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News.

I hope any and all readers have been having a good holiday season.

It’s my hope that in 2013 we bring back Cooking the Books to a fully working group blog again, and I hope that the other ladies agree. Perhaps with less of a timeline, or maybe we’ll work out the kinks so that everyone has time to have a life and read and cook and blog.

But regardless… whether we see you in 2013 or not, have a happy & healthy year!

Bittersweet bookery & cupcakes to match.

(I’m cross-posting this on my blog, Cupcake Rehab, so if you’re a reader of both you’ll probably notice you’re seeing it twice… no you aren’t seeing double! And also, because of that, they’ve got the watermark on them… so please excuse that)

Well it feels really good to be back posting here! It’s been FOREVER (or so it seems) but we’re back in the game. And with a great book! As I mentioned before, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg is our current pick, chosen by Jeanine. I got the book in mid-January and finished it by the beginning of February. It was very good, but bittersweet, so I thought it appropriate I start things off with a bittersweet chocolate cupcake recipe.

Molly is a great writer because she writes in such a way that through her descriptions you really feel as though you’re there with her, eating cheese & drinking wine in Paris during happy days, or eating “Italian grotto eggs” with her and her ailing father in sadder days, which also were his last. But yet she did it without overly flowery language, it was all very accessible, which was what I liked about our past three books. I hate overly wordy foodies. Describing something is one thing, making it sound as good as it tastes is one thing. But really… when you use language people can’t relate to or talk about things people can’t relate to, it doesn’t make for a good read. Molly also has a blog, Orangette, which is an excellent read.

At any rate, I think everyone can relate to Molly’s book, whether you’ve lost someone close to you or not; and especially the highlighted parallels of food and love. So, without further ado… chocolate cupcakes with bittersweet glaze!

As you can see, I made some of mine look like Hostess cupcakes, just because that’s what they reminded me of. They aren’t filled, though. I just thought that was a cute way of topping them, especially since I had a tube of this stuff just laying around!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze

Ingredients:

1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup hot brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
¾ plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup well stirred WHOLE MILK yogurt (not non-fat or low-fat)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Line the wells of a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. Put one ounce of the semisweet chocolate in a medium bowl with the hot coffee. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is opaque and smooth.
  3. Meanwhile in another medium bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the oil, yogurt, and vanilla, beating well. Gradually pour in the melted chocolate/coffee mixture, and beat thoroughly to combine. Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed until the batter is just combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and briefly stir to make sure all the dry ingredients are absorbed.
  5. Spoon the batter into the wells of the muffin tin, making sure that it is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a cupcake. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool for 20 minutes, then -carefully: they’re tender! – removing the cupcakes. Allow them to cool completely before glazing.
  6. To make the glaze, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. When the chocolate is completely smooth, it’s ready. Working with one cupcake at a time, spoon a teaspoonful of melted chocolate on top. Tilt and rotate the cupcake to coax the chocolate out to the edge. Alternatively, use a knife or icing spatula to spread the chocolate. The top of the cupcake should be covered.
  7. Set the cupcakes aside at room temperature until ready to serve. The chocolate glaze will firm up a bit and become matte.

Molly says she likes to eat them when cooled (and I do too), but you can totally eat them as soon as you glaze them. Although be warned- they’ll be messy!

I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in the cupcakes, which makes them really dark, almost black. I should’ve bought a dark chocolate for the topping too, but I always underestimate the darkness of it and assume they’ll match. They never do.

An Owed Post…

Wow, it has been what feels like forever and a lifetime since I last posted (oh right, it was). My apologies. I am so excited to be kicking off the new year with the CTB Ladies again! We have a great new book that is open on my night stand…A Homemade Life (as Marilla mentioned). If you are reading along with us….have some kleenex handy…its a doozy (Thanks Jeanine ;) ). I am especially excited because I will be cooking this year with my very first Stand Mixer (bow, bow, bow). Her name is Lucy, and she’s a fantastically sexy red-head (She’s a little loose with the butter and the sugar…gotta keep an eye on this one). She is very excited to join the team and has already whipped up lots of goodies!

