Chocolate

It’s been one of those days. . .

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So I’m having one of those days.  Actually it’s been a couple of days.  Last night, I had one of my worst games in recent memory (I play in a local volleyball league).  And it’s now spilled over to today.  I’m working on a couple of birthday cakes for the weekend and nothing ever looked quite the way they are supposed to.  The ingredients weren’t mixing correctly, the batter looked weird, and then they weren’t baking right.  And then it hit me halfway through the baking time — I never added any sugar!  Nice.  Ever wonder what cakes without sugar look like?  Feast your eyes!

I wonder what they taste like. Oh right -- terrible. Actually, it wasn't too bad. More like chocolate bread.
They look like little round pumpernickel loaves, or maybe giant whoopie pies.
They're nice and piping hot, though!

I just started a Facebook page for Jereme’s Kitchen so stop by and like my page because it’s just me so far!  I added a widget at the bottom of the sidebar.  It’s so sad — number of likes = 1 🙂

Have some German Chocolate Cake on Michigan’s 175th Birthday

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Happy 175th Birthday to the State of Michigan!  So in honor of Michigan’s birthday today and tomorrow’s National Chocolate Cake Day, I present this German Chocolate Cake.  Of course, from what I can discern, the (un)official state cake of Michigan is a German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake.  It’s listed in Warren Brown’s book, United Cakes of America.  Now these two cakes are very close — one uses pickled cabbage, the other uses some sweetened coconut.  Those two ingredients are readily interchanged in any number of recipes, like kielbasa for example 🙂  See?  Virtually the same!

Did you know that German Chocolate Cake isn’t actually German?  It was named after Sam German, who developed a type of sweet, dark chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate.  This recipe was developed in his honor, using the chocolate that he created.  Originally, it was called German’s Chocolate Cake, but that was changed along the way, as things are wont to do.  Now this cake wasn’t in my normal rotation, but after a couple of special requests for it, I’ve decided to add it.  I couldn’t be happier with the results.

I used a chiffon cake for the base.  Chiffon is an oil-based cake that was really popular in the ’40s and people loved it because it stayed so moist.  The actual recipe was closely guarded secret until it was sold in the mid or late ’40s and later popularized in those box cake mixes you can find in the grocery store today.  So if you ever make one of those cakes from a box mix (ugh!), you will be making a chiffon cake.

So since National Chocolate Cake Day is on the 27th, I’ll be posting on my Orange Devil Cake and my Chocolate Ice cake in the next few days.  Stay tuned!

By the way, I got that Michigan birthday cake pic from the State of Michigan website.  I’m not sure if they found the image or developed it themselves, but I just wanted to give them a shout out.  Happy Birthday Michigan!

Chocolate Truffles Cake

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This is inspired from one of Martha’s wedding cakes.  I’m not sure what her recipe is, but I just love the concept of it — it’s a cake encased in truffles!  That has got to be good!  Now this is for that birthday party that I was talking about a while ago; it went with the raspberry cupcakes.  And since I made extra raspberry buttercream for the cupcakes, I used that to fill the cake.  So because it was for a party, I couldn’t cut it open to take a picture of a cross-section.  You could just use more ganache for a filling, or whatever buttercream you like.  Maybe a nice orange curd would be good.  Might be a good Halloween cake with the colors.

Like I mentioned before, this party was supposed to be pink and purple.  So I rolled some of the truffles in some purple dragées to keep in the theme.  This made 2 tall 6″ cakes.  I split the cakes in half so there’s four layers to it.  They did rise in the middle, but they settled after cooling.  Be aware that this is one of my more involved cakes.  Not that it’s difficult; it just has a lot of steps.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 6 inch cake pans with cooking spray.  Line with parchment rounds; spray the rounds as well.  Sift together the dry ingredients twice (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Set aside.  Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for about 1 – 2 minutes.  Gradually adding the sugar, mix for about 3 – 5 minutes until fluffy.  Add the cocoa powder and mix for another minute.

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (scrape down the sides, too!).  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4.  On low, gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the water.  Scrape the sides and mix evenly.

5.  Pour half the mixture into each pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.

For the ganache frosting:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla

1.  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a double boiler.  You could just put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time since tempering the chocolate is not as important.  After completely melted, set aside.

