Monday, January 31, 2011

Valentine Giveaway and Chocolate Cake

Several years ago, some friends from Philadelphia were visiting NY with their daughter and I babysat for an afternoon. Scouring the paper for something Sarah and I could do I stumbled upon New York City's annual Chocolate Convention. Sarah let me know that she was allergic to chocolate and then without skipping a beat sighed, "I wish it was a vanilla convention". Me too. We would have been dressed and out the door faster than you can say Madagascar.

While I'm not allergic to chocolate, it's not my preference. Show me a brownie and a lemon bar, and the lemon bar is mine.

But this month, as is every February, the food magazines are filled with chocolate; molten chocolate cake, fudgey brownies, chocolate ice cream, spicy hot chocolate, chocolate body paint and of course, heart shaped boxes filled with pretty little chocolates. So I'm jumping on the bandwagon. 

Chris has, at times, accused me of having 'fancy' taste in food. But really, he's just as bad as I am. Living in New York and knowing where to get good food is like knowing all the players on your favorite football team. And even though I could name several bakeries with great chocolate cake, and most likely find recipes for them, I have to say my all time favorite chocolate dessert, and the one my mother always made, is the chocolate cake recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box. It is perfect and definitely not fancy.

And I have a little Valentine giveaway for you. If you leave a comment, perhaps with your favorite chocolate recipe or story, I'll put your name in a hat and on February 7th Chris will draw a winner. Whoever is picked will receive the lovely little basket from the Chelsea Market shown above, filled with three different heart shaped cookie cutters and close to a half pound each of Valhrona milk and dark chocolate bars, just in time for Valentines Day. I'll contact you for shipping details, mailing addresses in the US and Canada only please.

It makes sense to eat chocolate in February if you think about it. For one thing not much fruit is in season, and more importantly, in dealing with the winter blues, couldn't we all use a little chocolate buzz?

Hershey's Chocolate Cake, halved (for the full two layers, click on the Hershey's cocoa link above)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbs. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. + 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour on 9" round baking pan. I like to cut out a piece of wax paper to fit in the bottom of the pan for easy removal.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (or by hand). Stir in boiling water (batter will be very thin). Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool Completely. 

some people complained their cakes dripped over their cake pans in the oven. If you're worried about this, invest in some high sided cake pans sold in professional baking shops or from Williams Sonoma.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting (halved)

1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/6 cup (2 tbs.+ 2 tsp.) milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating ti spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 1 cup frosting.

sift the cocoa and powdered sugar into the bowl to avoid lumps like mine.

or if you want something special and low-fat.......

Maida Heatter's Fluffy White Icing (for two layers)

4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs. cold water
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix everything except the vanilla in the top of a large double boiler; it must have at least 8-10 cup capacity. Place over hot water on moderate heat. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed for 5 minutes until mixture stands in peaks when beaters are withdrawn. Immediately, in order to stop the cooking, transfer mixture to large bowl of electric mixer. Add vanilla. Beat at high speed until mixture is smooth and stiff. Use immediately.


  1. Like you, I'm a vanilla fan. However, when I am looking for a chocolate fix, this is quick, easy, and awesome. Found the recipe on a long time ago...

    Chocolate Truffle Tarts


    9 fully baked four-inch tart shells or 1 fully-baked nine-inch tart shell.
    12 ounces dark chocolate, preferably more than 50% cacao (I used 60% cacao chocolate pieces)
    10 ounces heavy cream
    Whipped cream, optional
    Cacao nibs, optional
    cocoa powder, optional
    Place dark chocolate in a medium-sized, heatproof bowl. Heat cream to just below boiling and pour over the chocolate. Allow to sit for five minutes, undisturbed, then stir with a whisk in a circular motion until ganache becomes shiny and smooth. Pour directly from bowl into empty tart shells, or transfer ganache into a large measuring cup with spout for easier filling.

    Allow tarts to firm up at room temperature for an hour and a half prior to serving.

    This was the recipe I made for my honey on our first Valentines together. We made our own spiked whipped cream with a little splash of Grand Marnier. Still going strong 2.5 years later! Maybe there's something to that chocolate?


    Love the basket!!

  2. Here is a recipe for my absolute favorite chocolate cookies. They are the kind you roll into a log, chill, then slice and bake. What I often do is wrap the log in plastic wrap and freeze. That way you can pull it out and slice off just as many cookies as you need. I let the dough soften a bit and then roll in sugar or almonds before baking.

    Mexican Chocolate Butter Cookies (from Cook's Illustrated)
    1/2 cup sliced almonds
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    20 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), softened to cool room temperature
    1/2 cup cocoa powder (about 2 ounces)
    1 teaspoon espresso powder
    1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
    1/4 teaspoon table salt
    2 large egg yolks
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces)
    1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other raw or sanding sugar)

    1. In medium skillet set over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant, about 3 minutes; set aside to cool. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process cooled mixture until very fine, about 15 seconds. Set aside.
    2. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.
    3. In mixer, mix remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with rubber spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour. With mixer running on low, add flour in three additions, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding next and scraping bowl after each addition. Continue to mix until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Shape into dough log, 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long; use parchment paper or plastic wrap to roll into neat cylinder. Chill until very firm and cold, at least 1 hour.
    4. Roll chilled log in sugar or finely chopped almonds. Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
    5. Bake until cookies show slight resistance to touch 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked*. Cool for 5 minutes, then, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely.
    *This is the only tricky part. If you don't bake them long enough, they taste mealy. If you bake them too long, they taste bitter. I prefer them crunchy, so go for the longer time. Just keep testing with your finger, and when they feel fairly firm, they are done!

