Monday, January 6, 2014

Chocolate caramel cake with sea salt

This was a special cake for a special day.  Darling Husband just celebrated his birthday.   Our birthdays are both close to the mad rush of the holidays, so it sometimes seems that they get lost in the shuffle.  Best way to deal with that? Make a chocolate cake for two!

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Simply Desserts is a bakery in Seattle that I think serves some of the best cake in town.  We had the red velvet for my birthday and Darling Husband loves their chocolate caramel cake.  When I saw a recipe for a chocolate caramel cake in Bon Appetit a few months ago I marked it right away.  This would be the cake I would lovingly bake for him!  Best Wife Ever!  
The cake was good.  Okay, probably better than good.  This was the first cake I ever made with mayo.  I know people get weirded out by that, but mayo is just eggs and oil, essentials in a cake.  The combination of chocolate with sea salt is so delicious.  Darling Husband loved that the frosting wasn't too sweet (this guy!), so that might be a selling point for a lot of people.  For me, I love that rush of sugar in a classic buttercream.  I think this cake deserves that buttercream.  It's the right thing to do.  
The bakery version of this cake has a really nice caramel filling. This recipe only has caramel in the frosting, and it's combined with chocolate.  I sort of missed that extra boost of caramel, but that might be a good addition to the buttercream frosting I mentioned.
Chocoalte Caramel cake with Sea Salt
Cake:
2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 1/4 cup mayonnaise (not low-fat)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 and 1/3 cups lukewarm water
Frosting:
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 and 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
sea salt
Cake instructions:
Preheat oven to 325.  Coat cake pans with cooking spray, line bottoms with parchment paper, and then spray again. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
With your mixer on high speed, beat together eggs and sugar until pale and doubled in volume, about 4 minutes.  Add mayo and vanilla and beat until just combined. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Divide evenly among two 9 inch cake pans. (Original recipe called for three 8 inch pans, of which I only have one)
Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack.
Frosting instructions:
Put chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally, brush down sides with a wet pastry brush as needed, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in cream, mixture will bubble. (my caramel started to harden at this point, once returned to heat, it smoothed out)  Return to medium heat and cook, stirring until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Pour caramel over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth; stir occasionally, allowing to cool.
Once cool, using an electric mixer, on medium-high heat, beat chocolate mixture, gradually adding butter, until frosting is smooth and thickened.  Chill until stiff enough to spread, about 30 minutes. 
Place one cake layer on plate, spread with about 1 cup frosting and sprinkle with sea salt, about 1/4 teaspoon.  Place second layer on top and frost, covering top completely and down the sides.  Just before serving, sprinkle top layer with more sea salt.
This is definitely a cake you make for a special occasion.  It's really not complicated, but it yields impressive results.  I would recommend this cake to anyone looking for a solid chocolate cake recipe.  Try the frosting as is and see what you think. Oh yeah, if you've made resolutions to eat healthy, bookmark for later.
legs in photo are true-to-life.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a joyous holiday season. We had a nice time with friends and family. Peyton had so much opening gifts, she definitely was more interested in the holiday this year. 
For the first year, we brought home an artificial Christmas tree.  This is huge for me.  I love the tradition of going to pick out that one special tree.  You strap it to the roof of your car, bring it home, and hope it will stand up straight.  Our tree came from Target, we took it out of a box, and it looked pretty darn good.  I still had to have a real tree though, it just didn't feel right without one.  We went to a nearby tree farm and cut one down. P ran around the farm and we brought home a perfectly lovely little tree.  The nice thing about a fake tree? No need to tear it down right away and put it on the curb.  You can switch out the decor and make it a New Year Tree.  I did just that...
I covered my tree in silver and gold, New Year's tiaras, and party blowers.  I'm going to savor these last few days with my festive tree and holiday memories.  I hope you all have a new year full of food, friends, love, health, and lots of laughs.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Crafts: Pom Pom Wreath

Decorating at the holidays is so much fun.  Since this is our first Christmas in our new home, I really wanted to have some fun new things in the house.  However, Christmas decor can be quite expensive.  I turned to my favorite time-suck, Pinterest, for a little DIY inspiration.  I think wreaths are really fun and festive.  I loved that this wreath was all white, so I can easily switch the bow and have it up all winter.
I guess this is a knock-off version of a very expensive Anthropologie wreath.  With coupons and sales on yarn, I spent just under $20.  I probably could have spent a little less, but I was just a little short and had to buy another bundle of yarn.  The project took me very little time.  I could make the yarn pom poms while watching TV and then pin them into my wreath.  Just like cooking or baking, it's satisfying to be able to create something and then enjoy it.  
I followed this tutorial here. The only thing I did differently was that I needed 4 plus a little more yarn bundles.  All of my supplies came from Michael's, all on sale.  With the yarn I have left, I may be able to make a mini version!  If you're looking for a fun winter wreath, or a nice homemade gift, this wreath is sure to fit the bill!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Candy Cane Joe-Joe Truffles

