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October 30, 2012

The Birthday Cake

I know you've all been in breathless anticipation, so here it is.  This year's birthday cake:

An ampersand!  My favorite punctuation mark and the probable tattoo I'll get one of these days.

I can no longer claim to be in my mid-20's, and the countdown to 30 begins!
October 29, 2012

No picture pie and some cakes

I was thinking of you guys.

I made a pie, a chocolate chess pie, for my sister's 21st birthday, and as I was making it, I was thinking, "I'm so glad I'll have something new to post!"  Because I'm a nerd.

But, as luck would have it, I didn't take any pictures of the pie itself.  I have a picture of the ingredients, just not the pie.  It was pretty tasty, like a brownie in a pie shell, but it was. . .ugly.  Really, really ugly.  I'm going to have to work on my pie-making skills.

So in this entry, I'm going to talk about cakes.  More specifically, birthday cakes.  My husband isn't a baking guy, necessarily.  (That's not to say he can't.  More that he generally doesn't.)  For the last two years, though, he has made me some pretty epic birthday cakes.  The first cake he made me was one of the most epic things I've ever seen.

I was working at a library at the time, and if you know me, you know I read like some people breathe.  All the time.  My siblings were at my apartment the other day, and my sister said, "You have a ridiculous amount of books."  This is true.

So for my birthday two years ago, my husband made this cake:

It was incredibly impressive, especially considering he's never done it before.

Last year's cake starred The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which happens to be my favorite kids' book ever.

I bring this up because my birthday is tomorrow, and he has already begun cake-building preparations.  He's made a sheet cake, about the same size as the one above, and there are marshmallows and powdered sugar sitting on the kitchen table, which I can only imagine means fondant.

Stay tuned.  I'll be back later with the reveal of this year's cake and something new for you all to try.

October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I didn't mean to fall into the "Oh, it's fall, oh make things with ALL THE PUMPKIN!" but. . .it happened.

These muffins are amazing.  I don't want to, you know, toot my own horn or anything, but if you want a promotion at work, to ask someone to marry you, to make someone feel better after you ask them to divorce you, to bribe someone, or to apologize to your spouse for wrecking the car, these are the muffins to bring to the table, so to speak.

I also posted these at my other blog-project, Sarah Cooks the Books, where I'm systematically working my way through my massive cookbook collection.  Check me out over there, too!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from The Comfort Table
Makes 12 muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar (or 1 cup sugar, 1 cup Splenda or 2 cups Splenda)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Add pumpkin and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Or, in my case, over-grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Pour batter into the muffin tin and bake for 20-24 minutes (mine took 23).  Let cool on wire rack. 

October 8, 2012

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

This cake.  Oh, man, this cake.  I've made it twice in two weeks, once for my cousin's 5-year anniversary and once for my husband's birthday.  It is amazing.  My one recommendation would be to make it at least the day before you're going to eat it.  It gets better the longer it sits.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups hot water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules (It would be OK without these, but trust me.  Use them.)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Icing
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. instant coffee granules (Again, trust me.)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prep two 8-inch cake pans with Crisco and sprinkle with flour OR spray with nonstick spray.  (The Crisco method is better and with cakes, especially one this moist, it makes the removal process much less painful.)

Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Combine water, oil, vinegar, instand coffee, and vanilla in a large measuring cup (or in a small mixing bowl.)  Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.  Don't mind the lumps.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake 35-40 minutes (mine both took 38 minutes) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely.

To make the icing:

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Stir in sugar, cocoa, and salt.  The mixture will be thick, grainy, and difficult to stir.  This is OK.

Combine heavy cream, sour cream, and instand coffee in a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl.  Mix until smooth.  Gradually add this mixture to the chocolate mixture until blended and smooth.  Do not boil.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Cool icing at room temperature until spreadable.  This can take 2-3 hours.  If you're in a hurry, you can also put it in the fridge or, if you're really desperate, in the freezer.  (Note that if you stick a hot pan in a freezer, you're going to melt a lot of the stuff in there.  I'm sure you would have figured that out.  I'm just sayin'.)

Once the icing is appropriately cool, frost cakes. 

It is exactly as good as it looks.

Chocolate Cake:  It brings couples together.