  3. Chocolate covered brazil nuts are one of my most favorite foods ever. As a child my dad snacked on them and it's a fond memory of mine, sharing those with him late in the evening. Brach's made them (I can still picture the box they came in) but sadly, they quit making them years ago. I've not been able to find them for years but I crave them. I'd never even considered making my own until recently, but now I've created a monster. I melt Ghirardelli chocolate in a double boiler, let it cool a bit, and coat those fat brazil nuts one at a time and let them cool on a sheet of waxed paper. They form up beautifully and keep well. And ...they're better than the ones in my childhood memories.

  4. Oh that chocolate is making my heart skip a beat. Chocolate is my ultimate love!

    these chocolate molten cakes from Bon Appetit are to die for. My dad asks me to make them whenever I am home!


    5 ounce bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
    10 tablespoons unsalted butter
    3 large eggs
    3 large egg yolks
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    Vanilla ice cream

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter six 3/4-cup soufflĂ© dishes or custard cups. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Cool slightly. Whisk eggs and egg yolks in large bowl to blend. Whisk in sugar, then chocolate mixture and flour. Pour batter into dishes, dividing equally. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.
    Bake cakes until sides are set but center remains soft and runny, about 11 minutes or up to 14 minutes for batter that was refrigerated. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Immediately turn cakes out onto plates. Spoon sauce around cakes. Serve with ice cream.

  5. Erica!
    I am new to your blog, but an immediately voracious reader. I too have a sorta kitchen-less situation, so I feel a comforting kindred spiritness. (I have a room that is a kitchen, with a full size refrigerator and a fair amount of cupboard space.....but no stove, or oven, or any of those kitchen-esque apparatuses. I make do pretty well though, I feel. Anyway.)

    I totally wanna be part of the giveaway! I'm so greedy! So I'm commenting.

    I don't have a favorite chocolate recipe, but a favorite chocolate recommendation -- I too have kinda take-it-or-leave-it feelings about chocolate. White chocolate however? Oh my god, I'm all about it. It's my favorite thing in the world. And I despise the people who turn up their noses because it's not "real" chocolate. Maybe it's imaginary? But it's delicious.

    Milkybars. In England. Are the best in the world. You can get them in vending machines in tube stations. And die happily.

    That is all.


    p.s. Hope you're doing ever so well!

  6. I, too, love a great lemon bar...lemon curd....mmmmm....ask me about my wedding cake sometime...

    but chocolate:

    Every year for my birthday growing up and beyond I requested my Grammy Eagle's Chocolate Cake with 7 minute icing (not sure where the cake recipe originated from)--it's very dark and moist--and the crunchy outside and fluffy inside of the icing...heaven!!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees

    Grease and flour either 2- 9" pans or a small tube pan (we always used a tube pan)

    Mix together:
    2 c. sugar
    3/4 c. butter
    1 1/2 C. boiling water

    Sift in:
    2 c. flour
    1/2 c. cocoa
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. baking soda

    Beat and add:
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Bake for 35 mins for 2-9" pans or 50-60 mins for the small tube pan.

  7. Hi Erica,

    Just wanted to tell you that I love your blog. Thanks for your contributions.

    Here is my favorite chocolate dessert.



    1 angel food cake

    Melt the following in double boiler
    - 1 T white sugar
    - 1 12 oz pkg chocolate chips

    3 eggs separated, beat whites stiff and yolks separately, fold chocolate into yolks, mix well, fold in whites

    1pt whip cream, whip until stiff (use cold beaters, put in freezer) and fold into above mixture

    Break cake into bite sized pieces. In spring form pan, layer cake pieces, layer of mush, push cake into it and keep layering until mush covers cake

    Refrigerate over night

  8. Hi Erica

    I always love checking your blog to see what you are up to. Chocolate season is here. Isn't it always chocolate season??

    I found a quick easy recipe in the Washington Post Food section for brownies. The title is what caught my eye.

    "Man Catcher Brownies"

    12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter
    2 cups cocoa powder, sifted (natural not processed)
    6 large eggs
    2 cups sugar
    2 cups packed light brown sugar
    2 tablespoons vanilla
    2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    pre heat oven 350
    line or spray 13 x 9 pan
    Melt butter over med heat. Remove from heat and add cocoa powder stirring to combine.
    In large bowl whisk the eggs, the add the sugars and vanilla. Add the cooled butter choc mix. Then fold in the flour and salt. Mix until just combined do not over mix.
    Spread in pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out mostly clean.
    Let cool completely before cutting. Makes 24 - 2" brownies.

    I haven't tried this recipe yet but I have all the ingredients and plan to put together soon. I will let you know how it turns out.

    Keep the recipes coming.