This recipe takes the Candy Cane Joe-Joe up a notch.  You don't believe me do you?  Just make these truffles yourself and see what you think.  Crushed Joe-Joes mixed with cream cheese, covered in chocolate, sprinkled with candy cane bits.    What's not to like about that?
It's such a happy day when Trader Joe's puts out these seasonal Joe-Joe's.   And I do mean day.  Sometimes these things barely stay on the shelves!  I can happily report that my local store has been stocked.   These cookies are so nice and refreshing I really don't feel like I'm eating a dessert...so then I eat about twelve cookies.  I don't sweat it.  I say if you're going to indulge at the holidays make it worth it.  The joe-joe's themselves are worth it, but these truffles are really worth it.  My favorite part is that they are no-bake! You can have these ready to share with friends in no time!  People get busy this time of year and may not want to spend a lot of time baking.  Share this recipe with them and you'll have a forever friend!
Candy Cane Joe-Joe Truffles
1 box Candy Cane Joe-Joe's, crushed  (found at Trader Joe's, or use Candy cane Oreos)
one 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
chocolate chips for dipping (I used milk chocolate)
crushed candy canes for garnish
Crush entire box of Joe-Joe's into a fine crumb.  I find this is easiest in a food processor. Transfer crumbs to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in cream cheese and mix until cream cheese is fully combined. Form into balls, I used a medium cookie scoop, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  
Melt chocolate chips in microwave at 30 second intervals until completely smooth.  Using a toothpick, dip truffles in chocolate until completely coated.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes if you like.
I like to keep them in the refrigerator and eat cold.
See how easy it is to turn a cookie into an even more awesome cookie? I recommend you go out and buy two boxes of Joe-Joe's: one to make truffles, and one to eat in the car on the way home. 





Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies with white chocolate chips

This is my third year participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  That means that I have sent, and received, approximately 108 tasty cookies through this exchange.   Each year after sign-up you get assigned to three different bloggers, you bake up three dozen cookies, send a dozen to each different blogger, and then wait by your mailbox for your cookies to arrive.  I made the above cookies, but more about those later...
Check out what I got!
Delicious Double Chocolate Biscotti with Almonds and Sea Salt from Blogging over Thyme
Classic Coconut Macaroons from Ink Foods
Wonderful Date Nut Cookies from Two True Foodies
Lucky me!!  Thanks to all the bloggers who shared with me!  I so enjoyed every bite!
I mailed out oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.  I think cranberries are great at Christmas time and white chocolate chips pair perfectly with them.  I received these before and couldn't wait to mail them out myself.  Unfortunately there weren't any left for me to eat...better get back in the kitchen!
Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies with white chocolate chips
adapted from Southern Living
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sweetened dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
1 and 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. 
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Set aside. 
Beat butter at medium speed with mixer until creamy.  Add sugars, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating until blended.  Gradually add flour mixture and beat until blended, scraping bowl as needed.  Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
Drop dough by heaping spoonful onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Cool on sheet for about 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 
These cookies will definitely be added to my holiday baking rotation.  I had so much fun participating in the cookie swap this year, can't wait for the next one!  Thanks again to the lovely ladies who baked for me!  3 dozen cookies! So glad it's stretchy pants season!








Sunday, December 8, 2013

Insta-updates

Are we friends on Instagram?  I am obsessed with this photo app!  I love seeing little glimpses of people's daily lives.  Maybe because I am so nosy? I like to think it's because I am so friendly!  I constantly see little snapshots that interest me. Here's a few shots of what I've been up to lately.  If you have an Instagram account, follow me, so I can spy on follow you!  Warning:my photos are mostly of the kiddo and food..so pretty much just like this blog.  
I'll be back later this week with some fun holiday cookies!











Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my favorite little turkeys.  Hope you are spending the day with people that you love. And, of course, eating lots and lots of food that you love.
I'm not a huge fan of turkey, but turkey brownies.....those I like.