Looking for another luscious, last minute Thanksgiving dessert? This Wacky (Chocolate) Cake couldn’t be easier or faster. If you enjoy baking, you likely have plenty of butter and confectioner’s sugar on hand. But you only need those if you also make the icing.
As stated in Southern Living’s recipe notes, “This cake was created when many common ingredients were hard to acquire, or food items were being rationed, so the recipe doesn't include any butter, eggs, or milk.”
Click on the recipe link above-which includes an embedded link for the frosting-and follow along, as I share my thoughts/V.O.E.s.
Although this recipe features sifted flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda, I’ve never owned a sifter, so I filtered each of these ingredients through my sieve. I also initially ‘sifted’ them into a large bowl, before transferring the whole combination into an 8- by 8-inch ungreased pan.
I created three wells in the mixture, but I should have made the oil well larger (I used safflower oil because that is what I had on hand). Thankfully, the oil run-off didn’t hurt the recipe, and everything blended easily after I added the water.
Blending ingredients after adding water
Although recipe instructions mention pouring this mixture atop the cake, I found it too dense, even while blending the ingredients. At a certain point my whisk couldn’t adequately handle the frosting density, so I switched to a large spoon. I also incorporated two extra tablespoons of milk. And, because I wanted to temper the frosting sweetness a bit, I had already reduced the amount of powdered sugar by ¼ cup.
Southern Living recommends topping this finished cake with pecans, but I again worked with what I already had and substituted walnuts. About that nut-free section of cake. With two toddler grandsons, nuts just won't cut it :)
The results? Moist, dense, decadent, and tough to stop eating. But we did, to make sure there was some left for tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I've exhausted stories about chefs I have actually met, in previous posts, but other cookbooks remain in my collection with more, delectable chocolate recipes. This recipe for chocolate cherry shortbread cookies comes from my copy of giada's ITALY, by Giada De Laurentiis. But it's also available here, so click the link and follow along :)
The first thing I learned about this recipe is I couldn't assume availability of a couple ingredients. Fortunately, I suspected that might be the case and made a few phone calls before getting in my car. Although my 'regular' grocery store didn't carry dried cherries, another nearby grocer did.
After I found out that my favorite food store also didn't carry pink peppercorns, I seriously debated substituting black peppercorns that we always have on hand. Although this is allowable in the culinary realm it does impart a slightly different flavor. I found the pink variety in a local spice store and hope to find plenty of other uses for them in the future.
Then there was the matter of adequately crushing the peppercorns for this sweet recipe. I pulled out an extra coffee grinder that I long ago relegated to grinding spices and gave them a good 'zap.'
The peppercorns made a pretty addition to the combo of flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
I chopped the dried cherries on a cutting board with a sharp knife because I thought they might become a gummy mess if I used my food processor. After combining the sugar + butter + egg yolks + the flour blend with my mixer, I stirred in cherries and chips by hand.
Although Giada's recipe calls for semisweet chocolate chips, I used Ghirardelli bittersweet, instead. I love the quality, but I'm also sentimental about watching early morning deliveries at the flagship store many years ago, on a chilly, early February morning near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.
Giada's recipe says to wrap the cookie dough 'log' in plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator. Since I avoid plastic wrap due to environmental concerns, I crafted the log atop parchment paper before wrapping it tightly.
I couldn't wait for the log to become thoroughly chilled, baked, and cooled again. The result? A mildly sweet nice crunch with occasional bites of chewy cherry and unexpected bursts of chocolate chip flavor. The peppercorn flavor didn't stand out on my palate but I'm sure the cookies would have tasted different without it.
And I still have plenty of dried cherries-and pink peppercorns-for my next batch of cookies.
In fall 2020, RowHouse Restaurant, Topeka, KS, closed after 14 years of operation. Housed in an antique building, downtown, the fine dining restaurant offered frequently changing ‘American fusion’ cuisine, with a big focus on using fresh local ingredients. One of many restaurants that closed during the pandemic, its chef/owner, Greg Fox, now creates food-focused events in the city.
I felt honored to dine at RowHouse a decade ago, while doing research for a regional travel magazine. I also feel honored to own a signed copy of Fox’s first cookbook, FRESH. It features a full-page history of the 1876 rowhouse where the restaurant operated and a group photo of restaurant staff.
A self-professed visual learner and cook, Fox illustrated each recipe with a gorgeous, full-page photo of the completed dish. One of my favorite features in the book was his notations regarding ‘things you will need’ to create a dish, such as ‘2, 9 x 13 pans & whisk,’ when making his mocha chocolate brownies.