2.  In another bowl, beat the butter until creamy for about a minute or so.  Gradually add in the sugar, mixing well to combine.  Beat in the vanilla and the melted chocolate.  Mix until smooth and well combined.  Set aside.

For the truffles:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 lb. dark chocolate, chopped
  • cocoa powder
  • dutch process cocoa powder
  • purple dragée

1.  Place chocolate in medium-sized heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Once the cream starts to boil, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for about 5-7 minutes and stir to combine.  Cool in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes, until set.

2.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form balls around 1 1/2 in. wide.  Roll the truffles in either of the cocoa powders or the dragée.  Place in the refrigerator to harden for about 10 minutes.  Cut each truffle in half, and place back in the refrigerator until needed.

Assemble the cake:

1.  After cooling, cut out a small notch or sliver out of the sides of the cakes to act as a marker.  That way you can match up the marks when assembling the cake.  Split the cakes in half lengthwise so that you will have four even layers.

2.  Place a small dab of frosting on top of a cake round (or a serving dish) and place the bottom layer of one of the cakes.  Line the edges of the round with strips of parchment that are tucked underneath the edges of the cake.

3.  Spread about 1/2 c. of the frosting on the bottom layer and smooth out almost to the edge.  Top with the top layer of that cake, lining up the notches on the side.  Smooth out another 1/2 c. of the frosting on top.  Repeat with the other two layers.

4.  Frost the sides of the cake starting with the top and bringing the frosting down to smooth out the sides.  Smooth out the top.

5.  With a small palette knife or the back of a small spoon, place a dab of frosting on the back of a truffle half and attach it to the cake.  Repeat until the sides of the cake are covered in truffles.  You could try to make a fancy pattern here, but I just stuck with columns of the different truffles in random order.

Notes — As I mentioned earlier, the filling for the cake that I made was a raspberry buttercream, so if you just use the ganache frosting, you’ll probably need a double batch, depending on how much you use in between the layers. . . you could just make things easier on your self and use store-bought truffles, or maybe some Baci chocolates. . . I did (begrudgingly) eventually put some purple sugar flowers on top of the cake since those were part of the party theme.  I prefer to just have a smooth top of the cake. . . although I prefer the more irregular shapes of truffles, you could make perfectly round truffles for this.  That might be appropriate for a more formal event.  But they are called truffles because, after you roll them around in the cocoa, they look like those things that you pull out of the ground!

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

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This recipe has been making the rounds on the food blogs so I thought I’d give it a try.  For those who don’t know the story, a fellow food blogger (In Jennie’s Kitchen) experienced a recent tragedy with the unexpected death of her husband Mikey.  The two of them have two young girls, ages 8 and 3.  This recipe was one of his favorites and she had been meaning to make it for him, but sadly she never got the chance.

In his honor, I made this.  But I didn’t make it just for him, but for the folks that I love too.  So the next chance that you get, tell those special people in your life that you love them.  As Jennie writes in her blog, “. . . hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Notes — I did follow an adaptation of this recipe that makes a 10″ pie.  I got that recipe from the blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Happy Chocolate Chip Day!!! (or is it on May 15th?)  You should always have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Whether it’s something you that you develop on your own, or find something that you love, keep one in your baking arsenal.  Usually when we think of chocolate chip cookies, many of us think of the good ol’ Toll House cookie.  This recipe came about in 1937 at the Toll House Inn which was owned by Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband.  She wanted to make some of her favorite cookies for her guests but was missing a key ingredient.  But she did have on hand a semi-sweet chocolate bar (made by Nestlé) which she crumbled up and mixed into the dough.  She thought that the chocolate would melt and spread out into the mixture.  To her surprise, the chocolate held its shape which she thought was weird but decided to serve it anyway.  It was a big hit, and thus the Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie was born.  Now right on the bag of Toll House chocolate chips, it lists the date of origin at 1939.  That’s when Ruth and Nestlé settled into an agreement where she could get chocolate for life and Nestlé got to print the recipe on some of its packaging.  Here are a couple of links (here and here) that you should check out to find some additional info.  Exciting stuff!!!