Meet Lucy

Before we got started though, I still owe a post about Gesine Bullock Prado’s book, Confections of a Closet Master Baker..which is now known as “My Life from Scratch” (this is how long it has been since my last post…book names are changin for chimp’s sake). I never reviewed her book at the time of reading because at that time, to be honest, I didn’t care for the book. I don’t blame Gesine…I was so unhappy with where my life (or lack thereof) was when I read it, I think I just was irritated that anyone else was happy. Since then, I have read her book three or four times and I am semi addicted to her blog. Her recipes are NO Fail and completely fantastic. Not only that, but Gesine really lives life to its fullest. She has become a great inspirtation and her book has become one of those “that book changed my life”. What can I say, when my mom saw the Bucket List she HAD to go back to school. When I read this book I HAD to do, well anything but what I was doing. So, I sadly left some fantastic co workers, happily left a two hour commute, relocated my work to part time and I will officially be launching a new business endeavor (plenty of shameless plugs on the way) that combines social work, cooking and some Healthy Moms Happy Babies thanks to the good kick in the arse from Gesine (and with the support of friends, family and the CTB girls).

But enough about me…onto those recipes. I have made almost everything in her book, but have taken minimal pictures. Gesine’s story was really one of her becoming comfortable in her own skin, accepting what she loved, and making a life (and a living) out of it. It was a hilarious account and I completely related to several parts in the book. My favorite recipe is most definately her golden eggs recipe. I have made them as reccomended in the book (always in muffins pans). I have also changed the flavoring to lemon and blueberry  (use lemon extract instead of vanilla, lemon peel instead of nutmeg, and add blueberries) and cinnamon apple. The batter can take it so do what you will to it. I would just advise to make sure you really whip the butter and sugar well. Mine also came out a lot better when I used superfine sugar So I would also say to give that a whirl.

For the cake:
Nonstick baking spray
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups nonfat buttermilk

For dipping the eggs:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed together in a small shallow bowl

Preheat the oven to 325. Spray your molds with nonstick spray (I, obviously, use egg-shaped molds. You can use a muffin pan or any other small baking molds.) Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with either the paddle or the whisk attachment, whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This can take up to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of your butter. As you’re whipping away, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated into the sugar. You can’t make magic without a lot of patience. So keep whipping and keep scraping.

Add the eggs one at a time, whipping after each one until the egg is fully incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the bowl every now and again as well. Add the vanilla.

Once all the eggs are incorporated, alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, mixing slowly. After they are well incorporated but not overbeaten, take a rubber spatula and fold the batter a few times to make sure everything is evenly distributed and the batter is smooth.

Distribute the batter into your molds, filling each cavity a little less than halfway. Bake for about 15 minutes. Baking time varies depending on the size of your mold, so check for a very light golden brown color and make sure the cake springs back when you touch it.

Unmold your little cakes and while they are still warm, dunk them quickly in the melted butter, then dredge them in the cinnamon and sugar.
Gesine notes that these make 12 eggs. I ALWAYS get more than that. ALWAYS. I have also made this as a cake by taking out the nutmeg and adding a little more vanilla.

Next up…A Homemade Life

And we’re back in 5… 4… 3… 2…

Yes, you read that right. We’re back! After a long absence, the four of us are picking up the books again!

Our next book, which was Jeanine’s pick, is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, for anyone who wants to read along with us (our Books We Cooked page is even updated!) It’s been a while, so some things have to be tweaked, updated or fixed… but we’re back. And we can’t wait to get booking & cooking again.

A long absence… and a triumphant return!

Well! I must apologize a thousand-fold for my loooong absence over these last two months. The newest book was MY suggestion and two days after we decided to read Confessions, my mother-in-law passed away VERY suddenly while on vacation in Mexico. Since then our lives have been thrown into a whirlwind, and I could barely keep my schoolwork together with my family, much less two blogs. Now that school is finished, I feel a little bit of relief and can get some of myself back (at least I’m hoping!)