These simple but luscious brownies are packed with chocolate and a hint of java. I have provided Fox’s original recipe plus measurements to make a half-recipe, as I did. For serving, I topped my brownies with a small scoop of ice cream, a big drizzle of chocolate balsamic vinegar, and plenty of grated chocolate. Enjoy!
mocha chocolate brownies
Makes 24 brownies
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup)
½ cup boiling water (1/8 cup because my brownies turned out almost like pudding)
2 teaspoons instant coffee (1 more if you want more coffee flavor) (1 teaspoon)
3 sticks salted butter (1 ½ sticks; V.O.E – I used 1 stick salted butter and ½ stick unsalted)
10 ½ ounces of chocolate chips (no more) (5 ¼ ounces)
4 cups sugar (2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon, may also use fine sea salt)
8 eggs (4 eggs)
2 cups flour (1 cup; as noted elsewhere in the book, Fox uses all-purpose flour)
1 ¾ cups additional chocolate chips, no more (7/8 cup)
Preheat oven to 375 and prepare two 9 x 13 pans. (Elsewhere in FRESH, Fox defines prepared pans as layers of cooking spray, parchment, and more cooking spray, because of how many dishes the restaurant had to wash. V.O.E.- I buttered & floured my pan, instead, using a ‘butter brush’ to spread the flour evenly)
Mix 1 (1/2) cup of the sugar with the instant coffee and boiling hot water and whisk together until coffee granules dissolve. Set aside until later. In a separate bowl mix flour with the additional 1 ¾ cups (7/8 cup) chocolate chips and set aside.
Use a double boiler, or a pan in a water bath (a pan large enough to make all these brownies). I use a chafing dish on the stove, starting with hot water in the base, and always on the lowest flame. Put butter in this pan, then add the chocolate chips.
Before the butter and chocolate get too hot (butter will melt to clear, and chips will start to get soft) remove from heat and stir together until smooth. If the chips don’t melt, put back on the heat for just a bit, just get it off the heat as soon as the butter and chocolate smoothly combine.
Add the coffee and sugar mixture you made earlier. Using a sturdy wire whisk, add the rest of the sugar (3 ½ cups; 1 ¾ cups), vanilla, and salt. Whisk together.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated. Fold the flour and chocolate chip mixture into the batter all at once until just incorporated. Don’t over stir.
Spread evenly into prepared pans and bake for 22 minutes. Don’t overbake (V.O.E.- However, I do think an additional 2-3 minutes would have better solidified the brownies-just watch them carefully). When you jiggle the pan there should be no motion.
Let cool, before cutting except for the corner you need to taste while hot. I suggest eating them plain, but ice cream is a welcome addition.
It has been several decades since my husband and I dined at Jasper’s Italian Restaurant in its original location. For those of you who live in the Kansas City area, that’s when the Mirabile family operated their upscale dining destination near 75th Street, in Kansas City, Missouri (Marco Polo's Italian Market arrived a bit later).
Little did I know that I would later interview Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr. for a national magazine, serve on the board of Slow Food Kansas City with him for many years, or win one of his dessert recipe contests (he adored my Chocolate Lover’s Pumpkin Pie). Although we don’t see each other often now, we stay connected over social media and our love of great food.
Through our long acquaintance I have often enjoyed Jasper’s Tartufo at the end of meals. Mine aren’t anywhere near as ‘polished’ as the ones that he serves in the restaurant but they taste great. I also asked him several questions about the recipe before I began.
As always, V.O.E. notations indicate my experience in trying to recreate a dish. Enjoy!
FROM JASPER’S KITCHEN COOKBOOK (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2009)
1 cup vanilla ice cream, slightly softened 1 ½ cups chocolate shavings
8 maraschino cherries Chocolate syrup, for serving
2 cups chocolate ice cream, slightly softened Whipped cream, for serving
With a small ice cream scoop, make 8, walnut-sized balls of the vanilla ice cream. Place a cherry in the center of each ball, then place the balls in the freezer to harden, while you prepare the chocolate ice cream. (V.O.E. - I quickly decided to use rubber gloves against the cold, when handling the ice cream in this recipe. I also frequently washed and dried my gloves during the process).
With a large ice cream scoop, shave out 8 flat portions of chocolate ice cream, enough to cover the frozen vanilla ice cream balls. Remove the frozen vanilla ice cream mixture and pack the chocolate ice cream around it, completely covering the vanilla ice cream. Freeze for 30 minutes. (V.O.E. - My slabs weren't exactly square but they still worked. My ice cream also melted fairly quickly so I worked with my vanilla ice cream 'balls' two at a time, while keeping others in the freezer.)
Put the chocolate shavings on a piece of wax paper. Remove the frozen tartufo balls from the freezer and roll them in the chocolate shavings. Serve with chocolate syrup and freshly whipped cream. (V.O.E. - Because we had espresso-flavored balsamic vinegar in the cupboard, we used it as a substitute for chocolate syrup. In addition, if you aren't sharing all eight servings at once, wait to add the shavings until you DO enjoy more servings.)
Welcome to Visual Traveler.
I love crafting stories about fantastic food & beverages, must-visit destinations & eco-friendly topics. I wrote a 350+ page book about Kansas. And I've worked with dozens of additional clients - from Fodors.com & AAA magazines to USA Today 10Best & WanderWithWonder.
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