On to some recipes.  Now everyone should be familiar with the tried and true Toll House Cookie recipe.  If not, just go check out a bag of Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chips.  Now I won’t be making those, but I did come up with a couple of recipes — Chocolate Chip Molé cookies  and Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Let’s talk about the latter one here.  The recipe isn’t too far from your basic cookie recipe, save for one step where I infuse some melted butter with the cardamom.  Not too complicated, right?.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

1.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the cardamom.  When melted, let simmer on the stove on low (if it is too high the butter will burn!) for about 30 minutes.  The cardamom should swell.  Set aside to cool and re-solidify.

2.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

3.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the cardamom butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix well until just combined.  Do not over mix!  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

5.  Drop cookies onto a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Eat up!

Notes — This does have a lower proportion of brown sugar when compared to other recipes.  I did this so that the cardamom could stand out and not be overpowered by the molasses in the brown sugar.  You can change this if you like. . . You may have noticed that the cookies in the pictures are a little bit dark.  There is a good reason for this.  I was out of brown sugar, so I tried to make my own which should just be some regular granulated sugar and some molasses.  Now I don’t know why I didn’t use a measuring cup, but I ended up putting waaaay too much molasses.  But the cookies still tasted great and you could still taste the cardamom throughout, just not as much as it should have.  Hence the previous “note”.  The second batch turned out better. . . You could try this with some other herbs / spices.  I’m sure cinnamon would be great in this or maybe some cloves.  Maybe some peppercorns to make a variation on pfeffernüssen.  Lemon peel and ginger sound good too!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

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Is there a better combination that chocolate and peanut butter?  It is one of those combinations which is now a classic.  I am a huge fan of peanut butter cups, and it doesn’t matter who makes it either.  In fact, I love those ones that you find in the bargain bin at your local grocery store that you can buy by-the-pound for like $0.25 / lb.  I almost prefer them; maybe it’s all the additives.  But what I really love are the Peanut Butter Eggs that Reese’s puts out during Easter.  There is something about the Eggs that are delicious!  I don’t know what’s going on there, but those are the best!  And it’s just the Eggs.  The other things like the Christmas Trees just don’t taste quite right.

Anyhoo, to the cake. . . This recipe is a sour cream chocolate cake with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting.  I garnished the top with some chopped candied peanuts that I made earlier.  I was thinking about reversing it, having a peanut butter cake with a chocolate buttercream.  The problem was that I don’t have a tried and tested peanut butter cake recipe, so go with what you know.  I wish I could follow that logic with those damn Sugar Cookies (which is on take #3, by the way)!  This recipe makes 2 9-in. cakes which I split to make a 4-layer cake.  Since it has 4 layers, you may need a double batch of the frosting, depending on how much you put in between the layers.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 c. sour cream
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 c. cold water

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-in round cake pans with cooking spray; line with parchment and spray the parchment as well.

2.  Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda, and salt) into a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Whisk together the eggs and sour cream in a separate bowl until well blended.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Set aside as well.

4.  In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the melted butter and oil.  Add the water and mix well.

5.  Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low for about 1 minute.  Now add the egg mixture in one addition and mix until well blended (about another minute).  Scrape the sides down as needed.

6.  Divide the batter evenly into the two pans.  Bake for about 35 – 40 until a cake tester comes out clean.

7.  Cool cakes in the pans on top of cooling racks for 15 -20 minutes.  Then invert the pans onto racks, remove the parchment liners and cool the cakes completely before splitting lengthwise to make your four layers out of the two cakes..

For the frosting:

  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, about room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. vanilla

Using a food processor, mix all the ingredients until smooth and well blended.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.  To get the chocolaty frosting, I took a portion of the peanut butter frosting and folded in some melted chocolate.  But I’ve also folded in a dark chocolate spread before as well.  You can also fold in some Nutella or gianduia, that is if you are lucky enough to have some gianduia lying around the house.  One day I’ll be able to make this part of my regular pantry items.

Assemble the cake:

I like to start by putting a small dollop of the frosting in the middle of a cakeboard round.  This helps hold the cake in place.  Place about 1/3 – 1/2 c. of frosting on top of the first layer and smooth it out.  You can use strips of wax paper in between the bottom cake layer and the cakeboard to help keep it or the serving platter clean.  Place the next layer on top of the bottom one and repeat frosting.  Repeat with the other layers as well.

Smooth out a crumb coat on the outside of the assembled layers and place in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes.  Complete frosting over the crumb coat.  You can garnish the top of the cake with some of the chocolate frosting mixture (if you made some) and pipe out some rosettes.