Anyway, I am LOVING the new book. I went to my mom’s for a week and forgot it, which thoroughly pissed me off. I’m hoping to finish it this weekend (4 hour car ride for vacation) and start cooking it next week. I swear it won’t be 3 months til you hear from me again, and never again will it take me 3 months to get through a book. I promise!

Anyway, onto some amazing news! I was in NY last week, and while I was in town, the always fabulous Giulia Melucci (of our first book, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, was doing a reading in SoHo. My sister came with me, and I loved it! She read a great part of the book…about her first encounter with Ethan and his school of cooking (I swear, buy the book!). She also prepared two dishes for everyone to try. One was one of my favorites – her Healthy Penne with broccoli and raisins. The other, I hadn’t made yet – because my hubs is not a fan of eggplant. She made Lachlan’s Rigatoni with eggplant. AAAAAAnd it was delicious. We both gobbled up plates. I would have taken that tray of pasta and dashed out the door if I could.

I did get some time to chat with Giulia and she was super sweet. She remembered our blog (and Marilla, because really, who forgets her?) I bought another copy of the book. Yes. I did. I figured I could use my hardcover for recipes and keep the paperback that she signed for me on the shelf. AND in the paperback version, there’s an extra chapter! So I had to buy it. Of course. Always an excuse to shop with me!!

Anyway, thank you Giulia for taking the time to chat with me!

Giulia and I at her reading at McNally Jackson Books.

For my first time, a berry good pie.

Annnnnd… we’re back! Sorry for the delay. We’ve all been reading the latest book and I think most of us have finished it, but we’re also really busy, so excuse us. But here I am with a new recipe and Jeanine posted that fantastic three layer carrot cake so hopefully we’re back on a roll. With butter. Haha. Get it? *ahem*

Anyway I loved this book. I have to say, as much as I have a dislike for Sandra Bullock as an actress, her sister seems much more like someone I could hang out with. Anyone who quits a 9 to 5 bullshit executive job in L.A. to open up a bakery gets a A in my book. I can totally relate to that dream. I get so bored in an office setting, office politics are usually no better than high school crap. But it’s not a reality for everyone, unfortunately. So I do envy her. Plus, she’s got a much cooler name: Gesine. They lived in Germany for a while as children, which also intrigued me. I’m part German, a large part, and I’ve always been curious as to what living there would be like. The idea of 3′ o clock tea and cake is totally up my alley. Sign me up! I also agree with her view on people who are anti-sweets, etc. One cupcake a week doesn’t make you fat, neither does a slice of cake every day. It’s the 7,000 other things you cram in your mouth that do the trick.

So anyway I do not like pie. Or berries. But I ended up going to the fruit market the other day and bought tons of fresh berries- raspberries & blackberries. My mother loves them, and she loves them in pie even more. And Mother’s Day is coming… so I had Gesine’s pie filling recipe in my head and decided to make it.

Raspberry & blackberry pie filling

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups raspberries (I used half raspberries, half blackberries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
butter (optional)

Directions:

  1. Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl to blend.
  2. Stir in the raspberries and lemon juice. Add filling to crust.

Quick puff pastry

Ingredients:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 pounds butter (5 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice stirred into 3/4 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces. Add to the flour and incorporate with your hands, pinching and massaging the butter into the flour, making sure to leave discernable chunks of butter intact. You don’t want to incorporate the butter so well that it starts to look like cornmeal.
  2. Dissolve the salt gently into the water. Add the flour and butter mixture and gently mix with your hands until the dough starts to come together slightly.
  3. Shape the dough into a rough square and let it rest for 10 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Give the dough three single turns, followed by one double turn. If the dough feels rubbery after you have completed a few turns, let it rest a few minutes before you continue.
  4. Cover and refrigerate. Your dough block should be approx. 12 x 6 inches.
  5. Once your pastry is nice and cool, take a sharp knife and cut it in half, take a look at where you’ve sliced through. You should see chunks of butter, this is a wonderful thing. when you roll, you want to press down on these layers. You don’t want to lay the cut side down, you want to make sure the layers are parallel to each other and to the table, and that you are rolling the layers onto one another, maintaining the layer structure and ensuring maximum puff and flakiness.

