Chocolate cake

BM# 100: Week 4, Day 1
Theme : Pick an alphabet

For the third week of blogging for BM #100, I have chosen the alphabet ‘C’ and so you will find three posts, all starting with C. The first one is a chocolate cake. Though I make a lot of cakes, I don’t share the recipes often here in the blog. The reason is that I don’t deviate from my tried and tested recipes for cakes. When it comes to chocolate cakes, I always go with the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate cake. Its the same recipe that you find in the back of their Cocoa powder box. Almost all other chocolate cake recipes that you find online are variations of this one. I like it a lot and stopped looking for another recipe longtime back. So anytime I make a chocolate cake, its only the outside design that’s different. The recipe is always the same and its already recorded in the blog. That’s the reason why I don’t feature the new cakes here in the blog.

Though the Hershey’s cake gives excellent results, I find it to be very soft. It’s not a problem for a cake with simple decoration, like just frosting with whipped cream or buttercream. But I wanted to make a fondant cake that’s supposed to carry a topper. In fact I had two such cakes to make, one with farm animals theme and another with Safari theme. I went with the Hershey’s cake for Safari theme but decided to try a different recipe for the farm theme cake. I didn’t have any problems with the Hershey’s cake, it held the topper just fine. But I still decided to try another recipe to see if I can find a sturdier cake.

The recipe here is from the book Erin Bakes Cake. Its one of the best baking books I have come across. The book gives a lot of ideas for flavor variations, about tweaking a base recipe to get different flavors. I have the library copy with me, but I think I will be buying my own copy soon. This cake was sturdier than the Hershey’s cake, but it wasn’t dense. You can make three 8″ cakes if you are using 2″ deep pans. The recipe for the buttercream can be found here.

For the animal toppers, I have used a mix of gum paste and fondant. The farm animals are sitting on a 1″ tall cake base. The base itself can be taken out before cutting into the cake. So its a good way to save the toppers. It has a long shelf life and so you can display it in a covered glass cabinet. I looked at YouTube Videos for making the animals and made them a week ahead so that they can dry completely.

Recipe Source: Erin Bakes Cake 

Makes three 8″ cakes in 8″X2″ pans

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks/227 gms), softened
  • 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 cups flour

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease and line three 8″ pans.
  2. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter for a minute or two. Add both the sugars, baking soda and salt. Beat this mixture until its fluffy and creamy. Stop and scrape the sides down in between so that everything mixes uniformly.
  3. Add the eggs (one at a time) beat it in until its mixed well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with warm water so that there aren’t any dry lumps. Add the milk and whisk to combine everything.
  5. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour to the butter-egg mixture. Mix it lightly with a rubber spatula. Now beat it in low speed so that flour doesn’t fly everywhere.
  6. Once you stop seeing flour streaks, add half of the milk mixture. Beat it in. Alternate between the flour mix and the milk mix once more.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between three pans. Bake in the middle rack for about 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes free of crumbs. Take out of the oven, let the cake cool in the pan itself for at least 10-15 minutes. Remove from the pan, cover with two rounds of cling wrap and return to the pan until its time for filling and frosting.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#100

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Melopita – Greek honey pie

BM# 97: Week 4, Day 1
Theme : Flavors of Greece

Now a days, I prefer books over internet for recipe searches for the simple reason that the book won’t turn itself off when I am half way through making a dish. I leave the book open and keep coming back to it whenever needed as opposed to asking my son or husband to unlock my phone if my hands are wet or dirty. For this theme, I had taken two books from the library. It’s easier to cook from a book when it comes to new cuisines. And the irony is that I had to depend on the internet for the recipe here.

The Reason? I didn’t do my grocery shopping this week and as a result the last onion and tomato went into making a very Indian lunch. So with the vegetable tray empty, I started looking at recipes that would cater to my pantry contents. Inevitably I was looking at recipes online and ended up choosing Melopita or Honey pie.

This recipe is from the Greek island of Sifnos. The recipe uses a local cheese Mizithra, but ricotta is a close substitute. The recipe can be made with or without a pie base. I had a ready made pie base that I wanted to use up, but you can bake the filling directly in a greased cake pan as well. I may not have onions and tomatoes at home, but I have honey, I have eggs and even ricotta cheese! It takes like a light cheese cake. I served it with some honey on top.

Read on for the recipe.