Notes — One trick you can use is to cut a very small notch out of the cakes before you split them.  That way you can line them up correctly so you can get a nice level top.

Chai cupcakes with a Chocolate Chai ganache

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So it’s National Iced Tea Month.  And I understand that this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s got chai in it, so that’s close.  Just have a glass of an iced beverage when you have a cupcake.  You just won’t have “ice” and “tea” incorporated into a single item.  But, in my opinion, it’s really hard to come up with an interesting recipe for iced tea that doesn’t involve Long Island.  Maybe I could post a sun tea recipe. . .

Anyhoo, back to the cupcakes.  I use an instant chai mix to add the flavor and color to a nice cupcake recipe.  I did also add a little bit of whole wheat flour to add some additional color, texture, and flavor.  The instant chai is also used in the glaze by dissolving it in the heated cream before adding the chocolate to it to make the glaze.  This makes about 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. instant chai

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line your pan with paper or foil liners.

2.  Sift together the flours, salt, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl.  In a measuring cup, dissolve the chai into the milk and set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until light.  Gradually add the sugar and mix until fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the vanilla and combine.

4.  In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with half of the chai mixture.  Mix until just blended, being careful to not overmix!

5.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before removing them.  Cool completely on wire racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used a dark chocolate)
  • 2 t. instant chai

1.  In a double boiler, combine the cream and chai, making sure the chai is dissolved.

2.  Add the chocolate, and stir until melted.  Remove from the double boiler and allow to cool slightly.  Use a spoon to dollop on a bit of the ganache onto the cooled cupcakes.

Notes — I liked the finished product, but there are a couple of things that I want to try:  (1) I might try to use cake flour instead the AP flour; (2) maybe use three eggs instead of two; (3)  might also try using the “one-bowl” method instead of creaming.  That method is supposed to reduce the gluten that is formed, which is important to consider when using whole wheat flour.  In theory, you should be able to substitute up to 1/2 of the flour in a recipe without changing too much, but there are differences between AP (all-purpose) and whole wheat flours to consider (like moisture content).  So you may need to tweak things a bit.

Passover Chocolate Torte

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Since it’s Passover / Easter time, I thought that it would be a good idea to post a recipe that could be served at the seder or other family get-together during the holiday.  Now this is specifically for Passover, but of course can be used at Easter brunch.  I just specifically decided to list this because of the dietary requirements for the Passover holiday.

My understanding of Passover isn’t as in-depth as it probably should be.  Being a non-Jew, memories of this holiday for me usually involve huge baskets filled with candy with some weird gigantic pastel rabbit hopping about.  But at Passover, any kind of leavening or chametz is forbidden.  This Jewish tradition commemorates when Pharoah released the Jews from slavery back in the day.  They knew they had to hurry and get out of Dodge, so they could not even wait for the bread to rise — hence the whole unleavened tradition.  Pharoah did eventually have a change of heart and went after the Jews, but that didn’t really go well for him.  If you would like a visual accounting of what happened, just watch The Ten Commandments.  I’m sure it will be on TV sometime in the coming weeks.

Now this isn’t limited to cakes or breads, but applies to alcoholic beverages for the most part (I wonder about potato vodka).  I think that this is all about fermentation and yeast.  So I don’t know how chemical leavening (baking soda, baking powder) factors into this.

Anyhoo, let’s get to the recipe.  This is a flourless Chocolate Torte, so it should be fine for Passover.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. chopped chocolate (dark or bittersweet)
  • 3/4 c. butter, diced
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 7 whole eggs
  • 9 in. round pan

1.   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and coat your pan with cooking spray.

2.  Place the chocolate and butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl.

3.  Combine the water and the sugar and bring to a boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate & butter mixture.  Stir with a spoon until melted and smooth (you could use a whisk to combine, but I think that would incorporate too much air into the cake).

4.  Whisk the eggs to combine.  Add a small portion of the chocolate to the whisked eggs to help temper them.  Then gradually mix in the eggs to the remaining chocolate.

5.  Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in water bath halfway up the side of the pan for about 45 – 50 minutes, until the center is set.  Cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.  Cool in the fridge for 2-3 hours or overnight.

To plate, you’ll have to warm the cake up to get it to release.  You could do this by placing it in a water bath (kinda like you did when you baked it) for a few minutes.  It should release when inverted onto a serving plate after tapping it out.