Cherry Chocolate Cake

  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3/4 t almond extract
  • 1/2 C ground almonds
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 C very strong black coffee, freshly boiled
  • 1 24-28 oz jar sour cherries in juice
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1 T icing sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • shaved dark chocolate, for garnish

In the large bowl of a stand mixer add the sugar and half of the butter. Mix until combined. Meanwhile chop the baking chocolate into rough chunks. Melt the remaining butter in a small bowl and then add in the baking chocolate, mixing with a rubber spatula until the chocolate has fully melted. Add to the sugar/butter mixture. Beat until the chocolate is fully incorporated and it has cooled down some. Next beat the eggs in one at a time. Add in the buttermilk and extracts, mixing slowly so it doesn’t slosh over the rim.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, and soda together. Slowly add to the batter, alternating with the almonds, mixing slowly after each addition until the dry ingredients are just barely incorporated.

Add in the boiling hot coffee and mix until a uniform consistency, making sure to use a rubber spatula to get any thick bits of batter up from the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Pour into 2 prepared (greased and floured) 8″ or 9″ round cake pans. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until just done in the centre.

Whilst the cake is baking, drain the juice from the cherries and pour into a small saucepan. Add water or another unsweetened fruit juice (cherry, cranberry, apple) to make about 1 C. Add in the sugar and bring to a boil, and reduce until a medium syrup is formed – it is noticeably viscous, but pours easily. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool.

Beat the cream in a very cold bowl until soft peaks form, add the sugar and extracts, and beat until stiff.

Once the cake is out of the oven, allow to fully cool. Once cool, trim the cakes so they are flat on top and then invert one onto a cake stand. Prick all over with a skewer and brush about half the cooled cherry syrup all over the cake. Add half the whipped cream spread evenly. Top with half the cherries. Place the next layer on top and do the same as with the bottom layer, prick with skewer, brush with syrup, add whipped cream and then add the cherries. You can either place them all in the middle for a more rustic looking cake, or arrange them in a pattern. Top with shaved dark chocolate.

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Zucchini Spice Bread

Adapted from this recipe on SmittenKitchen.com

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 t orange extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2¬†teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 t crushed anise seed
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cup whole fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and orange extracts and the zucchini. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, spices, soda and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients in batches until just barely mixed in. Add in the nuts and fruit/chocolate chips.

Grease and flour two loaf pans and pour the batter into them and bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes until golden on top and done in the centre. Cool on wire racks and turn out when cool.

*I use freshly ground whole spices whenever possible, so for this I simply approximated the amount of spices I would need and ground them all together in my spice grinder. I crushed the anise seeds with a small mortar and pestle until they were mostly all cracked open. You could also grind the anise seeds in with the other spices if you wanted, I just thought the little bits of anise flavour would be nice in this.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer:
1/2 C unsalted European-style cultured butter (or regular unsalted)*
1/4 C sugar
5 T good cocoa (NOT HERSHEY’S!!!, oh dear lord please don’t use that crap)
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
1/2 C finely chopped almonds
1 C coconut

Melt 1st 3 ingredients in double boiler (or glass bowl over saucepan filled with water). Take off heat, let cool slightly, and incorporate egg to thicken – make sure it is hot enough to cook the egg, but not hot enough to make chocolate scrambled eggs ;). Stir in cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds. Press firmly into 8 x 8 inch pan. Chill.

Second Layer:
1/2 C (still unsalted) butter
2-3 T heavy cream
2 T vanilla custard powder (This is NOT vanilla pudding powder , this is an ingredient you have to get from a Canadian/UK import store – I use Edmond’s Brand)
2 C icing sugar
real vanilla extract to taste. I use at least another teaspoon. The custard powder I use hasn’t that strong of a vanilla flavour.

Cream butter, custard powder, and cream slightly, then slowly add in icing sugar – DO NOT OVER BEAT – but beat until light and fluffy. Spread over chilled bottom layer. Chill.

Third Layer:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (about 60-70% chocolate)
2 T (yes, still unsalted) butter

Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler. Let sit until cool enough to not melt the custard layer, but warm enough to spread. Chill for 1 hr. min.

Eat. Share (for this has TONS of calories).

If you use an 8 x 11″ pan, do a single batch bottom later and 1 1/2 batch 2nd and 3rd layer. For 9 x 13 or 10 x 14 pan, 1 1/2 bottom layer, double 2nd and 3rd layer.

*Please, never, EVER use salted butter when baking. Salted (American) butter has got way, way too much salt in it, and often you can’t tell if the butter had turned or not, or is of good quality b/c of the amount of salt. Unsalted butter makes for much better desserts because you control the salt amount, you’re not oversalting sweet dishes, and you can taste the butter to make sure it is fresh and sweet. If cultured (European style) unsalted butter is used, it may be slightly sour – faintly reminiscent of yoghurt. This is normal. The bottom layer may need a pinch of salt, but no more, and the middle and top layers don’t as there is salt/flavour enhancer in the custard powder

When cutting, score it all and then cut it with a sharp, strong knife – I serve it in 2 cm (3/4″) squares. If you score and then cut it all at once, you get far less cracking of the chocolate layer, and therefore it looks prettier. When serving I stack it pyramidal on a round plate.

Mocha Layer Cake with Mocha-Vanilla Buttercream Icing

Cake:
2 C white sugar
1/2 C butter (unsalted, as always and forever)
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 buttermilk
1/4 t salt
2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 C cocoa
1 C very strong espresso, boiling hot

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together until smoothish. Sift together the dry ingredients and then slowly alternate adding in the milk and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, beating on slow until just incorporated. Next slowly add in the espresso, beating slowly and then increasing speed (so it doesn’t splash all over the kitchen – this is bad). Now the sugar should be totally dissolved and you ought to have a batter that is approximately the same consistency as pancake batter, without the lumps of course.

Pour into 2 8 or 9″ round prepared (buttered and floured) cake pans. Bake at 350F or 175 C for 30 min.

Once they’re well cooled, I like to cut these in half so I have 4 cake rounds, and then alternate the icing and then finely chopped semisweet chocolate and nuts (pecans, almonds, and/or hazelnuts) between the layers. I then garnish the top of the cake with more nuts and chocolate curls.

Icing:

I don’t really follow a recipe for this (or anything except baking for that matter), so you’ll have to just do it by taste/texture. You want the icing to be stiff, but not overly so that it won’t spread on the cake. But make sure you don’t over mix it or the butter will melt and the sugar will start to dissolve. If it starts to get too soft, put it in the fridge for at least half an hour right away.

1/2 lb unsalted butter (dear lord don’t use salted; salted butter in icing makes baby jesus cry)
1 lb (ish) icing sugar
cocoa powder
vanilla extract
cream
instant coffee/espresso powder (you may substitute caro/pero for a similar taste)

I like my icing very chocolatey and and coffee-y (mocha-y I guess), and maybe just a little less sweet, so I add more cocoa and coffee flavouring and less of the sugar than another might for the same texture. I also add a pinch of salt if it needs it.

I cream the butter and 3/4 of the sugar together quite quickly, and then add in vanilla, cocoa and coffee to taste, and the cream to texture, adding in more sugar as it needs it.

This is by far my favourite chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever found. I got it from my mum and have been using it for years.

To make this regular (non mocha) cake, replace the coffee with boiling water in the cake, and just omit the coffee in the icing.

You’ll need lots and lots of ice cold milk with this cake.