Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate and chestnut, what a pair! As mentioned by Nat King Cole in The Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a holiday favorite. But over the years, chestnuts seem to have become less and less prominent. Frequently seen at most street carts around New York during the holidays, I have yet to find one this year. Maybe because most Chestnuts now come from Asia or maybe it’s just the trend life cycle. A whole article could easily be written on the history of chestnuts. I’m just here to share this delicious chocolate chestnut slices recipe.

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Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cakes

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cake

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cake

If you’re not familiar with speculoos or cookie butter, you’re missing out. This growing trend started a few years ago and is now said to be one of Trader Joe’s best selling products. Some may argue that the popularity of cookie butter peaked back in 2014 but I see more of it now, especially in baked goods, than I did then. It’s a deliciously simple concept: ground spiced shortbread cookies and oil are made into a spreadable butter, similar to peanut butter or nutella. The idea seems to have come from Belgium and Biscoff was one of the first, most recognizable brands in the US. The dessert-like spread is a wonderful nut-free alternative for those with nut allergies and although it’s easy to eat by the spoonful or simply on toast, it turns out this sweet spiced cookie spread makes an amazing molten lava cake.

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Devils Food Cake with Meringue Frosting

Chocolate Devils Food Cake

Chocolate Devils Food Cake with Meringue Frosting

There is something magical about meringue. The process of whipping liquid egg whites into a sugary pillow-like mass is not just satisfying, but fun. From cookies and marshmallows to frosting recipes such as this, there are multiple uses for shiny sweet meringue. Despite whatever the intended purpose, I can’t seem to resist dipping my fingers into the bright soft fluff and eating most of it before it makes it out of the mixing bowl.

This meringue frosting recipe, inspired from “The Art of Fine Baking,” is really just a basic Italian Meringue: the egg whites are “cooked” by beating in a water sugar mixture that has been heated to soft ball stage (238 degrees). This process creates an extra shiny thick meringue, which is all the more irresistible. Butter can also be added to create a meringue buttercream. I skipped this step because I personally don’t think the frosting needs butter. The greasy addition also makes it much easier for the meringue to break down and create a soggy mess.

But enough about meringue, let’s talk cake. I know I need to be more open minded but whenever I make a cake, it usually has a chocolate component. In this case, the cake itself is chocolate since the meringue frosting is not. I also took it one step further and added melted chocolate to a small amount of the frosting for a chocolate surprise in the middle layer. This of course is optional. The cake is a Red Devils Food Cake recipe that I adapted from “The New York Times Cookbook“ by Craig Claiborne, a good friend of my grandmother. It’s a basic chocolate cake with just the right amount of moistness. Paired with the meringue frosting, it becomes impressive and indulgent. I dare you to eat just one slice.

Ingredients:

Devils Food Cake
1 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meringue Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 egg whites
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of two 9-inch layer cake pans, line with waxed paper or parchment paper and grease the paper.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Add the oil and 2/3 cup of the milk and mix. Beat two minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat two minutes longer.

Turn the batter into the prepared pans and bake on the lower shelf of the oven until the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 30-35 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan five minutes. Turn out on rack, remove paper, and frost as desired.

For the meringue frosting:

Combine 2/3 cup of sugar with water and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Raise heat and boil syrup without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees, or a few drops of syrup form a soft ball in cold water.

While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites with pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in vanilla extract and remaining sugar, a little at a time, until whites are firm. Pour boiling syrup in a fine stream over whites, beating constantly. Continue beating until completely smooth and stiff. Cool.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Ring

Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Cake Ring

Yes, Paula Peck made a gluten-free cake. She may not have realized it since gluten-free diets were unheard of 50 years ago but this cake recipe qualifies for the popular health trend. Ground almonds are used instead of flour, resulting in a nutty texture and nutritious flavor. If it weren’t for the number of eggs (I said it was gluten-free not vegan), and the lovely chocolate whipped cream frosting, this cake could almost pass as healthy. Whipped cream flavored with vanilla extract and cocoa powder makes a surprisingly delicious frosting. It can also be stabilized using gelatin (see whipped cream frosting recipe for Chocolate Velvet Cake). As you can probably tell from the photo, I might have gone a little heavy on this whipped delight – having a little cake with my chocolate whipped cream :)

I’ve been fairly busy with various projects lately so I haven’t been posting or writing as much. I hope to be up to speed soon but wanted to share this past-meets-present quick GF delight.

Ingredients:

6 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely ground almonds or almond flour
7 tablespoons dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
4 tablespoons cognac

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting
2 cups heavy cream
3-4 tablespoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, stir eggs and sugar together for 1 minute. Set bowl on a saucepan of warm water and heat, stirring constantly. When eggs are warm, beat them until they are cool, fluffy, and tripled in bulk. Beat in vanilla.

Combine ground nuts with cocoa. Sprinkle on top of beaten eggs. Fold in gently, adding the cooled melted butter at the same time. As soon as there is no further trace of butter, pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until top of cake is springy. Let ring cool before removing it from pan. Sprinkle with cognac.

While cake cools, whip heavy cream until thickened. Add sugar, cocoa, and vanilla while continuously beating until cream is stiff. Frost cake liberally.

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by Paula Peck.

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