And now we get to the assembly. First I preheated my oven to 350 F. Then I rolled the dough into circles, and then pressed one into my pie pan. I froze it for a half hour, removed them and poked holes in the bottom of them with a fork. Then I lined it with parchment (foil and can be used as well) and fill that with dry beans or rice to weigh it down. I baked them for 15 minutes, until they were no longer raw. According to Gesine, this is a “blind bake”, ensuring that the bottom pastry won’t turn out soggy.

This is probably where I should say I’m not very good with crusts. Cheesecake crust and pie crusts are my waterloo. It probably also added to that that I decided to make this on the hottest day of our spring so far, about 80 degrees and rising. But it turned out okay for my first pie. I’m planning on trying this again, for sure. Was it perfect? No. But tasted amazing, well at least according to the people I served it to. Okay carrying on with the recipe…

Then I beat one egg with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash.  I removed the parchment and rice from the shells and brushed the crusts with the egg wash. Then I filled them with raspberry/blackberry filling, topping it with some little pats of butter. I baked them for an additional 45 minutes, until the crust was golden and the filling was bubbling. If you’d like, you could use the second circle of dough as a cover for your pie. I opted to not do this, I wanted to see those little berries squirming in sugary goodness.

The filling was obviously easy. The dough… eh. Not difficult, just time consuming, and since it was warm it was mushy and the butter was melty. And my filling was a bit runny. But hey, whatever. A pie is a pie. Stuff it in your face and move along.

Some comments I got on it:

“Out of this world.. the berries, the crust, everything!”

“Two thumbs up. Fantastic.”

“Can I have another slice?”

“Cheer me up!!” Carrot Cake

Okay folks I promise that we didn’t forget about you or stop cooking!

I finished Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado about a month ago.  There were so many recipes in this book that I wanted to make.  I have to admit I was a bit confused and overwhelmed on how to veganinze the recipes.  I am still pretty new at this baking thing.  Altering recipes is something that I still need a little bit more experience.

Overall I enjoyed the book.  It was a really quick and easy read.  It really hit home when she talked about watching such a strong and independent person like her mother wither away and die right before her eyes from cancer.  I also lost my mother to cancer in 2001.  Gesine totally made sense to me after that because I was able to relate to her.  I give Gesine a lot of credit for leaving a successful job with her sister, Sandra Bullock’s production company to start her own bakery business.  There are a ton of people who wish they had the guts to hang up a successful 9-5 to follow their hearts, dreams and passions.

I didn’t agree with Gesine’s attitude toward vegans but I can totally see where she is coming from.  No one wants to feel like someone’s beliefs or way of life are being preached or force-fed on them.  Vegans tend to be perceived as very pushy.  You will not find me telling people what they should and should not eat.  I think it is a very personal choice.  I do not want people telling me what I should eat so, I choose to respect other people’s free will to choose.  Gesine does mention in her book how difficult it would be to make vegan things that taste good.  I have had some awesome tasting vegan desserts and pastries from some pretty awesome bakeries in New York, so it is very possible.

I am not the perfect vegan.  I had a few moments of weakness and I made her carrot cake recipe without any vegan adjustments to the recipe.  Also I am sorry to say I did not make this cake gluten free.  Shaun was not interested in this cake so I saw no point in not using regular flour.  I am going to toot my own here and say that my cooking ability has come a long way.  I would have never thought that I would be able to make a three tier cake from scratch and it taste amazing!  The first time I made Gesine’s carrot cake was Easter weekend.  It tasted great but it looked like a snow storm.  I didn’t realize there was an art to frosting.  I definitely should have asked for help or tips.  I knew I needed to make this cake again because I wanted a great picture to post and well because the cake tasted amazing.  I decided to start this cake on Monday night.  You’re probably thinking who tries to make a three tier cake during a work week?!  Only me I know.  But I was feeling pretty sad and there is no better pick me up then C-A-K-E!!  Shaun was kind enough to grate the carrots for me.  Honestly I love making this cake but grating the carrots make this cake such a pain.  I know you must be kind to the star of the show, but the first time I made this cake my arm hurt for like two days from grating the carrots.  I know I am such a wimp!  Below you will find Gesine’s carrot cake recipe.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

For the cake

1 ½ cups vegetable oil, plus additional for the pans

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)

For the frosting

4 cups of confectioners’ sugar

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 325 °F.  Lightly grease three 8-inch round cake pans with 1 ½-inch sides.  Line the bottoms of the pans with wax paper and lightly grease the paper.

