette slices that I toasted in the oven for about 4 minutes at 350.

Strawberry Caprese Salad
makes 4-6 servings
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
8 ounces small mozzarella pearls/balls
1 pound fresh strawberries, halved or quartered if large

In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, honey, garlic, salt and pepper, until the
brown sugar is dissolved. In a slow and steady stream, whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add the basil and
mozzarella, tossing to coat. Cover and chillfor 2 hours. Add the strawberries and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally. Serve over toasted baguette slices.

Printed from

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Dinner Party - Savory Strawberry Sauce

In preparation for my dinner party in which I wanted to incorporate strawberries and fish, I spoke with my friend Robin and she suggested that to make dinner special I mix two proteins with one sauce so that people could mix and match.  Then, she went the extra mile and found me such a recipe!

Savory Strawberry Sauce sounds a little strange. It seems like there just can't be a thing. I also don't usually make sauces for my food. But this time I moved forward because it was a good way to link the food together.

At first when I was making it I just wasn't sure the sauce was going to be any good. In the end though it was a really nice accompaniment to the pork and the salmon. Who knew salmon could even meet a sauce it liked so much?

Do yourself a favor and make this sauce. I think it would also be nice with chicken.

Adapted from here

I doubled this recipe and it was PLENTY for 12

2 lbs strawberries, sliced (don't bother taking out that white part, just cut off the tops)
2 teaspoons butter
2 T white balsamic vinegar (but I think any vinegar would work)
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (did you know it is easy to peel ginger with a spoon?)
2 t ancho chili powder
salt & pepper
1/2 C water
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C strawberry preserves (Homemade if you have it, thanks Sarah!)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stir strawberries and butter until the butter is melted.
2. Stir in all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer
3. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
4. Remove the sauce from the heat and let sit until ready to serve. The flavors meld together the more it sits. The sauce is not very thick so don't worry if yours isn't.

Serve over pork or salmon or maybe even chicken.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Dinner Party - Grilled Pork Tenderloin

For the dinner party, I knew there were a few non-fish eaters in the group and I wanted to make sure to accommodate everyone. Plus, what if the salmon was terrible? I decided that the mild flavor of pork would fit with the sauce I wanted to make to go with both meats.  At Costco I got 4 pork tenderloins for a great price! This was way too much meat because the salmon was awesome.

For the pork I loosely based one marinade on Alton Brown's recipe for the ultimate grilled pork tenderloin and then I made up the other one a bit because I didn't really have enough lime juice left.

I didn't keep half the marinade since I doubled the pork and didn't double the recipe. I think it still turned out fine. I didn't want an overpowering flavor because I was making a sauce.

I think that if you had this pork without sauce it might be a little dull.

Marinate for 24 hours with this recipe.

Grill on direct heat about 12 minutes, turning every 1 1/2 minutes or until temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Let rest briefly and then slice and serve on a platter.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Dinner Party - Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

This evening, I held a dinner party for 12. It was fun to have so many friends over to share a meal and chat. This dinner was loosely themed around the food featured in the book Snow Falling On Cedars. If you haven't read it, don't bother.  This book takes place in the Pacific Northwest in a fishing village that is also filled with strawberry farmers.  The main character is Japanese. With the help of my friends, we decided to make a Japanese and Strawberry inspired feast.

Because there were 12 people around I did not take any pictures (oh but look! Someone else did), instead I will do a series called "A Dinner Party" for each piece of the meal.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

I've cooked fish at home maybe twice ever. Joey does NOT eat fish. He doesn't like the smell the look the presence at all. As a result, I keep it out of the house and eat it at lunch. I also generally prefer my fish in shells or raw (or both, oysters!) so I've never really made salmon before.However, I bought a large filet at Costco, and read that the easiest way to cook it was on cedar planks. I chose this method because otherwise you have to well-oil your grill (I am notorious for getting food stuck or falling into the grill) and then flipping the fish is hard and you are supposed to leave the skin on and my fish came without skin. To make cedar plank salmon do this:

Serves 9-12
2 Cedar Planks
2 1/2 lbs salmon filet (costco!)
juice of one lemon
2 T olive oil

Go to the grocery store and look for cedar planks somewhere near the charcoal section. I found two for about $3. You can reuse your planks at least 2-3 times before retiring them unless you set them on fire...

At least 2 hours before dinner, start soaking the cedar planks submerged in water. If you choose the weigh them down with a can of tomatoes for instance, be sure to note that they will leave a mark on the wood. Choose something heavy that isn't metal if that bothers you.

Heat the Gas grill (okay you can use whatever kind, but you need to have a cool side of the grill). You want the grill to be about 350 when cooking.

Place the fish on the wet planks. Sprinkle with salt.  Place the planks on indirect heat (I turned off two burners and left on one to get this effect). Occasionally brush with olive oil and lemon juice to keep the fish moist

Keep the lid closed as much as you can and cook about 20 minutes until fish is opaque and flaky. Taste a little and see if it is right for you around 20 minutes--this all depends on the thickness of your filet.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blueberry Corn Salad

You know how some food bloggers take super amazing photos and then you make the dish based on the photo alone and are disappointed by your unstaged photograph that just looks kind of plain jane? I hate that, and it happens to me a lot. This weekend, I was browsing the web for salad recipes to make for Jenny's birthday dinner and came across a beautiful photo of Blueberry Corn Salad at Two Peas and Their Pod. The salad looked beautiful but sounded weird--corn AND blueberries? I glanced at the recipe a little more and found I already had most of the ingredients.  I decided to make the recipe because Jenny seems to be a big fan of corn salads.

Here's the crazy thing. Not only was the salad really delicious--it looked Just like the picture! I don't even need to take one of my own. It all worked!  What a lovely surprise.  This salad has the perfect mix of sweet with a kick. It is so beautiful and will look good on any table.

At first it doesn't seem like enough dressing at all but in the end it seems good. Make this ahead and let it sit a little for all the flavors to meld together.

Blueberry Corn Salad