Recipe source: The spruce eats

Makes: One 10″ pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb(450gms) Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 readymade pie crust or homemade crust, optional
  • Honey for glaze

Method:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, honey, sugar, eggs and flour.
  3. Grease a 10″ pie dish with butter and line with the pie crust. Press the dough into sides and bottom of the pan so that there is no gap in between the pan and crust.
  4. Add the filling to the crust and bake until the filling sets and doesn’t jiggle in the middle. It might take somewhere around 40-50 minutes.
  5. Once the pie is cooked, take off the oven and let it cool. Serve with honey or cinnamon sugar drizzled on top.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#97

Slutty Brownie cake

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BM # 82: Week 2, Day 3
Theme : USA
Recipe: Brownie cake

Brownies and cakes are part of USA food and sometimes they come together as a single treat. Brownie cakes are actually brownies that are then decorated as cakes, that’s not the case here. While browsing I came across something called ‘Slutty brownies‘ which is a decadent treat. It has three layers – a cookie layer, oreo layer and then a final brownie layer. When made with ready made cookie dough, crushed oreos and a box mix for brownies, its an easy to make treat and every bit decadent as you can imagine.

The recipe here is a cake version of the same. It is a layer cake with three 9″ layers – each corresponding to the slutty brownie layer. So a base cake batter is prepared and divided into three portions – one each for the cookie layer, brownie layer and oreo layer. This is a delicious treat by itself, it is definitely a cake recipe and no means resembles brownies or cookies in any way. I followed the recipe from What’s Gabby Cooking without any change.

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The best part of this recipe for me was it gave a single recipe for a three 9″ layer cake. Else I was using a double batch of a two layer cake which would always leave me with an addition fourth (and unnecessary) cake. I have tried the same base recipe and made a Neapolitan cake instead of brownie layers.

I have to start making videos to explain the cake assembling better, but until I figure that out, you guys can scroll down and read the recipe.

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Recipe source: Whats Gabby Cooking

Ingredients:

Base cake:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
  • 1/2 cup corn flour*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk

*Use 4 cups cake flour instead of a mix of flour and corn flour

Oreo Cookie layer:

  • 10 oreos crumbled

Cookie dough layer:

  • 1 tablespoon molasses (didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Brownie layer:

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Filling, frosting and toppings:

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and line three 9″ pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and continue beating at medium speed. Once the four eggs are combined well, add the vanilla essence and beat it in.
  4. We have to add the flour in three batches, alternating it with the buttermilk. That means, we have to first add 1/3rd of the flour mix into the butter mix. Beat at a lower speed to avoid spilling of the flour all over. Once the flour is mixed in without streaks, add one cup of buttermilk and continue beating. Now add half of the leftover flour mix. Once that’s mixed well, add in the rest of buttermilk. Once that’s combined well, add the remaining flour. At any point, you can stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to help combine the batter better.
  5. Divide the batter into three bowls. Add 1/3 cup cocoa powder into one batch, crushed oreo cookies into another and 1 tablespoons of molasses and chocolate chips to the last batch.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes free of cake crumbs when inserted into the middle of the cake.
  7. Take off the oven, let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Then take off the pan, cling wrap it two times and return to the same pan until its time to decorate.
  8. For decorating, prepare the butter cream. Fill and frost the cake only after its completely cool. Prepare a glaze and top with assorted chocolates.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#82

Pasta Salad

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My son stands against anything with pasta and rice. He does eat both, but with such a long face that it almost makes me guilty. Almost… But I don’t give up on these two foods and keep bringing them to the table irrespective of the nasty looks, sighs and nays.

The kid does like salads, so I have started adding a bit of pasta to his salad. He seems to be okay with that. So now, once in a while, I pack a cold pasta salad for his lunch. I prepare it the night before and refrigerate so that the flavors can mingle.

A good thing about salad is that you don’t need to have an exact recipe. Whatever is available in the fridge paired with a bit of  dressing makes an excellent one. My go-to salad dressing is a mix of mayonnaise and honey mustard, but I am slowly including more of the classic olive oil and lemon juice now a days.

For a salad, I like the combination of vegetables with beans and fruits. The bit of sweetness that the fruit imparts gives a lovely flavor and the beans fill you up. Cheese is more for my son’s taste buds. For this particular dish, I had some ready made taco seasoning to be used up. So that went into the dressing with olive oil and lemon juice. This video from Tasty is what I followed for the dressing. I had to skip the jalapenos and garlic since it was for my son’s lunch box. Taco seasoning is a mix of spices and can be made at home as well. Here is a recipe if you want to make it at home.

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Serves 2

Recipe adapted from: Tasty – Pasta Salad 4 ways

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked red kidney beans
  • 2 slices of cheese torn into small pieces or 1/3 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced mangoes
  • 3 tablespoons sliced olives
  • 1 big tomato, diced
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • salt as needed

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ready made taco seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, optional
  • 1 tablespoon jalapenos, optional

Method:

  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook roughly about one cup pasta in boiling water with salt to get two cups of cooked pasta. Drain and let it cool completely.
  3. Combine the salad ingredients to the pasta. Slowly add the dressing, mixing it in. You don’t have to use all the dressing, you can stop when you feel that the taste is fine.
  4. Do a taste test before adding salt, since pasta was cooked in salted water and taco seasoning also has salt.

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