Place the sugar and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the sugar and oil mixture and beat on low until all ingredients are incorporated.  Stir in the carrots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing equally.  Bake about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, if you must.  But you can also gently press the top; if it springs back and if the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, it’s done.  Set the cakes on racks and let them cool in the pans 15 minutes.  Invert the cakes onto the racks and cool completely.  (Cakes can be made 1 day ahead.  Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)

For the frosting

In an electric mixer, beat all the ingredients with the whisk attachment until smooth and creamy.

To assemble the cake

Place one completely cool cake layer on a lovely cake platter.  Spread with ¾ cup frosting.

Top with another layer cake layer.  Spread with ¾ cup frosting.  Top with the remaining cake layer.  Using and offset spatula spread the remaining frosting in decorative swirls over the sides and top of the cake.

When I made this cake I used organic ingredients.  I ran out of vegetable oil so I used grape seed oil the second time I made this cake.  I actually think it tasted better with the grape seed oil.  Also I did not use any wax paper since I bake with silicone.  I do not own an offset spatula so I frosted the cake without it.  I used this video on About.com on how to frost a layer cake.  I found it extremely helpful for a beginner like myself.  http://video.about.com/baking/How-to-Frost-a-Cake.htm This cake was even a hit at work.  My co-workers loved the cake.  If I can make this, anyone can!

Don’t think we’ve forgotten..

It’s been a busy few months for us. Brianne got her own blog up and running and then got a .com (Iron Chef Mommy), and then Jeanine became a vegan again, decided to start a vegan blog and bought her .com (Vegan Nourishment – coming soon!) and she’s been working on that… and I’ve been working on doing their blog logos as well as other design work & keeping up with Cupcake Rehab, and Gina has been busy with her job, etc. So while we’ve been busy, we haven’t forgotten about CTB!

Our next book has been chosen- if you’d like to cook the book along with us, it’s Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. We’re very excited to start it and resume our cooking the books with you.

Love Being Vegan Brussels Sprouts

I decided about two weeks ago after a not so pleasant doctor’s visit that I am going to take back my health once and for all!  Let us just say that I gained about 20 lbs since 2008 and my doctor was not so happy about that.  I used to be about 250lbs.  Yeah I know that’s a freaking ridiculous amount to weight considering I am only 5’5.  In 2006 when I met my gym buddy for life Desiree, she showed me what the inside of a gym looked like and from then I was hooked on the gym!  As I started to lose weight and started feeling good I realized I needed to do more.  I tried a number of things including being vegetarian and eventually being vegan.  I had lost a little over 50lbs.  I looked great and I felt amazing.  Then I let everyday stresses of life get to me.  I went back to eating meat and eventually stopped going to the gym regularly.  It is pretty easy to see why I gained those 20lbs.  I had come so far and that is why my doctor wanted to know what happened.  When I left the doctor I realized I had to be honest with myself and go back to doing what works.  I feel as if I had an epiphany, kind of the way Ruth did in Garlic and Sapphires when she realizes she needs to leave the NY Times because it was killing her sense of self. 

To celebrate my new journey into veganism I decided to make Ruth Reichl’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Garlic and Sapphires.  Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian sometimes we have to put those chips, cookies and soda down and just eat something GREEN!!  Green can be yummy too!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 pounds small Brussels sprouts, trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 slices thickly cut bacon, diced

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet or cookie pan with sides, sprinkle with the olive oil, and toss so that each sprout is coated.  Spread the sprouts out so they are in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top with the diced bacon. 

Cook, turning the sprouts once, for about 20 minutes or until they are very dark and crisp.

Serve at once

Serves 8 to 10

Needless to say I made this recipe without my ex-BFF bacon!

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day… how groundbreaking!

Well I’ve been MIA for almost 2 months. That’s really lousy of me- but things have been busy. Plus I’m keeping up with my food blog, as well as all the other daily acitivities and responsibilities I have to do. But nonetheless, I finished Garlic & Sapphires a while back and I have to say I LOVED it.  Totally different style from Giulia’s book that we “cooked” previously, but definitely a page turner. Like Jeanine said, I loved how Ruth made even the most unusual (and in my mind, admittedly gross) foods sound fantastic and mouth-watering. I also very much enjoyed reading about the restaurants and foodie-world of NYC in a pre-9/11 world. I recognize so many of the restaurants names from a part of my memory… and sadly many of them are no more. Since the book chronicles her life as the New York Times food critic circa 1993, you can well imagine how NY restaurants have changed since then, due to the economy and also food trends.

As Gina mentioned, Ruth dresses up in various disguises to eat at the restaurants so she isn’t recognized. In each of her disguises, she finds out something about herself. I like that. I think that’s why I like changing my appearance so much (hair colors/cuts/styles, etc). Every time you change your looks drastically like that, you find something out you didn’t realize before. For example, if you think you’re a wallflower, and then dye your hair bright red… you might be surprised at how you really aren’t a wallflower. Or maybe it’s the hair that changes you? In Ruth’s case, it was wigs and makeup, in addition to a few smartly chosen wardrobe choices.

There are tons of wonderful food/meal recipes in this book, and I want to make many of them, but I haven’t had the opportunity to make them yet, I was planning on the risotto but Brianne did it. So I figured I’d go with a dessert. I had originally planned on making her New York cheesecake, but Jeanine beat me to it, and Gina took Nicky’s vanilla cake. *shakes fist* That’s what happens when you wait too long I guess. So what’s a baker to do?

I picked the Last-Minute chocolate cake. It sounded amazing, and I decided to make it for Valentine’s Day. I made some strawberry-vanilla cupcakes too, but I wanted to make something chocolate. This was the perfect recipe. I made it into cupcakes (of course) and frosted it with vanilla buttercream and topped it with chocolate hearts & Red Hot candies.

Last-Minute Chocolate Cake

  • 4 ounces fine quality unsweetened chocolate
  • ¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brewed strong black coffee
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Butter and flour a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan (I used a muffin tin, duhhh).

Combine the chocolate, butter and coffee in the top of a double boiler or in a very heavy pot. Stir constantly over low heat until melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Then add the Grand Marnier, sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir well.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add this to the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan (fill muffin tins anywhere from ½-¾ full) and bake for 30- 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I ended up getting 18 cupcakes, and they baked at 350° F for about 25-30 minutes).

Serves 6.

I omitted the Grand Marnier, only because I didn’t have it. So I added an extra tablespoon of coffee and 1 teaspoon orange extract. It came out awesome, and surprisingly went very well with the Red Hots! I used Baker’s brand unsweetened 1 oz. chocolate squares for the chocolate in the recipe. This is a really great dark, rich, chocolate-y cake with a great “extra” flavor. Some people who tasted it couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was exactly… but they all agreed it is super yum. All in all it was a really good chocolate cake recipe. I’ll definitely make it again. Maybe next time I’ll make it as a cake, and top it with vanilla ice cream as Ruth suggests in the book. Mmm. But also this would make an awesome layer cake if you double it.

I know, chocolate cake around Valentine’s Day is a kind of cliched thing to do, and boring, but have some pity on me. I promise I’ll be back soon with another recipe, less boring too. I won’t let you down, Cooking the Books… I won’t let you down!

Psst.. the cupcakes in the background? They’re made of cloth, handmade and hand-painted, and were a gift from my mother. If you’d like to know where to buy similar creations, shoot me an e·mail or ask me on Twitter!